Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reusable bag etiquette


Reusable bags are a fantastic idea.  They cut down on waste and occasionally add some panache to the chore of buying groceries. Like anything that deals with food, it's a big deal to avoid cross contamination when using your grocery bags and to make sure that you are transporting things in the safest way possible. First of all, make sure you can clean your bags effectively, and that they aren't made of a material that can't be machine washed and/or bleached.  Once you have your bags and use them regularly, try to wash them at least every few shopping trips if not more often.  Another thing to keep in mind is to always bring multiple bags with you. While most reusable grocery bags are pretty sizable, you should still maybe consider keeping one exclusively for meats and eggs (if you eat those) to avoid contaminating foods you might eat raw or without extra cooking, like fruits and vegetables.  Another thing to keep in mind when using your reusable bag is to make sure you aren't putting things like eggs or breads at the bottom or middle of your bag, as they will probably get crushed.  With all of this in mind, happy shopping!

For a report on the potential health risks that reusable bags can pose go to http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/06/shopping-bags-health-risk/1

Low Quality Reusable Bags Can Be Dangerous As Well

            In haste to migrate to reusable bags, you may not stop to consider the options you have to choose from. There are many different kinds of reusable bags, and of those different types, there are differing brands as well. A bag choice may be more important than you realize, as reusable bags are still emerging in popularity and there are many opportunities for low-quality products to slip into the market.
            In Buffalo, New York, there have been recent issues with reusable bags containing high amounts of lead. While it is said that the lead would not have any impact on food safety, the bags containing large amounts of lead is directly contradictory to their purpose of being environmentally friendly. This high concentration is lead is actually only outlawed in 19 states in the U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D) from New York has mentioned federal regulations on reusable lead levels, but that has yet to be seen. If this is a concern of yours, I would contact your local congressperson and tell them your concerns.
             What can you do for now? Considering all of the offending bags appear to be produced in China, I would recommend buying reusable bags that have been made within the United States. Support your national economy and help the economy at the same time!

Plastic Health?

Another aspect of the anti-plastic movement is the effect of plastic chemicals on our health. The below site details the way that plastic is made and some of the effects it can have on your health. This draws into question, is this something we have yet to consider? We store our food in plastic, our water, all products we use or ingest are store in plastic containers, do we know what we are using and how it will affect use? We have seen the detrimental effects on the environment and animals, what about humans? See the web site for more information.

http://www.mindfully.org/Berkeley/Berkeley-Plastics-Task-Force.htm

The Grassroots Bag Movement!

     This movement started as nothing more than a woman (Teresa VanHatten-Granath) getting upset with her husband for not remembering the reusable bags when he went grocery shopping. She knew this was a common problem for many people, so her and her friends got together to brain storm a solution.

     They then started a “green bag” revolution by crafting over 15,000 fabric bags. The bags are made from recycled material, and hand sewn. They are then given as gifts, with the promise that they receiver with gift one as well, becoming some what of a “pay it forward” movement.

     Each one of the bags is labeled and numbered, and have been traced all over the place! She has inspired many others to do the same, and now there are grassroots “bag ladies” popping up all over the US.

http://franklinlakes.patch.com/articles/going-green-one-bag-at-a-time#photo-5166359

Plastic bag news round up


While the plastic bag ban is hitting close to home in Oregon, other parts of the world are also currently banning the bag.

Just to the south of us in California, Santa Monica has started their own ban on plastic bags.  As of March 9, single use plastic bags are banned completely from supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies, however, certain types of plastic bags will still be allowed to be distributed for purchases made at other types of stores.  There is now currently a small charge for paper bags.

Further away, in Bangalore, India, there is also a ban on certain types of plastic bags going into effect. While many seem to be on board, there is some skepticism on whether or not the government will do what they can to enforce the ban.

