Banish the plastic bag!

Ah, the ubiquitous plastic bag — clutched in the the hands of shoppers across the United States as they wend their way home with purchases of all types.  Groceries, shoes, light bulbs, screws and toys — all get stuffed into thin-film plastic sacks that get discarded as soon as the shopper reaches their destination.

Conscientious environmentally senstitive shoppers may make the effort to recyle these pernicious petroleum products — but only one per cent of these “free” shopping bags actually do get recycled — the other 99 per cent suffer a different fate, ending up in landfills,  washing up on ocean beaches and killing wildlife.

The website Earth911explains why it is essential to ban the plastic bag:

According to Plastic Bag Economics, plastic makes up 80 percent of the volume of litter on roads, parks and beaches. It makes up 90 percent of litter in the ocean. A square mile of ocean features 46,000 pieces of plastic.

Plastic bags take decades to breakdown, whether they end up in landfill, the ocean or an incinerator. Typically a plastic bag is used for less than 20 minutes, yet will take up to 1,000 years to rot away.

Plastic bags in the ocean are life threatening for sea inhabitants—they are often mistaken for jelly fish and eaten. They can’t be digested and cause death by slow starvation or suffocation. The dead animal’s body decomposes and frees the plastic bag to roam the ocean again.

Animals affected include birds, turtles and dolphins. Some eight percent of the world’s seal population has reportedly been harmed by plastic bags.

But wait, there are a few places in the U.S. that have decided to ban the bags, like San Francisco.  But the U.S. is wa …ayy behind the rest of the world in banning the plastic bags.    Take a look at this list from March 2008:

  • In March 2007, San Francisco became the first city in North America to ban the use of traditional plastic grocery bags, a move which is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 4.2 million kilograms anually
  • In July 2007, all large supermarkets in the state of California were required, by law, to take back and recycle plastic shopping bags.
  • The New York City Council has passed a measure requiring stores that hand out plastic bags to offer recycling facilities.
  • Zanzibar banned the import and production of plastic bags in November 2006.
  • Canada offers curbside collection of plastic bags.
  • In Holland, Supermarkets have always charged for carrier bags, and 40 percent are recycled. Many offer customers the cardboard boxes used to deliver goods to the store.
  • China is set to ban plastic bags starting in June 2008.
  • In Australia, consumer groups, retailers and politicians have launched a “Say No To Carrier Bags” campaign.

If you are not yet convinced that plastic bags should be banned, here’s a  slideshow that will make a believer of you:

Take a moment to consider the fact that China’s ban on plastic bags was designed to take effect of the eve of this year’s Summer Olympics, saving them 37 million barrels of oil per year.

With gas at the pump costing around $4.50 a gallon, it is time to consider eliminating other demands on vanishing petroleum reserves like throwaway plastic bags.  Ban the plastic bag — and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Plus you will be taking care of Mother Earth and all the species that share the planet with us humans.

UPDATE:  Seattle just became the latest city to  put at fee on plastic (and paper) bags in an effort to eliminate their use.  They also banned foam food and drink containers Read more about it at

Explore posts in the same categories: "green" practices, environment, Plastic bag ban, sustainability

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3 Comments on “Banish the plastic bag!”

  1. gaj Says:

    I am spending the year in Europe for work, so far I have lived in France and Germany. While plastic bags are not banned per se, in grocery stores there is a charge for bags and people in general carry their own fabric or other non-plastic bags. It doesn’t seem to inconvenience anyone. It would probably take the average American about a month to remember to take empty reusable shopping bags to the store every time. This is not a hard change to make! And yet it reduces litter as well as petroleum usage. Okay, I reused plastic bags all the time in the states for garbage bags and for pet waste, but here you just purchase small plastic bags for those sorts of things.

    And trust me, you are much less likely to be standing in the parking lot with a bunch of newly purchased food rolling about under your car if you use reusable bags rather than flimsy plastic bags. Why do Americans like those things so much to begin with?

  2. Betsy Says:

    Thanks for posting this.

    I’ve been using cloth bags for quite awhile now. But when I do get a plastic bag, I always save it and reuse it–then I recycle it. They’re great for packing shoes or cosmetics in your luggage when you travel, picking up dog waste, as trash bags in the car when on a trip, bagging hamburger patties for freezing, carrying books from the library, protecting a bandaged arm or leg while showering–and much, much more. After I’ve used them a couple of time, I recycle them (dog waste excepted!).

  3. Bob Brumfield Says:

    Please support non use of plastic bags

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