In re: Plastic Bags

  • By cutting 100 million plastic bags a year San Francisco will save 1.5 million litres of oil, and eliminate 4.2 million kilograms of carbon dioxide….
  • 180 million: Roughly the number of plastic shopping bags distributed in San Francisco each year.
  • 2 to 3 cents: Amount each bag costs markets, compared with anywhere from 5 to 10 cents for a biodegradable bag.
  • 4 trillion to 5 trillion: Number of non degradable plastic bags used worldwide annually.
  • 430,000 gallons: Amount of oil needed to produce 100 million non degradable plastic bags.

(See SF First to Ban Plastic Shopping Bags)

You may have seen some of Live Earth today, or at least heard about it, pushed by Al Gore and his celebrity friends. The concert event that is going on on each continent trying to raise awareness about global warming. Now you may have your own opinion of these kind of events, for one I tend to be a bit cynical as you may know and the whole routine of shouting to the crowd “you are part of history” is always a strange thing, at least I think, this constant touting of where an event that is ongoing will be in viewed in history. Now once again, I am all for having events to raise awareness of the environment, but I question where this event today will be the thing that starts more large scale change.

Anyway, back to what I was starting with plastic bags, (the whole Live Earth is about small things) and plastic bags may seem small, but as you can imagine they take a huge toll on resources. The other day in Costco’s newsletter (page 16-17) I saw a poll on whether we should ban plastic bags for the whole country, which San Francisco has done and now Oakland as well. Now, for one you may know that Costco for one doesn’t use plastic bags (to save them money) and probably because those 8 gallon jugs of mayo wouldn’t fit in a bag anyway. Well it reminded me that for a while I have been meaning to buy reusable grocery bags and also I glanced at the story on SF which wasn’t able to put a deposit on bags or a tax due to a federal law, so they banned them. I say good idea, when I lived in Switzerland you either got free really small thin bags (think produce bags) or you could buy for pretty reasonably a pretty durable paper bag that was reusable, every now and again I’d forget to bring bags and buy some more reusable and the system worked really well (you also bag your own groceries which really sped things up as they have a second bay for the next person to start getting checked out while your bagging).

So why ban them? (The bags have already been outlawed in South Africa, Taiwan and Bangladesh. Ireland imposes a plastic-bag tax.) Couldn’t we come up with a market system to get rid of the, or to reflect the impact they have on the waste stream, the environment, our reliance on foreign oil to produce them? We could go that route, but while some of you federalists may not want the gov’t telling you what kind of bag to use, or not use, it seems to me a simple fix one way or the other we should do something about it (although I need to get out and practice what I am saying).


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