In addition to bag bans, plastic bags are coming up in the news in another way as well. Krogers and Safeway grocery store chains are getting rid of the small rebate that is given to customers who bring their own bags from home due to lack of public interest.

So while there are two steps forward to potentially helping the environment, there is one sort of step back. 

The Harm of Paper Bags


The Harm of Paper Bags

            Paper bags come from lots and lots of trees. Companies like Weyerhaeuser and Plum Creek Timber harvest them. Kimberly Clark also harvests them. The paper bags have to go through a long process to get to the grocery store, but using paper bags can be very damaging to the environment because of all the different processes that it has to go through before it is a final product. First the trees are found, and then they have to be marked for felling. This causes the land to undergo clear cutting, which in turn, harms the land tremendously.

            Then, to extract the trees from the landscape, big machines have to come in, which damage the terrain and consume fossil fuels, which in turn harm the environment terribly. After collection, the trees have to dry for three years before they can be stripped and then processed by more machinery and chemicals. What is amazing though, is after the trees are boiled down to pulp, it takes 3 tons of wood to make 1 ton of pulp.

The pulp is then washed and bleached and coloring is added to make the paper bag seem colorful later on. The pulp is then dumped onto metal wire structures and then it is rolled into paper. This is how paper bags come into existence and it is obvious that the entire process is very harmful to the environment, thus making paper bags a poor choice.

Source:

Reusable Bags Please!



Reusable Bags Please!

            A raging debate exists over whether paper or plastic is a better option all around the world. Both options have significant benefits and drawbacks, but one thing remains certain though: No one can come up with a solution that appeases both sides of the issue. The reason is that there is no clearly defined benefit that stands out over the downside potential of each bag type. However, some viable solutions do exist, and are quickly becoming mainstay options in America and the rest of the world, including the use of reusable bags.

            Many environmentalists argue that the best way to transport groceries is by using reusable bags. These are generally high in quality and can be used many times before they deteriorate and break. Because they are not tossed aside, they help to protect the environment and keep harmful products out of the landfills and save animals that are susceptible to plastic bags especially. Based on the calculations of some experts, the world consumes more than 1 million plastic bags per minute. This staggering figure is only growing by the year.

            As maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year, and out of those, 100 billion are plastic shopping bags, which cost retailers 4 billion dollars annually to purchase. One thought to reduce plastic bag consumption is to place tax on their use. This would help to curb their use and help to mitigate any problems to the environment and help to save the world we live in.


Source:



Plastic Grocery Bags Are Damaging the Environment


Plastic Grocery Bags Are Damaging the Environment

The use of paper or plastic bags has been an ongoing debate for quite sometime. Initially plastic bags were created to offset the need to use paper bags, which was thought to be terribly destructive to the environment. People believed that by using plastic bags, they would reduce the need to harvest large swaths of forest in order to sustain the demand for paper bags. Although this concept of eliminating paper bags seemed to be completely rational, an unexpected shift occurred, due to the fact that paper bags were more expensive and less durable than their paper counterparts. This has led plastic bags to capture all but 20% of the bag market for grocery and convenience store shoppers.

Because of this increased demand for plastic bags, they now litter landfills all around the world and adulterate the pristine landscapes of various regions. According to Vincent Cobb, an entrepreneur who calls Chicago, Illinois home, “The numbers are absolutely staggering”. This is in reference to the quantity of bags being consumed every year JUST in the United States, which, in 2001 was estimated at 500 billion to 1 trillion bags. From this enormous number, experts have calculated that millions end up in rivers, streams, and landfills.  

            Once plastic bags end up in the environment, it can take hundreds of year for them to break down completely. Paper bags on the other hand are very biodegradable and will disappear within a few years. As plastic bags break down also, dangerous toxins are released into the soil, which can contaminate an area severely. Some good things about plastic bags though, is the fact that they consume “40 percent less energy than paper bags, generate 80 percent less solid waste, produce 70 percent fewer atmospheric emissions, and finally release up to 94 fewer waterborne wastes.”

