Santa Barbara’s city and county recycling programs no longer accept plastic bags, but residents still have a few places that have stepped up to receive and recycle them. Joining Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners, which has been taking back soft, thin-film plastic dry-cleaning bags for years, are the Community Environmental Council (CEC) and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.
“When we learned what Ablitt’s was doing, we immediately realized they might be inundated,” said Kathi King of the CEC. “We wanted to partner with them both to divert these materials from the landfill and to give them new life.” CEC is a decades-long leader in recycling, and with Channelkeeper it worked to ban Styrofoam in the city, resulting in a law that goes into effect on New Year’s Day, as does the city’s ban on plastic straws and the “by request only” rule for plastic stirrers and cutlery.
In the mantra taught to schoolchildren today — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — the order matters, said Carlyle Johnston, the county’s recycling czar. “All industrial activity, including recycling, comes with an environmental cost. Reducing is many times more important than reusing, which is many times more important than recycling,” he explained of the relative greenhouse-gas producing effects. “Reducing, just lowering consumption in general is great. Rather than getting things in a recyclable container, having a reusable container is many times better.”
Penny Owens of Channelkeeper observed, “Those of us who attempt to live ‘plastic free’ still end up with bread bags, Amazon ‘air pillows,’ and the like.” In this recycling deed, Sasha Ablitt, who owns the dry cleaner, arranged with the company Trex to have the plastic picked up and converted to the Trex’s plastic decking. To be successfully recycled, the thin-film plastics must be empty, clean, and dry. Ablitt’s accepts them in its lobby at 14 West Gutierrez Street during normal open hours. The CEC, at 26 West Anapamu Street, 2nd Floor, and S.B. Channelkeeper, at 714 Bond Avenue, have green bins inside their main entrances, which are open on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.