Monday, January 31, 2011

Ways to repurpose the plastic bags you have


I think that most people can agree that adding to our landfills is a negative thing, and that recycling when possible is great.  However, it seems, in the craze of the green movement we have gotten so ambitious with our recycling efforts that we have forgotten the other two R’s along the way, reduce and reuse.
In the context of single use grocery bags reducing can happen by people using reusable bags, or by people forgoing bags altogether by using tote bins or some other reusable transport device.  But when it comes to it there are a large number of plastic bags in the world that have already been made and/or distributed.  What creative uses can we find for these bags, especially in areas that do not yet have ready access to plastic film recycling programs such as Bag 2 Bag.
There are a number of web pages dedicated to the reuse of plastic bag.  You can use old plastic bags to make a wide assortment of other things.  Some people turn bags into something they call plarn (plastic yarn) and then it can be used for most anything you would use yarn for like making rope.  Or you can fuse the old bags together and make new reusable bags for yourself, a great way to get a unique bag and depending on where you live you could make the bag for free.  And here is a video on how to fuse plastic to make a reusable sandwich bag, allowing you to convert one plastic waste to avoid creating another.
I hope you can use these ideas to help you find a way to reuse the plastic bags you may already have in your life, beyond just using them as trash can liners.  And remember the three R’s; Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in that order.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Author: The Royal Gazette

Retailers' guarded welcome to plastic bag ban proposal

wv1_23718601Bermuda's retailers have reacted guardedly to proposals from Government to phase out the use of plastic bags.
The idea, raised during the Throne Speech, was expanded upon in the House of Assembly by new Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess, who called plastic bags a menace to Bermuda's environment.
Mr Burgess said plastic bags could last for hundreds of years and should be banned in favour of alternatives like biodegradable corn starch bags.
wv1_23718611Yesterday many retailers were not prepared to comment because they were waiting for clarifications on the proposal and others were surprised to hear about it.
President of Phoenix Stores George Grundmuller, who had not heard of the ban, said: "I would have to examine the proposal more closely, but I think it would impact us severely.
"We have no alternative to plastic at this point. It would be very difficult to use paper bags for our items. Most of the paper bags available are more expensive than plastic and they don't have a handle. I know that at the present price structure, the plastic bags are the most cost effective."
He said retailers in Bermuda didn't want to pass on their costs to customers, and pointed out that while many customers carry their own shopping bags, it is different for different businesses.
"We sell lots of items in small quantities, so most of our customers walk out with a small plastic bag. Also, not a lot of people will come to a drugstore with a reusable bag. I'm sure when something like this will be implemented, there will be a consultation."
Mr Grundmuller also pointed out that some US states have found potentially dangerous levels of lead in cheap reusable shopping bags.
Managing director of AS Cooper & Sons Somers Cooper said: "This is the first I've heard of it. I imagine environmentally safe bags would be somewhat more expensive, but that's just an assumption on my part. But as a responsible corporate citizen we would certainly go along with any measures government proposed to protect the environment."
At the moment, he said, all the store's bags are plastic.
President of Lindo's Giorgio Zanol said he supported the idea of a ban. "The bags we have now are biodegradable. Personally, I would be first to get rid of bags and bring my own, or have a system like they do in Europe, where they charge you for plastic bags. We in Lindo's are very concerned with the problem we have here in Bermuda with litter; we were the first with blue bags and reusable green bags.
"There might be some costs involved, there might be an impact on business, but we have to face facts."
Mr Zanol said he was unsure if the blue biodegradable bags used by Lindo's would meet the proposed new standards, but the company would happily comply if they turned out to be unsuitable.
He said: "The problem is, what do you use instead? We did away with double brown bags and tried to encourage people to use re-usable bags, but we have to give them something. We thought our biodegradable bags would do, but now we're not sure, so if the bags are banned, they'll have to give us some time to find something else. We'll have to wait and see. But I'm all for the idea."
Anthony Aguiar, President of supermarket Harrington Hundreds, called the bag ban "a great political soundbite — but it's not that simple."
Mr Aguiar said the proposed ban had come "out of left field"."Tell me the rules and I'll follow them. Define the benefits more accurately. Bags cost me six figures a year and we give them away; it's my fourth or fifth highest expense. But I think this needs to be thought through more."
He said the issue wasn't as severe in Bermuda because we incinerate instead of using landfills, and pointed out that producing the starch used for biodegradable bags had an environmental impact of its own.
"Even the cotton used for canvas bags has an impact, because cotton is a huge drain on resources such as water. How do you measure the various choices and define what's best?"
Mr Aguiar said his supermarket uses a lot of plastic bags because customers wanted them.
"If we convert by law, is it just a political decision or have there been research into the impact economically on Bermuda? What plastic bags are we talking about? Does that include medical plastic bags? I'm all for any effort that says it's protecting the environment; I don't want turtles eating plastic bags. But do you think fishermen will catch fish and put them into paper bags instead of plastic? If you force them, they will, but people aren't going to like it."
He added that phasing out bags wouldn't necessarily have a negative economic impact.
"Plastic does cost us a little bit less, but many people are re-using bags. I wish we were at a point like Europe where they charge people for bags so they learn to re-use them. What we need is for people to be more careful with their resources.
17November2010