Source:



Below is a link to a short but interesting take on the debate of paper or plastic.




Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bag crafts

Reusable bags are a useful solution to cutting down on one's use of both paper and plastic bags.  While most grocery stores sell reusable bags with their logos on them for a small fee, it is easy to sometimes feel these are as disposable as paper and plastic bags are meant to be when you forget them at home after using them once.  To help curb the problem, one might be more enthused about bring bags they spent time on.  Here are two different ideas for craft bags:

The t-shirt bag
Martha Stewart, mogul/billionaire, approves of this bag. The instructions for the bag start at about 5:28 in the video.  Basically you cut out the sleeves and neck of a t-shirt and glue (with fabric glue) or sew the bottom hem together. The ease of this project makes it approachable for almost anybody. If you have a wealth of t-shirts that you've been meaning to get rid of but haven't, you could easily use them for this project and earn extra environmentalist points for recycling. Just be sure that any wear in the shirt won't compromise the utility of what could potentially be your new shopping bag.
Crochet bag
Maybe, instead you've always appreciated the aesthetic of macramé plant holders and would love to use something similar to carry around your groceries and other sundries.  This lovely bag might be sort of complicated if you've never crocheted before, however would be a functional first project to try.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to bags you make yourself, from color to material, to shape and size.  Making the bags can be a fun process and using them might also help the planet!

Bag Brands

Bags are a huge marketing tool. I confess that I could recognize a Nordstrom, Macys, Tiffanys or Gap bag on a dime. They are free marketing for the company, and even more than that they symbolize an amount of consumer status. When you receive your overpriced cotton sweater, wrapped in branded tissue, and then placed into a crisp shiny bag, you feel shiny and new, empowered, and accomplished. Stores have relished on this tool, making specialty bags for different occasions, sales, and store events.

This is an unexamined component of the paper/plastic bag debate, how do we stray from the use of bags as marketing tools? This is a realm of changing how are society perceives value, and what trends can be pushed an sustained. An article entitled "Putting the bag into branding" (New York Times) discusses how companies can use their bags as a way to promote branding. It is a genius idea, but it is no longer sustainable, which parlays into the idea of companies adopting more sustainable ways of bag branding. One company that has done this very successfully in the northwest is Lululemon athletic wear. They use their reusable bags to promote their branding and their core mission as a retailer.

We can only hope that this becomes the trend nationwide, because how do you change someone's mind when they have no stakes? Popular cultures and trends will do the trick.


Photo Credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/

The Story of Stuff

I recently moved, and most would agree that there is no greater eye opener than moving. I quickly became overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I had accumulated over one year, and in 750 square feet no less! This stuff reminded me of an e-mail I received not too long ago that linked to a video all about stuff, the creation, use, and disposal of consumer's stuff. The Story of Stuff is a 20 minute video on the journey of stuff, and the impact on not only the environment, but the economy, political landscape, culture, society's health and well being, etc.

Thinking of this discussion of paper versus plastic led me to think about the overarching systemic problem, we have become a society reigned by stuff. This entire blog is only devoted to the bags that carry our stuff! Look at all the problems this alone is causing. This documentary is fast paced, fresh, and very insightful into the overall problems caused by consumerism and stuff, really makes one ponder their role in this detrimental linear system.

