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LEXINGTON — Mike Solon and his family try to do their part to reduce waste.

For years, they’ve taken glass bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard to the recycling bins in Lexington. They even take their plastic grocery bags to the collection bins at big box grocery stores. 

But the presence of a massive plastic film manufacturing plant in Lexington made him wonder if more can be done to reduce waste in Richland County. 

“I’ve always had an interest in being environmentally responsible. I’m an outdoors kind of person,” he said.

“I just wondered if maybe (CNG) has something or how they view their role in the lifecycle of plastic products they’re producing there.”

Charter Next Generation’s (CNG) Lexington campus is located on 140 acres and includes five production plants and a distribution center, according to its website. The company also has a plant in Ontario. 

Bree Speck of CNG’s human resources department said the company offers biodegradable and recyclable products to its clients, but doesn’t offer post consumer recycling at this time. 

“It’s something we’re looking into adding into our operations,” she said.

Speck added that if the company does start to offer recycling, it likely wouldn’t be before the end of the year, though it could be a part of CNG’s five-year plan. 

While CNG doesn’t offer drop-off recycling yet, it turns out there are options for residents who wish to recycle certain types of plastic film. But it requires a bit more effort.

Walmart recycling

The Richland County Solid Waste Management Authority doesn’t accept plastic film for recycling at its main facility, or in the recycling bins scattered across the county. 

Residents who want to recycle plastic film will have to separate it from other recyclables and drop it off at a separate site. 

As of publication, the following locations in Richland County accept plastic film:

  • Kroger
  • Kohl’s
  • Meijer
  • Walmart
  • Target

These plastic film recyclers generally only accept certain types of film. 

According to Earth911, plastic films #2 and #4 are typically recyclable, provided they are dry and free of food residue. 

Everyday plastic film items that are often recyclable include shopping bags, newspaper sleeves, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, produce bags, cereal bags, and outer wrapping on items like paper towels, toilet paper, bulk beverages and diapers.

Kroger also partners with TerraCycle to recycle the plastic packaging used for its store brands, including Simple Truth® and Private Selection® via mail-in recycling.

Although recycling can be a way to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, some environmental advocates say it’s far from a perfect solution. Plastic waste in particular is difficult and costly to recycle. 

ABC News tracked plastic bags deposited in a retail recycling bin and found that months later, many still hadn’t made it to a recycling facility.

Reports from the New York Times and the Guardian note the United States’ plastic recycling is often shipped to poorer nations that struggle to handle the amount of waste coming in. 

“A hundred percent of plastic is recyclable. Finding the place that’s going to recycle it is the challenge,” said Kent “Kip” Curtis, an environmental history professor at the Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus.

“We have the capacity to live zero waste, but its expensive. The reality is if there’s not a market for that recycled material it goes in the landfill.”

Another article in the Guardian also notes that plastic can’t be infinitely recycled, since it degrades in quality each time. 

Nevertheless, Curtis said he’s in favor of recycling whenever possible. 

“If there is a recycling stream for something, it is far better to do that than just through it in the trash,” he said. 

“It’s an easy fix, putting your stuff in a garbage bag. You think it disappears, but it doesn’t disappear. It becomes a problem for some community.”

In addition to recycling, Curtis and other sustainability experts recommend choosing reusable products whenever possible. That could mean taking reusable bags to the supermarket or buying products in bulk to minimize packaging. 

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