Saturday, August 02, 2008

L.A. City Council votes for ban on plastic shopping bags

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to ban plastic carryout bags in the city's supermarkets and stores by July 2010 -- but only if the state fails to impose a 25-cent fee on every shopper who requests them.

Council members said they hope an impending ban would spur consumers to begin carrying canvas or other reusable bags, reducing the amount of plastic that washes into the city's storm drains and the ocean.
I read last summer that there's a huge garbage pile floating in the pacific, bigger than the state of Texas. It's caught in a gyre (like a big, lazy whirlpool) with a good portion of it consisting of - you guessed it - those nassty plasstic sshopping bagses.

"Imagine a world without plastic shopping bags. It could be the future.

There is a growing international movement to ban or discourage the use of plastic bags because of their environmental effects. Countries from Ireland to Australia are cracking down on the bags and action is beginning to stir in the United States.

The ubiquitous plastic shopping bag, so handy for everything from toting groceries to disposing of doggie doo, may be a victim of its own success. Although plastic bags didn't come into widespread use until the early 1980s, environmental groups estimate that 500 billion to 1 trillion of the bags are now used worldwide every year.

Critics of the bags say they use up natural resources, consume energy to manufacture, create litter, choke marine life and add to landfill waste."

I've assembled a good array of bags that I got on the cheap: the blue ones are teh best - big and sturdy, they fold down into little squares and snap together. I got them at Ocean State Job lot for 99 cents each. The Big Y canvas bags I got on sale for 2 bucks.

The Mrs Gooches bags are the crown, the proof, the ult: 5 mil bags, I got them in the mid '80s for free with my groceries. That they are still tough and useful over 20 years later while it's sometimes hard to get the flimsies home intact proves that we are way down the wrong fork in the road when it comes to grocery bags here in the US.

Bags add tons to state landfills; recycling comes up short

Every year in Washington state, people throw away about 270,000 tons of plastic bags and wrappings.

That's nearly 5 percent of all garbage going to landfills and incinerators in the state, according to Gretchen Newman, recycling coordinator for the state Department of Ecology.

And plastic bags are a major part of Washington's litter problem, cluttering streets, sticking to trees and polluting water, she said, adding, "It's dangerous for wildlife."

Despite the lightness of their weight, plastic bags and wrappings made up 3 percent of the volume of all litter on state roads and in state and county parks in 2000, the last year tracked by the state, according to an Ecology report. That's 283 tons of bag litter statewide.

One of the most dramatic impacts is on marine life. About 100,000 whales, seals, turtles and other marine animals are killed by plastic bags each year worldwide, according to Planet Ark, an international environmental group.

Last September, more than 354,000 bags -- most of them plastic -- were collected during an international cleanup of costal areas in the United States and 100 other countries, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

The bags were the fifth most common item of debris found on beaches.


Some countries are cracking down on the use of plastic bags. Here's a look at the issue:

# About 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, according to Vincent Cobb, founder of

# Countries that have banned or taken action to discourage the use of plastic bags include Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Taiwan. Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, also has banned the bags.

# Australians were using nearly 7 billion bags a year, and nearly 1.2 billion bags a year were being passed out free in Ireland before government restrictions, according to government estimates.

# Plastic industry trade associations were unable to provide estimates of plastic bag use in the United States. However, based on studies of plastic bag use in other nations, the environmental group Californians Against Waste estimates Americans use 84 billion plastic bags annually.

When I'm done putting away my groceries, I fold up my bags and put them back in the car - ready for my next shopping trip. I include a couple of flimsies in with the rest, to contain meats and frozen foods without using new bags from the store.

What have you been doing to green up lately? Leave your tips in comments - I'm always looking for something more.



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