LeMay to stop collecting, recycling plastic bags

Officials say ‘there’s just no market’ for plastic film usually sent to China

Staff writerAugust 9, 2013 

Walking past a large stack of plastic film August 8th at their Hogum Bay Rd. facility LeMay Inc. district manager Jeff Harwood points out the specific type of film material the company will stop accepting from its commercial customers starting in Oct.

STEVE BLOOM — Staff photographer Buy Photo

Thurston County recycling provider LeMay Inc. will stop collecting plastic film, including plastic bags, beginning in October.

LeMay district manager Jeff Harwood said there are no takers for the material, which is usually shipped to China.

“Nobody wants it, and that’s it in a nutshell,” he said. “There’s just no market for it.”

Harwood said LeMay’s Thurston County operation collects about 15 tons of plastic film each month. He said the local operation now has more than 60 tons of plastic film that it can’t sell.

Terri Thomas, Thurston County waste reduction supervisor, said the county contacted several people in the plastic bag industry, but got no response. She noted that LeMay is part of a large national company called Waste Connections, and “they don’t have a market, so there’s pretty much no market.”

Harwood said China has become more selective about the quality of plastic material it receives. Plastic film, which is used in facilities such as lumber yards, is often contaminated with other material and therefore less desirable as a recyclable material.

Harwood said the move will mostly affect large commercial customers. LeMay’s lone spot for consumer plastic bag collection, located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center, will be eliminated.

Harwood thinks the lack of plastic-film recycling will change because “the recycling markets are so dynamic.”

“We hate to do it,” he said.

LeMay collects garbage and recycling throughout Thurston County, except in the city of Olympia, which has its own operation. But Olympia does not collect plastic bags in its curbside service.

The lack of plastic-bag recycling might add more fodder to a movement afoot to ban plastic bags countywide. With the exception of Yelm and Rainier, all Thurston County cities have asked the county for draft language for a ban.

Thomas said the county is drafting language for a ban that individual cities can enact.

“It’s up to each city to decide if they want to move forward or when,” she said.

Thurston County is also considering a ban in the unincorporated county, Thomas said. County commissioners will take up the topic at their Aug. 20 meeting.

In the meantime, Thomas encouraged people to “just say no” to plastic bags.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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