Plastic bag manufacturers battle taxes and bans
This is where your Wal Mart bag life begins: in Elkridge, not far from Baltimore Washington International Marshall Airport, at a hulking factory the size of three football fields. Millions of bags with blue Wal mart logos or red Target bull spin through Advance Polybag plant. The operation runs nonstop, every day, even Christmas.
For the factory owners and its 140 employees, producing a useful staple of everyday life represents one version of the American dream. But to environmentalists and some politicians, the millions of bags produced by the plant every day are a plague upon the Earth, fouling rivers, oceans and forests.
Plastic bags have been banned in some parts of the country and taxed in others, including the District and Montgomery County. Just last month, Maryland lawmakers considered imposing the country first statewide bag tax, of 5 cents. The legislation didn make it to the floor of the House of Delegates, but proponents promise to push the measure again next year.
is coming, one way or another, said Dereck E. Davis (D Prince George chairman of the powerful House Economic Matters Committee, where a watered down version of the bill died after passing in the environmental committee. whole idea of free bags is going by the wayside. It not a matter of if, but when. tough talk has the plastic bag industry girded for a long battle against taxes and bans not just in Maryland but around the country, where dozens of measures are under consideration. The industry fear, experts say, is that even though plastic bags account for only $9.8 billion of the $374 billion plastics business, targeting bags could be a starting point for increased regulatory scrutiny against other plastic products, including bottles.
Along with industry trade groups, executives from Advance Polybag and Hilex Poly, another top bag maker, are on the offensive, hiring public relations firms and lobbyists, writing op eds, backing social media campaigns with titles such as BagTheBan. They complain their views aren given a fair hearing by lawmakers and regulators, who often leave their testimony to the very end of hearings.
us a fair debate, said Bill Ebeck, Advance Polybag director of sales, in an interview at the Elkridge plant attended by a representative from Edelman, the New York public relations firm that also represents Wal Mart. can presen fake rolex t the truths from the facts, as opposed to the opinions.
Ebeck recently published an op ed calling plastic bags declaring bags aren a major environmental problem and noting that the hardest hit families, every nickel counts. a wonder
Plastic bags weren always an object of derision.
Back then, the bag was viewed with something like wonder.
the bag is so maligned that we forget what an engineering marvel it is: a waterproof, durable, featherweight packet capable of holding more than a thousand times its weight, Freinkel wrote.
But it wasn an immediate hit. Shoppers like the way a checkout clerk often licked his fingers to pull a plastic bag free from the rack, or the fact that the bags wouldn stand up, Freinkel wrote.
After companies showed consumers that a flat bottom bag wasn always needed, plastic bags caught on. Today companies such as Advance Polybag, which is based near Houston, produce millions a day in factories around the United States. By some estimates, consumers use more than a trillion plastic bags around the world every year. Advance Polybag generates about $260 million a year in sales, according to .
The problem, according to environmentalists, is that th fake rolex fake rolex g>e bags are so light and so bountiful that they frequently fly away from custody, clogging streams and waterways, getting stuck in trees, polluting oceans. That one side of the argument, which is pushed not just by environmentalists but also the paper bag industry. In some anti bag legislation, paper bags have been included with plastics, making paper bag manufacturers angry and defensive.
paper bag has been unfairly lumped into the single use bag category, said Christopher Klein, environmental manager for Kentucky based Duro Bag, the country largest paper bag maker, whose customers include Macy and Dunkin Donuts. bags are much more sustainable and are the better option for the environment. plastic industry, not surprisingly, disagrees. Its side of the argument goes like this: Plastic bags are recyclable, bags are often used more than once, they generate less waste than paper, regulatory action increases costs for lower income consumers, environmental pollution is exaggerated by plastic bag haters, and reusable bags are made in China, and lastly, they often become a breeding ground for germs.
The facts, according to the Environmental Protection Agency: 2010, the category of plastics which includes bags, sacks, and wraps was recycled at almost 12 percent and plastic bags, sacks and wraps comprise less than 1 percent of the municipal solid waste stream. Plastic bags represented more than 20 percent of trash in the Anacostia River, according to a 2008 study prepared by the Anacostia Watershed Society, a nonprofit environmental group.
SPI, the plastics industry trade group, helps executives push their arguments to politicians around the country through the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a collection of top bag producers. The industry is also active on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. care about the amount of plastic litter in our environment, an online petition says, I don think banning or taxing plastic grocery bags would be the right decision for my community.
The industry has one other argument: jobs. SPI says 30,000 people work in the plastic bag industry. About 150 of them work at Advance Polybag Elkridge plant. Though the industry makes fake rolex the jobs argument often, including recently in Annapolis to the House Economic Matters committee, the chairman of the committee said the industry financial defense didn carry much weight.
think it par for the course, said Davis, who voted in favor of the tax legislation. we do this sort of thing, the industry trade associations will paint a gloom and doom picture. Of bag executives and the trade groups, Davis said, don think they had an influence at all. Rather, he thinks the committee was concerned about adding another tax this session after passing other revenue measures, including a gas tax increase.
One place the jobs message has resonated: inside Advance Polybag plants. The company employees, many of them refugees from Burma military dictatorship, say they have been worried not just about losing precious overtime or even their jobs, but about paying a tax on their cash tight trips to the grocery or drug store.
going to be difficult for my family, predicted Se Thlie, a 28 year old Burmese refu speaking through an interpreter. going to be less hours, or I might lose my job. works as a quality control worker at the behemoth facility not far from I 95. Her days are long and noisy. A plastic bag might eventually float quietly away in the wind, landing who knows where, but a bag birth as tiny polyethylene pellets melted and then stretched in one of more than two dozen hulking extruders is so loud that workers stick plugs in their ears.
Ebeck said Advance Polybag would rather spend money on expanding operations than battling legislators.
you are under attack, you spend money fighting legislation and we could be creating jobs, he said. Asked whether a 5 cent statewide tax could affect employment levels, Ebeck replied, you keep attacking an industry, sooner or later it gonna affect employment.
Would the firm move the plant? couldn answer that, he said.
Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D Montgomery ), a co sponsor of the bag tax legislation, said bag producers should diversify their products to get along in a world he sees moving away from plastic bags. is out to hurt them, Raskin said. we would have no progress on clean water, clean air and environmental change if we bowed down to an industry that was financially invested in the status quo. while Advance Polybag employees are concerned about their own status quo, there is some recognition of the opposing side in the debate.
Wesley Hughes, a 51 year old forklift driver at the plant who helps load bags on upwards of 20 tractor trailers a day, said he was worried about the tax, particularly as a consumer. Asked whether it ever occurred to him that plastic bags could be controversial, Hughes said, the environment, he said.