Madison resident Richard Wilson, in a letter to the editor in Saturday's State Journal, seemed pretty sure of himself, as letters writers are wont. He flatly declared that the city of Madison's new program to provide dropoff sites for plastic bag recycling was "beyond stupidity" because the $32,000 cost "won't come close to equaling what will be spent to operate the program, and the environmental benefits will be minuscule."
George Dreckmann, the city of Madison's recycling conquistador, concedes that the bag program will likely "not pay for itself" either through money from revenues from bags or savings in landfill tipping fees. But he argues that the environmental gains make the program worthwhile.
Earmarking bags as recyclable, he hopes, will cut down on litter, both from improperly discarded bags and bags that blow from landfills and such ("blowage"). And he thinks it will encourage people to recycle and reuse bags. (The city, working from national estimates, says Madison residents use nearly 75 million plastic bags per year.)
Beyond that, Dreckmann says providing sites for bags is cheaper than banning them altogether, since communities that have done so have been sued by plastics manufacturers. And he argues that the program "puts the lie" to accusations that Madison is anti-business, as it doesn't shift full responsibility to the businesses that use them.