Environment Blog

Still too many plastic bags

March 6, 2008

I was pretty excited in January when New York City announced that it would require grocery stores to recycle plastic bags. Now, it seems like small potatoes when Gordon Brown, the prime minister of the UK announced all retailers in that country would have to charge customers for their bags.

I’d like to hear Obama, Clinton or even McCain address the multi-faceted problem of cutting our collective carbon footprint with a similarly heavy hand. I’m glad NYC is doing something rather than nothing, but as this picture from Los Angeles shows, the problem is not just in the Big Apple. California has already passed a bill to recycle plastic bags for the entire state. And, I don’t know about other cities, but there seems to be a plague of unnecessary double-bagging in New York.

Clearly, the real incentive is money, money money. When Ireland began charging for plastic bags, bag use dropped 94 percent. So, for every New Yorker like myself that has started using reusable bags, there are probably three more who shop at a store that double bags anything and everything. Recycling bags is a great start, but why not charge for them? Even China is charging for plastic bags.

Taking a more aggressive step keeps bags from sitting in landfills where they take more than 1000 years to break down. It keeps them from oceans, where they can be deadly to marine life, such as leatherback turtles if ingested. It keeps them off beaches and saves stores the cost of recycling them. And it makes people realize that cutting carbon isn’t just about selling their SUV.


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One of the simplest ways to have a positive environmental impact is to use reusable grocery bags.


Miss Kitty says:

The BYOB movement is actually something that every household can do that will make a real impact on our environment. As I drove down my rural street yesterday, I counted more than 10 plastic bags stuck in fences and blown into trees and bushes. Almost every time I work in my garden, I pick up at least one bag that has blown into our yard from who knows where.
We will have to move away from this consumer mentality eventually–if a love of the environment doesn’t do it, love of money will. We simply cannot bear the cost of all our waste, longterm.
This website, http://www.sexyoldbag.com, has knit fabric bags for about $4 each that are shaped like a plastic bag, so they fit on the sack rack at the store, and are easier for the bagger to fill. I’ve had some baggers initially almost refuse to use my bags, until I show them how they work and that they won’t be difficult for them to use.

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