I have now vowed to reduce my amount of "stuff". Because I know that I don't want to become that overwhelmed when moving, and I won't even mention the number of paper, plastic and reusable bags I found.

http://www.storyofstuff.com/index.php

BAG IT

Many documentaries have been released on the topic of plastic bags and the impact on the environment. This short 12 minute documentary by Christine Giordano. This short film hits the main topics of the problems with plastic bags and their detrimental effects on the environment, animals, and the economics of waste containment. One topic that is not well known to the public is the problem with paper bags. I myself once thought that choosing paper over plastic was leaps and bounds better than choosing plastic, however this video demonstrates how unsustainable paper bags are. If you don't want to dedicate the time to watch a full featured documentary, watch this short film and begin to think differently about how you bag. (See link below)



BAG IT from christine giordano on Vimeo.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Big Bag Debate


I watched a 3-part series regarding The Big Bag Debate: Paper vs. Plastic and would like to share the videos with you. I found this series intriguing as Carrier Bag Shop CEO Sujan Shah discusses a number of issues relating to carrier bags and the environment.  He used the brown paper bag with twisted handles and the plastic vest style carrier bag as his subject matters. He reveal in terms the root and raw material, production cycle, packaging (for the bag itself), transportation involved and the afterlife of the bag (reusability and recyclability.) This series is an informative and resourceful tool.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Are taxes and bans really the answer?


There seems to be an ever increasing number of countries, states, and municipalities that are choosing to ban or tax consumer, single-use grocery bags.  The manner of these laws varies from government to government, but is often associated with a ban on plastic bags and a tax on paper bags.  Are these legislations really for the good of the environment or just another way to generate cash flow?
One example is the tax that was put in place in Washington D.C. with the start of 2010.  The tax charges 5 cents for each plastic or paper bag that a shopper uses when purchasing food or alcohol.  Of the tax, 4 cents goes to the Protect the Anacostia River Cleanup Fund and 1 cent goes to the store.  There are currently some issues that are being brought up about the program.  A report from February of 2011 says that the area will lose 101 jobs and will not bring in the revenue that was expected.  In addition the Mayor, Adrian Fenty, has proposed in his 2011 budget that the funding from the tax be moved over to the public work department to pay for street sweeping.  Clearly this change is not directly related to the clean-up of the Anacostia River.
Some cities in Hawaii have taken up a ban on plastic bags as well.  There is some talk about instituting a tax in place of the ban.  But what I found most interesting is the statement by Robert Harris, Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter where he observed that anything that is given away for free (like plastic bags) is not valued and often abused.  Senator Gabbard (D) observed that Ireland’s tax of 22 cents per bag that has been in place since 2007 has changed the public perception, creating an culture where being seen with a plastic bag is now unacceptable.
So then the question becomes, what will actually sway the public to abandon the single use bag, be it plastic or paper?  Since there are so many different cultures, I would hazard to say that to actually eliminate single use bags will take a variety of different approaches.  Regardless of how governments choose to tackle this subject, it will take a fundamental cultural change to actually make an impact into the vastness of single-use bags in use today around the world.

The Myth of Paper Bags: A Misconception of Environmentalism


            Plastic bags were originally introduced as the economic and environmentally superior choice over paper bags, due to their low production costs, smaller ecological footprint, lighter weight, easier storage, and low shipping price. Understandably, people took all of these advantages to heart. This led to plastic bags capturing 80 percent of the grocery bag market in a relatively short amount of time. The disadvantages of plastic bags would not been truly realized until much damage has already been done, and in haste to move away from that mistake, some people have mistakenly moved back to paper bags, believing them to be the superior choice for grocery bags. Unfortunately, paper bags still have their numerous disadvantages, are ultimately are no better than their plastic competitors.
            Part of the negative perception behind plastic bags is their production. Being made of plastic, they're seen as a waste of oil - an already expensive commodity these days. This is perception is true, but only 53 percent of the oil used in the process of making bags and shipping it to a store is actually expended on bag construction; meaning 47 percent of the oil use involved in plastic bags is simply getting the bag into your hands.
            Why is this relevant? Compare those numbers to the following information about paper bags: paper bags weigh ten times more than plastic bags, and take up seven times more space. Thus the petroleum costs for transit (which accounted for 47 percent of the use for plastic bags) actually end up being higher than is used in a plastic bag!
            The higher petroleum costs involved in transport is not the only way that plastic bags impact the environment. Obviously there is the timber required for production, and the vastly higher energy costs involved - it takes the equivalent of 15,100 barrels of oil worth of energy to manufacture 100 million paper bags. A paper bag also requires 20 times more water to produce than a plastic bag.
            The ecological costs of these bags are high, and the only solution is to curb consumption. This is done by reusing bags - a trend that seems to fortunately be a popular one. MSNBC took a survey in 2008 that showed that 38 percent of responders thought of reusability first in the decision of page choice. A fortunate answer that shows that people ultimately want to make the right choice - and simply need the information to do so.
 Source: reason.org

