With hundreds of millions of the plastic shopping bags making their way into our homes each year in Cuyahoga County, county council member Sunny Simon said she worries most about where they go next. Although some area retailers have sites in their businesses where the bags can be responsibly recycled, Simon believes very few people are doing that.
The county’s solid waste district advises plastic bags, mesh food bags, pet food bags and plastic film should not be placed in curbside recycling. The solid waste district said the bags get tangled in the sorting machines at the facilities and cause major problems for the recycling process.
Simon believes the majority of the discarded, non bio-degradable plastic bags end up in landfills or area waterways where they threaten the environment. She said this ultimately will impact water quality and the health and safety of citizens.
“Alone here in Lake Erie, we see over five million pounds of plastic dumped or found in our lake every single year. So, Lake Erie is extremely polluted,” said Simon, who explains that the sun helps the discarded plastic leach chemicals into the water.
“We might not see the plastic but it’s a misconception to think it’s not polluted with plastic because we don’t see it,” she added.
The bags that end up in the landfill, she insists, are also creating problems that can linger for hundreds of years.
“When you have mounds of these plastic bags in your waste recycle bin it ends up costing money to the residents and to the city. And, it winds up in a landfill for a thousand years, leaking toxins into the environment. So, there’s no good option for these bags and even on the front end they are made mostly with fossil fuels and petroleum, extremely inefficient,” said Simon.