Friday, January 28, 2011

Reusable Bags

Lately, when I have been at the grocery store going through the checkout line, the clerk has not asked me the famous phrase “would you prefer paper or plastic?” I have been shocked as of late since the buzz about recycling and going green has become so popular. The two local grocery stores that I regularly shop at, one gives me plastic (Safeway) and the other paper (New Seasons) without any option, except if I was to bring my own reusable bag.

Two things have been very surprising to me when I am in the checkout line lately. The first being that at each checkout stand at Safeway there is a small stand full of reusable bags, which I believe are there to be purchased. Placed on every checkout line, all of the fixtures are completely full and it seems to me that they are being overseen and bypassed by the checkers and the consumer.

The second surprising thing that I have noticed is that when I go to New Seasons. Even though New Seasons donates 10% of their after-tax profits to non-profit organizations which include organizations who feed the hungry, educate youth, and improve our environment – they still use paper bags. It makes me wonder if they know the pros and cons of using paper or plastic products. If they were promoting good for the environment, you would think they would have reusable bags at the ends of their cashwraps promoting reusable bags and/or information to how paper and plastic bags effect our environment.

For those of us, including myself that have yet purchased reusable grocery bags, here is a website that I found that has many sizes, shapes, and colors of reusable bags which start at a low price of $4.95. These bags are supposed to last years and some grocery stores even give you five cents off when you use a reusable bag when you buy groceries. Therefore, using this bag for about a year and a half will eventually pay for itself as well as helping improve our environment!

Reusable bag site: http://www.greenfeet.com/nav.asp?Category=Bags+%26+Accessories

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plastax

Growing up I never really knew the difference between plastic and paper, it was just what we used to transit the food from here to there. Once I moved to Portland, OR I realized the love people had for reusable bags. The only thing is, I didn't want to buy one. (As weird and dumb as that sounds now). I used plastic bags for years, I never even thought twice when the baggers asked "Paper or plastic?" Mostly because I was uneducated of the situation. I mostly wanted to get to the bottom of WHY I was so opposed to buying a reusable bag. And it really is just a matter of "spending" money on something that I could get an equivalent of for free. I assumed that since I had this outlook on the situation that I most likely wasn't the only one. So I was trying to think of something that could possibly curve peoples views of "buying" and reusable bag. Then I found this article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0902_030902_plasticbags_2.html