Update: Oregon Ban on Plastic Bags

On March 3, 2011 Oregon Senator Mark Hass talks about a large plastic bag company proposing a deal. Although the plastic bag ban is not quite set in stone the plastic bag company Hilex Poly supposedly stated, "the company would build a plastics recycling center in Oregon if the lawmaker would kill the ban and replace it with another bill blocking local governments from passing their own bans." The article continues to mention about the company promises this plastics recycling center and then later they rebuttal ever saying that they would do that. 


Although the plastic recycling center would present a large amount of "green" jobs in Oregon they are not rushing into any decision making. They thanked the company for taking interest in investing in Oregon but mentions "I couldn't sell out public policy for a recycling plant." 


To see more and read the article go to : http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/03/plastic_bag_ban_oregon_sen_mar.html

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Doggie Bag Dilemma

So far, we've extensively discussed the differences in paper and plastic grocery bags and the different issues that come from using each type. We can't neglect another kind of commonly used plastic bag that can also do damage to the environment: The doggie bag. The amount of people who own a dog is staggering, and when you think about how many times a dog poops per day, the amount of plastic bags used for cleaning up after them can be astronomical. Most people just use used grocery bags to avoid the cost of doggie bags, which most often are not biodegradable. Though it is completely necessary to use plastic bags for this purpose, and a responsibility for any dog owner to pick up after their dog, there are alternatives to regular plastic which can help relieve the environment. According to biobagusa.com, there are 100% biodegradable dog bags that degrade at about the same rate as dog poop. These dog bags can be put into a compost bin and will decompose with the rest of your backyard compost. Microorganisms will eat away at both the bag and the waste. The website claims that other "100% biodegradable bags" can take over 100 years to decompose, which is still quicker than most plastic bags. Though these "BioBag Dog" bags may seem like the best solution, there are other things to consider when choosing an environmentally friendly dog bag, such as durability and cost. No one wants their dog bag to break mid-scoop, and no one wants to pay a high cost for poop bags. For instance, a 50 count roll of BioBag Dog bags costs over $20, whereas a 50 count roll of Muttropolis biodegradable poop bags costs $8. Look at the sites below for information on different brands of biodegradable dog bags and consider making a switch to biodegradable bags to better the environment:
www.dogpoopbags.com
www.petwasteeliminator.com
www.muttropolis.com
www.biobagusa.com

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oil & Plastic

Who’s to blame for increases in oil prices?


Americans use an average 100 billion plastic bags per year and it takes 12 billion barrels of oil to produce them. You hear people complain about the prices of oil and you immediately assume it is because of the war and societal issues that are country is currently facing. However, oil is used in the production of plastic bags. It is easy for consumers to point the finger and the government and blame them for increased oil prices but what about looking at yourself and asking “what can I do to make it better?” Economically speaking if there is more demand for oil, it allows the oil companies to raise their prices. However, if oil consumption was more under control it would lower oil’s overall cost.

An easy way for Americans to help lower the price of oil is to reduce their use of plastic bags.

In 2006, the amount of trips consumers make to the supermarket was approximately 1.9 times per week. That’s over 100 trips alone to grocery stores, not counting drug and retail stores. Just in Washington DC alone the plastic bag consumption was 22.5 million bags per month!

