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Hawaii and LA ban plastic bags at grocery checkout, Montana encouraged to recycle bags

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By Renae Counter, Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant

Where has all the plastic gone?

If you live in Hawaii or Los Angeles, new plastic bags won’t be following you home or clogging up landfills and oceans any longer.

Earlier this month, Honolulu City Council passed an ordinance banning all plastic at checkout stands, which, combined with Hawaii’s three other county bans, makes it the first state to eliminate plastic at checkout.

Following Hawaii’s plastic-free trail, Los Angeles voted 13:1 to ban plastic bags at checkout, making it the largest in Los Angles Country to be plastic bag free.

In the recycling trend, the pressure will now be on other counties and states to follow the plastic-free suit.

The plastic bag ban makes sense for Hawaii, said Sandra Boggs, recycling specialist for the Montana Department of Environmental Studies. “Hawaii is heavily populated and completely isolated, so they are taking progressive steps to recycle so they don’t have to haul garbage out,” she said.

In Montana, where land is vast and people are sparse, hauling garbage out is a different story.

“Montana is not heavily populated and has lots of lands to support landfills, even though they are very costly,” Boggs said.

According to Boggs, Montana has made many progressive steps toward recycling in the past five years. Therefore, banning plastic bags or landfills may slow the efforts made so far.

“Our recycling infrastructure is still developing, but we have seen a great response in communities across Montana because of the public interest and pressure,” Boggs said.

With increased attention on plastic bag bans spreading across the country, Montana stores may soon be feeling the pressure to go plastic free. Until then, Montanans are encouraged to recycle plastic bags after checkout—or even better, to bring their own bags for groceries.

“Just about every grocery store in the state has a drop off box for plastic bags so they can be recycled,” Boggs said.

Along with plastic bags, Montanans can recycle other reusable material like aluminum, glass, cardboard, paper and plastic water bottles. Also, reusable bags are a great alternative to racking up the plastic at checkout stands.

To find a recycling center near you, visit earth911.org. More information about recycling efforts in Montana can be found at recycle.mt.gov.

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