Here they talk about TAXING plastic bags: "Tony Lowes, director of Friends of the Irish Environment in County Cork, said the 15 cent (about 20 cents U.S.) tax on plastic bags introduced there in March 2002 has resulted in a 95 percent reduction in their use." I think this is something that would really bring light the the fact that we just don't want to spend money if we don't have to, and if we have to spend 20 cents on plastic bags every time we go the the grocery store than I think people will start making an investment in spending a couple bucks on reusable bags.  And for those that still don't want to take the plunge in purchasing a reusable bag then there is the fact that they want to use a minimum of bags for their groceries ""Having bags charged has some merits because it gets them used more responsibly," he said. For example, instead of a bagger using six bags to package a person's dinner, the bagger might use just two." What a concept.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Lethal Dose of Plastic

Most people have heard of plastic bags killing marine life, or seen pictures of a bird with a chunk of plastic stuck around its beak. I know that it happens and I hear about it every once in a while, but I never knew the extent to which rogue plastic bags affected wildlife. I looked at a site, plasticbageconomics.com, that shows the staggering amount of plastic bags that are afloat in the ocean and how they are killing an array of animals.

For instance, I was shocked to see that, "In every square mile of ocean there are over 46,000 pieces of plastic". Endangered turtles will mistake bags for jellyfish, eat them, and suffocate from them. In addition, about 100,000 birds, whales, and seals die every year from plastic bags. This is an alarming amount of deaths that are 100% preventable. All the more reason for consumers to recycle their plastic bags, or to choose reusable cloth bags instead when they go shopping.

In addition to killing animals, plastic bags are doing a great amount of damage to live coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the great wonders of the world, and is deteriorating because of deadly plastic bags wrapping themselves around the coral and killing it. There are so many consequences to littering and choosing not to recycle used grocery bags. By recycling plastic bags, we can collectively save 100,000 animal lives per year. It is a small step to maintaining life and a healthy environment.

A new "thread" for plastic bags

Plastic Bag Crochet Workshop at MET Rishikul Vidyalaya

Here is a great story about recycling plastic bags. Enjoy!

http://bagsbegone.com/2010/07/10/plastic-bag-crochet-workshop-at-met-rishikul-vidyalaya/

Plastic Bags: Friend or Foe?

"Paper or plastic?" is a question everyone in American has been asked at least once in their lifetimes. Many people have debated over whats better but economist have a simple answer: plastic. Plastic bags are much more resource efficient. Plastic bags require much less energy than paper bags to manufacture. An average paper bag takes 2511 BTUs to manufacture, while an average plastic bag takes only 591 BTUs (roplast). This is mainly because it takes 1/8 of the material to make a plastic bag as it does to make a paper bag.

Paper bags also come from trees while plastic do not. This means that the more paper bags are consumed the more trees are being cut down. Cutting down forests is a huge resource cost. Once the bags are made they still need to be transported to their final destination. They are transpoted on ships and trucks. Because plastic bags are much thinner and lighter than paper bags, it would take seven 45 foot trucks to transport the same amount of paper bags as one 45 foot truck of plastic bags. This is a large comparable savings on fuel, congestion and smog caused by the shipping of the bags.

Image

Paper bags are made by heating wood chips in a chemical solution under pressure. These chemicals produce high amounts of air and water pollution. In fact paper bag production produces 70% more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than plastic bag production.

Disposing of paper bags is also inferior to plastic bags. The amount of waste by weight is 400% higher with paper than plastic and the amount of waste by volume is higher by more than 250%. These last two figures are of considerable importance if either bag ends up in a landfill. Landfills are running low on space and here plastic bags give much more bang for the buck. Even if we The energy required to recycle is 1444 BTUs for a typical paper bag while only 17 BTUs for a typical plastic bag. If the bags are not recycled but instead burned, plastic bags release almost as much energy as oil. Plastic bags release 19,900 BTUs compared to oil's 20,000 BTUs. Paper pails in comparison with only 8,000 BTUs.

