By Anne Bedarf

SPC Advance 2015 provided an opportunity for members to hear a plastic bag manufacturer and anti-marine litter advocate face off on the issue of plastic bags and their impacts. The discussion was remarkably civil as the theme of cooperation emerged, and the fact that the end goal of removing plastic from the ocean is shared by industry, government, and non-profit groups alike.

While bag bans are a politically attractive tool, this approach includes two flaws. First, it doesn’t provide a holistic approach to marine litter, which is made up of a variety of non-bag material. Secondly, it has the potential to take emphasis away from an important growing focus on plastic film recycling that goes beyond bags.

The threat of bag bans can open the door to a broader discussion of solutions. These include better design of bags to eliminate their potential to become litter; increased use of durable re-useable bags that can be effectively recycled at end-of-use; and expansion of recycling through better infrastructure and education. While a full nationwide, or global ban of bags is highly unlikely, the vision of a world without the problems bags create is a vision shared by all.