A lot of claims about using reusable bags make statements about the environment and the decomposition of plastic bags. It is alarming to know that it takes about 1000 years to decompose with plastic bags also affecting the rivers and wildlife. Taking responsibility for your own actions will change the environment one person at a time. That may seem like a minimal but as more people use reusable bags it will become the norm just as plastic bags are the norm now.

http://earthfirst.com/the-secret-culprit-of-oil-consumption-plastic-bags-bottles/

http://money.cnn.com/2007/03/14/magazines/fortune/pluggedin_gunther_plastic.fortune/index.htm

Paper Costs and Manufacturing

Paper manufacturing is a gigantic industry.  While the popular warring of paper vs. plastic bags continues it's probably more enlightening to take a step back and look at the big picture.  How big of a percentage do paper bags hold in the paper industry?  If you rack your brain of all the paper products you can think of I'm sure you'll hit some big ones.  For example, what about paper cups?  Huge businesses like Starbucks use millions of paper cups around the world, all of which are manufactured in a factory using paper.  Below is a link to a website that outlines the impact of paper manufacturing on our enviroment.  They illustrate the paper-making process and the energy, wood, water, and gas emissions of production.

http://www.secret-life.org/paper/paper_environment.php

International Paper is one of the world's largest, leading paper manufacturers.  I was researching the enviromental costs of paper bag manufacturing when I came across their extensive product list.  There were  over 50 different categories of paper products from food packaging and cups and lids, to office paper  and cosmetics.  There was, of course, also paper bags listed but it seemed to be a fraction of the business they offer and a fraction of the products they produce.

http://www.internationalpaper.com/US/EN/index.html

While International Paper does have a huge impact on the enviroment they are also moving their company in huge ways to be enviromentally concious and responcible.  Like other large companies in this kind of industry they have a large section of their website dedicated to informing their customers and clients about the many steps they are taking to lessen the negative impact they have on the enviroment.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Value of Convenience: An Examination of Plastic Bags


            "Paper of Plastic?" was a question that was frequently asked in past decades, but is rarely seen today. Plastic bags have proven themselves the true victor of the convenience war, and have taken at least 80 percent of use from paper bags, despite only being introduced in the 1970s. There are several factors for this; plastic bags are extremely cheap and easy to produce, and were seen originally as the ecologically friendly alternative to paper bags. Plastic bags typically cost one-forth that of a paper bag, and consume less space in storage.
            The strong success of the plastic bag has caused consequences that have yet to be fully foreseen, but look to be extremely harmful already. Plastic bags are found in abundance in the ocean, where they both kill wildlife as well as ferry foreign species to ecosystems unready for them. Plastic bags need sunlight to degrade, so in shaded areas such as forests they'll remain as little for up to 1,000 years.
            Without outlawing these bags, how could their overabundance be strongly discouraged? Several governments worldwide have come up with a solution in the form of a tax on individual plastic bags. Plastic bags are taxed 20 U.S. cents per bag in Ireland, which has resulted in their use being cut 95%. Such a strong change is remarkable, and the resulting tax income can be used for clean-up efforts. Los Angeles has made a similar tax with comparable results, proving that it can be done in the United States.
            If you'd like to see a reasonable solution to this underrated environmental problem, switch to reusable bags, and please contact your Congressperson with support of a plastic bag tax.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Paper hand towels. Wait, what?!