Source: www.plasticbageconomics.com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Plastic vs Paper "you be the judge"

I always thought the use of paper bags would be more beneficial for the environment until I read this article about the impact of both paper and plastic on environment.
contrary to what most people think there are advantages of using plastic bags instead of paper bags.  Like paper, plastic can be recycled, and recycling process would require less energy for plastic than it is for paper.  Paper recycling requires the use of great amount of water and end result would be polluted water back into the environment.
please read this article which brings up important issues regarding use of paper and plastic.

http://www.angelfire.com/wi/PaperVsPlastic/

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Novice Speaks... (Plastic Please)


Honestly, I was unaware that the topic of plastic versus paper was as popular as finding the cure for Cancer. I was amazed to read the various articles and watch the short documentaries on this topic. I would consider myself a novice who has currently embarked on a new campaign regarding the use of plastic including the pros and cons.  I will continue my research and as I read the opinions of others, I will hopefully form my own ideas and opinions regarding this intriguing topic.

Did you know?

  • Plastic bags are among the top two items of debris found most often in coastal cleanups. (Ocean Conservancy)
  • Plastic bags wrap around living corals, quickly "suffocating" and killing them. (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • Plastic pieces outweigh surface zooplankton in the Central North Pacific by a factor of 6-1. (Algalita Marine Research Foundation)
  • Plastic pieces can attract and hold hydrophobic elements like PCB and DDT up to one-million times background levels. As a result, floating plastic is like a poison pill. (Algalita Marine Research Foundation)
  • Approximately 500 nautical miles off the California coast sits a growing "plastic island," a gargantuan patch of floating plastic trash held together by currents stretching across the northern Pacific almost as far as Japan. This "plastic island" is made up of about 7 billion pounds of plastic garbage, and measures about twice the size of Texas.
  • Each year, enough trash - most of it plastics - floats down the Los Angeles River to fill the Rose Bowl two stories deep. (Los Angeles Times, "Altered Oceans")
  • Of 500,000 albatross chicks born each year on Midway Atoll, about 200,000 die of starvation. Adult albatrosses mistake plastic trash for food and end up feeding it to their chicks. (L.A. Times)
  • On a single day in 2007, nearly 400,000 volunteers around the world picked up more than 6 million pounds of trash. A majority of the items were single-use disposable plastic items, such as plastic bags and Styrofoam containers. (Ocean Conservancy International)
  • Since water keeps the plastic cool and algae blocks ultraviolet rays, "every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere." (Research Triangle Institute)
(Taken from www.reuseit.com)

Free Bags Are Not Free

Whether the choice is paper or plastic, the shopping bag you get comes with a cost. In the U.S., our culture is obsessed with convenience and quick cheap gratification. In the 70's we became aware of conservation efforts, and knew that we needed to save our trees and forests. Because the alternative was cheap (or so we thought) we quickly switched over from paper bags to plastic. Because we did not feel the pinch in our wallets, and plastic bags were handed out conveniently at every store visit, we assumed this was the solution. We were wrong. Once again life shows us that the cheap, easy option is not so cheap and easy. One way or another, convenience always comes at a cost.

According to reusit.com there are many costs associated with the consumption of plastic bags. First, there are production costs. Petroleum and natural gas products are used to manufacture plastic bags. This not only is taxing on the environment as we excavate and drill for these finite resources, but it affects the price we pay for fuel and products made with gas and oil as we become dependent on foreign suppliers who raise prices on whim.

Next are the consumption costs for the bags. Retailers pay about $4 billion a year for the "free" plastic bags. Guess who pays for that in higher prices at the checkout?

The bigger costs we incur are for the disposal and litter from these bags. We all know that it takes 1000 years for plastic to degrade. We hear it all the time. But they degrade only if exposed to the elements. Landfills bury waste, and sometimes keep it air tight. 1000 years might be hindered even more. We also have to pay for associated costs to haul our waste away and clean it up (more dependence on foreign gas and oil/ higher pump prices), We also hear about how plastics turn into tiny pieces that contaminate the soil and water. The media saturates us with the images of marine and land animals who die from eating this stuff. But these costs ARE ALL HIDDEN. Who feels the pinch from all these costs?

