Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Paper, plastic... or canvass?

You really have to read this article from salon.com about those ubiquitous plastic bags you get at the store. You'll never ask for plastic again...
The problem with plastic bags isn't just where they end up, it's that they never seem to end. "All the plastic that has been made is still around in smaller and smaller pieces," says Stephanie Barger, executive director of the Earth Resource Foundation, which has undertaken a Campaign Against the Plastic Plague. Plastic doesn't biodegrade. That means unless they've been incinerated -- a noxious proposition -- every plastic bag you've ever used in your entire life, including all those bags that the newspaper arrives in on your doorstep, even on cloudless days when there isn't a sliver of a chance of rain, still exists in some form, even fragmented bits, and will exist long after you're dead.


Keera Ann Fox said...

I don't entirely agree with Barger, but it does occur to me that she's focused on the issue as it is in the US.

With all its oil, Norway went overboard on plastic shopping bags and by the 90's, we discovered the long-term downside to that. Nowadays, all our plastic shopping bags are either a) recyclable, b) safely combustable, c) biodegradable (if slowly) or d) all of the above. So, no, not every plastic bag I've ever used in my life still exists. (Norway, Ireland and some other countries have also had success with charging for shopping bags. I pay NOK 0.80 per bag. I also always have in my purse one of those nylon bags that folds into the size of a coin purse.)

BTW, our plastic shopping bags are not flimsy, not like the bags you get in US supermarkets. Ours are solid and therefore very much reusable, several times over (I'll sometimes tape any holes and keep using the bag). Something else to consider, yes?

joe lance said...

I thought we were all supposed to be using reusable bags made from hemp by now, according to what folks were preaching in the early nineties.

I do try to recycle my plastic bags, but the grocery stores are the only places that take them. I always forget to take them when I go, so I have huge piles in the basement.

Then there's the simple idea of reusing a plastic bag that sundries came in for a small garbage or recyclables bag. It doesn't solve the whole problem, but keeps one from buying yet additional small plastic bags.