The Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept. approved a plastic bag recycling initiative on Monday that allows residents to dispose of the containers in blue curbside recycling bins.

Waste Management and MarBorg Industries will begin collecting and recycling the bags as part of the county’s latest measure to minimize the negative environmental impact of the bags that escape into the environment or become stuck in landfills. MarBorg is the region’s primary curbside waste collection company after securing an eight-year contract from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors last April.

According to Santa Barbara City Councilmember Randy Rowse, recycling a variety of plastic bags limits what enters landfills — the most expensive available waste management option — and increases their lifespan. Rowse said the costs of previous plans were difficult to assess, rendering the potential projects financially unsustainable.

Leslie Robinson, program specialist for the SB County Public Works Dept., said the companies became capable of collecting and recycling plastic bags prior to renegotiating their contracts with the county.

“The grocery stores were taking plastic bags for a few years under state legislation, so some bags were being recycled, but in terms of collecting them in the blue bins we were not there yet [with the processing capabilities],” Robinson said. “When [Santa Barbara County] renegotiated our trash contract last year there were a number of programs that we proposed to the trash haulers, and this was one of them that we had been thinking about for a while, so it was kind of a collaborative effort.”

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Cathy Murillo said residents are encouraged to hold waste management companies accountable for recycling the containers.

“The new era for the trash hauling companies is to increase recycling,” Murillo said. “In the past … the goal was just to efficiently pick up trash … and now we are asking our trash hauling companies to step up and really be part of the recycling future, and they know that and I think they have embraced it and are doing it very well.”