Because the common American is not aware of these costs, they continue with the same consumer patterns. IF EVERYONE KNEW HOW MUCH PLASTIC WASTE REALLY COSTS, wouldn't we really want to choose the option that would have less impact on our lives?

Many activists are purposing bans on plastic bags. This is a short term solution for a long term problem. People by nature always find ways around prohibitions. The only way our consumer patterns will change is if the American consumer becomes economically and overtly inconvenienced by these behaviors; especially at the wallet. Money always grabs our attention. That is why many groups to include reusit.com are in favor for taxing the use of these bags. As proven in Ireland, behavior will change when costs are openly felt (BBC).

Besides taxing the use of bags (both plastic or paper) we need to be aware of how our consumer behaviors create more costs and hurt our environment. Instead of looking for quick, cheap convenience to meet our needs (mostly wants)  we need to think about meeting our needs with an eye towards the future. In the long run, we end up reducing costs; personally and environmentally.

Will Your Plastic Bag Get Recycled?

In our modern lives, we encounter materials made out of plastics at every turn. From health to nutrition to shelter and transportation, to communication and sports to leisure activities, the plastic industry has delivered many benefits to our way of life. Did you know that in the United States, the plastic industry is the third largest manufacturing industry and that it employs 1.1 million people and delivers $374 billion dollars in shipments?

Could you imagine what your life would be like if all of a sudden all the items made of plastic disappeared? This could possibly mean your computer, part of your car, and yes, your shopping bags.

What is the history of plastic bags?

Plastics bags are made out of a type of plastic called polyethylene, which is produced from natural gas (abundant but non-renewable resource). It was discovered about half a century ago, and the first plastic bags were introduced as baggie sandwich bags in 1957. According to a timeline published by www.plasticindustry.org, between 1974-1975, the industry grew as many retail stores adopted packaging their products with plastic.

According to www.earth911.com about 89 billion plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are used each year in the US. In 2007, the percentage of plastic bags that was recycled increased by 27%, adding to a total of 830 million pounds of plastics being recycled.

What impact does manufacturing plastic bags have on our environment?

When manufactured, polyethylene apparently uses less energy, oil and water than paper bags made with 30% recycled fibers. According to www.superbag.org plastic bags use less water and less energy when produced.

So what happens to the plastic bag that you brought your groceries home in after you have used it?

According to www.earth911.com the bags that get recycled are the ones that end up in the trash at the grocery or retail store that you bought your products from. While these entities are the most efficient for collecting plastic bags for recycling, the bag that gets home with you probably will not get recycled (food and beverage can contaminate these bags, which makes recycling more costly). Furthermore, most facilities that recover products are set up to separate bottles from paper, but they do not separate plastic bags and wraps because these items can get caught in their equipment. This explains the low percentage of plastic bag recycling that takes place. But for now let’s focus on what happens to the bag that does get lucky and it gets recycled.

First it gets collected with other product wraps and stretch wrap and it gets transported to a central distribution center where it gets baled and picked up by a recycler. The recycler could be located in the US or somewhere oversees. Apparently, this combination of plastics is a desired material because it takes the place is virgin feedstock.

Most of the plastics get recycled into composite lumber (1/2 wood, 1/2 plastic) and can help you build a new deck, door or window frames, and exterior moldings. Others get recycled into new bags, pallets, containers, crates and pipes.

However, it is unfortunate that only a small percentage of all plastic bags do get collected and recycled. According to a study by the EPA, only 5.2% were recycled in 2005. That number has increased by 27% in 2007. But we've got to do better. The best chance of getting the plastic bag you brought home recycled as well as the plastic that the product you bought came wrapped in is to take it to the grocery store where it gets collected and transported to the right place.

With a little bit of planning, this is not hard to do. But is that the best alternative? How about paper? Or are there other options? More in another post.

