Discarded grocery bags give BART passengers a greener ride


Discarded grocery bags give BART passengers a greener ride

BART's plastic ties remove equivalent of 1.1 million grocery bags from landfills

Little do BART passengers know that many of them are riding the rails tied together with discarded grocery bags and old milk bottles. It's all part of BART's effort to get even greener.

"Don't panic, there's nothing unsafe going on here, in fact, to the contrary," BART Board President Gail Murray told reporters during a pre-Earth Day news conference today at BART's Hayward Yard. "What we're doing is swapping out worn wooden railroad ties with plastic ones made from recycled grocery bags, milk bottles and old car tires. These plastic ties are incredibly strong, last twice as long and are three times cleaner to make than the wooden ones."

BART Board Member Bob Franklin, who chairs the Board's first-ever Sustainability/Green Committee, which President Murray created, told reporters, "BART has replaced roughly 400 wooden railroad ties with these plastic recycled ones. That's the equivalent of 1.1 million grocery bags that won't be going into landfills."

Wooden ties are not as environmentally friendly as plastic ones for several reasons. First, manufacturers make them by cutting down trees from the nation's forests. Second, manufacturers soak the wooden ties in creosote - a byproduct of the chemicals that come from heating coal to produce a tar like substance.

According to researchers the process to make plastic ties out of discarded grocery bags, car tires and milk bottles is at least three times cleaner than the process to make a wooden railroad tie. Additionally, once the useful life of a plastic tie is up, they can be recycled into other plastic products. Currently, BART sends its worn out wooden ties to make electricity through cogeneration &emdash; a process that burns wood to help produce electricity in an environmentally friendly way.

BART held the news conference in the Hayward Yard where the media could watch as maintenance crews replaced five of BART's 38,000 wooden railroad ties with the plastic recycled ones.

Maintenance crews swap out the wooden ties on an as needed basis. Depending on their location, wooden ties last between 15 and 40 years, whereas plastic ties can last 50 to 60 years. BART will need to replace about 14,000 wooden ties over the next five to ten years.