Plastic bags gum up recycling center - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Plastic bags gum up recycling center

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- One recycling center owner finds himself with one ton, daily, of unwanted plastic bags.

The Dubuque City Council voted in early September to move forward with looking into the idea of eliminating plastic bags from the city by 2014.

Tuesday, Marcus Eriksen with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation toured the city's contracted Dittmer Recycling Inc. center. He spoke earlier at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium about the hazards plastics - including plastic bags - pose to the environment and to people.

"If plastic items keep going, they end up in the middle of oceans, where they're impacting fish, that we harvest to feed the world," Eriksen said. He added that trash "can wash downhill, downstream, down to the sea and come back in the food that we eat."

On a more local level, Dittmer Recycling Inc. President Scott Dittmer said the plastic bags are more than a nuisance at his center.

"When they go into our system, they plug screens, they blow all over, and, to us, they're just trash, so we end up throwing them away," Dittmer said. "About a ton of plastic bags a day, and they will all end up in the landfill."

He said he sees people putting their recyclable materials in plastic bags, but that means extra work for the facility.

"We have to open up the bags on the line, dump the materials out and throw the bags away."

As Dubuque looks into banning plastic bags by 2014, many experts and city officials are saying the same thing.

"Bring your own!" Eriksen said. "Bring your own water bottle, bring your own bag to the grocery store. Your own coffee mug. It's not only good for the environment, it's good for your health and really good for your pocketbook."

People can get rid of unwanted plastic bags in drop-off bins at grocery stores such as Hy-Vee and Wal-Mart. City officials also encourage people to bring reusable cloth bags to the grocery store.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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