Paper or Plastic

The debate with Los Angeles and whether or not it should follow the step of San Francisco is perpetually ongoing. Personally, I feel that plastic and paper are equally valid materials to use in the construction of bags. However, I think that we should stop relying on foreign oil to produce plastic bags. Obviously I am from Saudi Arabia, which has one of the largest proven oil reserves on earth, but I feel that it would be a good alternative for America to start using some of its own resources.

I think that environmentally friendly materials would be a very good idea and exploring different substances in laboratories would be a good step in the right direction. Only with progressive thinking int he way we consume materials, will a better and more sustainable product emerge. Los Angeles simply needs to be more prudent about the volume of harmful materials that are consumed each year, like those found in plastic bags.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Plastic vs Paper The Debate over plastic Bags in LA

Ban or No Ban: The Debate over Plastic Bags in LA (UPDATED)
by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Los Angeles on 01.22.08
Business & Politics

Will Los Angeles follow San Francisco's lead and become California's second major city to adopt a plastic bag ban? After some initial progress, the measure seems to have hit a wall: As Emerald City's Siel recently noted, a vote by the LA County Board of Supervisors to determine whether disposable plastic bags should be taxed or outright banned has been cast into doubt after the supervisors made a last-minute decision to water down some of the pollution plan's key provisions.

Several local environmental groups, including Heal the Bay, are urging supporters to attend a rally at noon to protest the supervisors' decision to back down on the measure and to advocate for a complete ban. Heal the Bay has been a leading voice on this issue and was frustrated to see its efforts to curry an agreement with the supes fall apart.

A Heal the Bay action alert lays out the situation thusly:

"During their January 22nd hearing, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a variety of options to reduce plastic bag consumption, including a conditional or outright ban.

In preparing for this vote, for the past nine months, Heal the Bay has been working with the Board and advocating for strong action to curb the County’s 6 billion bag per year plastic bag addiction. Our agreement as of Tuesday with several Board of Supervisors’ offices was that reduction and recycling efforts need to reach 35% by 2010 and 70% by 2013; if these reduction goals are not met, the Board would consider a bag ban.

However, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is threatening to weaken the above reduction goals to aggressively curb plastic bag use that had been agreed upon earlier this week. The County is unfortunately proposing to now further reduce these goals.

Because of Heal the Bay’s opposition to this additional weakening, the Board may AGAIN postpone a vote on this critical decision. The County’s latest proposal is simply greenwashing and only does lipservice to the blight and environmental damage caused by plastic bags."

The question over whether or not to enforce a ban remains a contentious one, with some influential voices coming out in favor of a bag tax. In a recent editorial, the LAT weighed in on the side of a tax on plastic bags, arguing that a complete ban would impose a hidden tax on retailers, which would inevitably be passed on to the consumers.

Moreover, the editorial criticized the biodegradable alternatives now being used in San Francisco for not "entirely solving the pollution problem," stating:

"The starch bags also don't entirely solve the pollution problem because they may never break down in landfills, which are sealed to prevent water seepage and thus "mummify" everything dumped in them, biodegradable or not."

It favorably cited the strategy China assumed this past week, which is to ban ultra-thin plastic bags while keeping the thicker ones - as long as retailers charge a fee for them. It concluded by stating:

"On Jan. 22, the supervisors are expected to vote on a motion calling on the Legislature to repeal that provision, and also to implement a statewide fee on plastic shopping bags. The board should pass it, and the Legislature should show that it has at least as much economic common sense as Chinese central planners by following through."

Ideally, of course, the best solution would be for people to simply reuse the bags - be they plastic, paper or starch - or, alternatively, to buy several of many reusable bags. Angelenos interested in attending the rally tomorrow can find more information about it here; also, if you support Heal the Bay's efforts, consider signing their petition urging the outright ban of plastic bags.

UPDATED: Via Siel again, it looks like there won't be a plastic bag ban until at least 2010.

Via ::Emerald City: Plastic bags: Ban them or tax them? A hearing happens 1/22 (blog), ::Los Angeles Times: Charging for plastic bags (newspaper)

See also: ::Wait for Us! Australia Wants to Ban Plastic Bags Too, ::China Launches Crackdown on Plastic Bags

A Tax On Plastic Bags?

There are a large number of cities, states, and even countries that are talking about putting a tax, or even a ban on the use of plastic grocery bags. I wonder how much of a difference this could make, if any.

Last year Washington DC enacted a bill that added a 5-cent tax on every paper and plastic bag purchased in the stores. Bringing your own bag, is of course, free. So what was the outcome of doing this? Well, it looks like it reduced the amount of plastic bag litter by about a third. The tax also helped to raise $2 million dollars. That $2 million was well below the $3.5 Million projection, but even that I think would be considered a good thing. Stores so far this year are already buying half as many bags as they normally do.

If more places enact laws such as these, not only will we see a reduction in the amount of waste, but the money raised by the taxes can be used to help fund clean up efforts as well.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Plastic Bag Debate

Following the lead that San Francisco set, numerous cities and jurisdictions have set out to ban or tax the use of plastic grocery bags.  As with any hot topic there are groups that form on either side of the rally line.  In California two noticeable groups that are at odds with each other over the plastic bag bans are the Californians against Waste and the American Chemistry Council. 

The American Chemistry Council is obviously against banning single-use plastic bags.  The division of the American Chemistry Council that is involved with this movement is the Plastics Council.  Looking at their website I found their information on some plastic bag facts as supported by the manufacturers.  They also list information about the Progressive Bag Affiliates, which is working to improve plastic bag recycling efforts.

The group Californians against Waste is acting in support of the various bans on plastic bags being implemented in California.  They are working to improve the environment of California through reducing waste and improving recycling program and policies.  While they are active on the topic of plastic bags they also take on a number of other environmental topics.  Their website covers the environmental impact of plastic bags on the state of California in an article titled The Problem of Plastic Bags.

By presenting the information from each side of the debate we can get a better idea of the real facts behind the topic which likely lie somewhere in the middle of the information presented in the links of this blog post.  Only by collecting a variety of information on a topic can we as consumers make an informed decision when asked, "Paper or plastic" at the store.

Friday, January 14, 2011

An island named Plastic


A new island was discovered not too long ago in the Pacific Ocean. However, this discovery wasn’t an exciting one, as the island turned out to be compiled of garbage. The island is floating in the pacific, moving with the sea currants, collecting more and more debris that was thrown into the oceans on its path. The island is made out of various types of plastics found is bottles, shopping bags, packages and other man made products. Marine life is mistaking those new objects found in their natural environment as food, consuming them, and due to high levels of toxins as well as the inability to digest them, dying from it.
The fact that man made, toxic substances made their way to the sea and are killing marine life and sea birds should be an eye opener. Plastic is harsh on the environment, whether on land or floating in the sea. WE should focus our energies on spreading word and developing alternatives that would protect planet.
 
Captain Charles Moore On TED.com talking about his research:

Phasing out single-use plastic bags in Europe

Plastic bags are widely thought of as the cheap way to bag your groceries.  You don't pay for them and it's only natural to assume that they don't cost much for the grocery stores to have since there are so many and they are so frequently used.  While it is true that they were made for convenience and low cost it is important that we take the whole "life" of the plastic bag into account when we determine it's true "cost" on society.

Other nations around the world, particularily Europe, deal with the growing issues of plastic bag waste by adding a small charge or tax for one-use plastic bags and have seen more and more consumers turn to reuseable grocery bags instead.  This article and short "documentary" give specific examples of countries that have made drastic changes in an area that more and more Americans are becoming concerned with today.

http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/phasing-out-single-use-plastic-bags/

Recycling: The Best Option

I found a website, reuseit.com, that talks about the environmental costs of using both paper and plastic bags. I was very surprised to see some of the facts about how each kind of bag is manufactured and recycled. For instance, most of the paper used to produce paper bags comes from tree pulp, and with the staggering amount of paper bags that are produced, billions of trees are cut down to produce enough paper to accommodate Americans. This, in turn, will leave less trees to clear the air of greenhouse gases. To actually create the bags produces even more green house gases, making it twice as environmentally unfriendly. In terms of recycling, the site states that it takes 91% less energy to recycle plastic than paper. This makes a small difference when choosing paper or plastic because recycling rates are at 10 to 15% for paper bags and 1 to 3% for plastic bags. Though paper is recycled more than plastic, the rates for both of the bag options are staggeringly low. It is clear that more emphasis should be put on recycling bags, but the way in which we as a community go about it is debatable.
Many people believe that using paper instead of plastic bags is a small contribution to the good of the environment. According to greenchange.org, not using plastic bags cuts down litter, waste, and dependence on foreign oil. Some areas have tried to rid their stores of plastic bags altogether by taking more extreme approaches. For instance, Ireland simply forewent the promoting recycling option and went the more extreme route of putting a tax on plastic bags in 2002. The use of plastic bags dropped by 90 percent in just a few short weeks. However, if America were to put a tax on plastic bags, use of paper bags would most likely rise significantly, and we would still be faced with the dilemma of how to promote recycling paper bags. We as a society need to come up with a better way to promote recycling bags, whether they are paper or plastic.

Paper vs. Plastic


Before I started this project and researching this topic, I always thought that paper would be the better choice. I thought that this was an easy choice – paper is recyclable and plastic fills up our landfills – enough said. Another observation that I made was that most paper bags used in grocery stores are made out of recyclable paper; consumers then are not using new paper, we are already helping out the environment by using post-recycled material.

After exploring this topic more in-depth, I came to realize that neither paper nor plastic is a good option. They both cause harm to the environment. Here are some interesting facts that I found on The Washington Post’s website.

Paper vs. Plastic:
PAPER: American’s consume more than 10 billion paper bags each year – 14 million trees are cut down yearly for the manufacturing of paper
PLASTIC: 4 billion plastic bags end up as liter annually – if we tied the plastic bags together it would circle the earth 63 times – that is approximately 1,792,000 miles!! (the circumference of the earth is approximately 28,000 miles around the equator!)
*PAPER: In the process of the production of paper bags, thousands of gallons of fresh water and bleach are used to clean the pulp.
* PLASTIC: American’s use approximately 100 billion plastic bags per year. Did you know that it takes 12 million barrels of oil to make them?
*PAPER: Paper produces 70% more air pollution and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bag production.
PLASTIC: Plastic bags will not decompose over time (also known as being biodegradable), but they do take up less space in a landfill.
                  How you can help:
                  * Reuse paper and plastic bags for lunches, animal liter, garbage can liners,  or keep them available and reuse them when you make a trip back to the grocery store. Reuse, Reuse, Reuse!
                  * Invest in high-quality reusable bags - using reusable bags have the potential to save 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime!
You can find this information by clicking this link: The Washington Post

Paper or Plastic? A Infographic


I have been a huge fan of infographics for quite some time now so I spent some time (took longer than expected) to find a good one that conveys the significance of the argument between paper and plastic. This one I discovered in an archive from the Washington Post's website (click link to go directly to the site - Infographic). This graphic defines the characteristics within four key arenas of consumption, production, pollution, recycling, and whether if it is biodegradable.

Within this  graphic, I was surprised to find that the staggering number of 7 out of 10 Americans do not realize that plastic has origins stemming from petroleum products. I think with this in mind, this can be used in an information campaign (social marketing) to discourage the use of plastic. However, the same must be done for paper as well (pointing out the malicious byproducts of using digesting chemicals required to manufacture it) . Neither are sustainable nor viable long-term solutions.

Charles
Infographic: Paper or Plastic