Last week, as I watching TV, a commercial for paper hand towels came on and presented the need for a disposable hand towel. The commercial captured what seemed to be the unsanitary, cloth towel that we are used to and love, being used over and over again by various different sets of hands. Then revealed the single-use paper towel, fresh and white, that can be used once and tossed away. My heart sank. Just when I began to think that companies are taking steps towards green living, saving the planet and educating consumers to make the right choice, this commercial came up and shattered my naivety. My mind began racing: cloths towels – need to be washed often (however are being used AFTER we have already washed our hands with soap), disposable towel – what does it take to produce paper towels?
I jumped on the computer and began researching: germs, product packaging, ‘the amount of water used to produce paper’, ‘amount of water used for a load of laundry’…
The results went hand in hand with my instinct. “Life cycle analysis” (LCA) for paper towels starts in a forest with logging, and includes transport and processing usage, disposal, and degradation in a landfill. For paper production, generic emissions values based on the whole paper industry were used. Similarly, average energy per dollar cost data is used for garbage bag production, paper towel transport, and waste disposal. Waste disposal is calculated purely based on cost per weight and emissions per dollar of disposal. It was assumed that 2 paper towels constitute one use. These results showed that depending on the dryer used and its run time, the emissions were anywhere between 9 and 40 grams of CO2 per use (9-20grams per 30 seconds, which equals one button press). Using two paper towels emitted 56 grams of CO2.
It seems as if the commercial ‘forgot’ to mention this information. I began to ponder upon our generation and the need for convenience. It is worth polluting our environment, cut down trees, transport paper towels across the country and keep filling our landfills with waste to avoid adding one little hand towel to our laundry loads every other day?





Saturday, March 5, 2011

Paper Bags: The Real Cost


I was at a local grocery store and I observed customers who chose to use the self-checkout machine. I was surprised to witness customers who chose paper bags over plastic bags. My first thought were they informed shoppers who had followed the paper vs. plastic debate, or they chose paper bags for personal reasons. I read an article, which informed the reader that when we pay for our groceries we are paying twice for the paper bag. I didn’t get it at first until I did some research and read other articles that also informed the reader that the prices of paper bags are included in the price of our food in some cases. So, when you fail to bring a recyclable bag with you to shop you may be asked to pay for the paper bag or recyclable bag that the store offers, which may cause you to actually pay twice for the bag(s). However, if it’s true that we are paying twice than it would be nice if the price of food would drop.


Fred Meyer "Paper Only"


Fred Meyer no longer offer plastic bags? 

I hadn’t been to Fred Meyer in about a year and recently had a reason to visit the store, however to my surprise, I requested a plastic bag, and as I watched her reach for a paper bag, I was taken back by her response, “sorry we don’t have plastic bags anymore.” Did I hear her correctly “no more” you mean I have to carry 3 bags of groceries without handles (this is what I liked most about plastic bags they were easy to carry). I understand the reasons to drop plastic, however I’m just learning about this change.  I have included the article from oregonlive.com and hope those who have not been to Fred Meyer within the past year will be informed and prepared for “paper only.”


Recycling is on the rise


The amount of people recycling of plastic bags is on the rise. More and more people are finding ways to recycle their single use bags. This had lead to an increase of nearly 22 million pounds in 2009, to a staggering 855 million pounds of plastic bags recycled.

What lead to this increase? Was it just people becoming more informed? Well, the retail stores can take some of the credit in this increase. There are now nearly 12,000 locations across the US where people can recycle plastic film. Many retail chains such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Lowe’s offer a recycle bin for quick, convenient recycling.

Another thing that is in the works to help further increase the amount of plastic film recycled is a labeling system that the Sustainable Packaging Coalition is trying to launch. This would label suitable items with a “Store Drop-Off” indicator, so that consumers can easily find out if their bags can be recycled. This could only help to further increase our plastic film recycling.  

http://www.greenerpackage.com/recycling/plastic_film_recycling_reaches_record_high

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Just “Bag It” Oregon!


     Starting March 4th here in Oregon we are getting the opportunity to see the film Bag It. This film is about a man, who is not all that “green”, who has taken a pledge to stop using plastic bags. The film follows him on his journey as he becomes educated about the use of plastic, and how our over usage is affecting our world.
     
     The film uses plastic as its focus, but addresses our “throwaway” mentality. We are a culture of convenience, and we are going to have to face the outcomes of that. If you would like to check this film out, it will be playing on National Public Television starting April 18th.

 

http://www.bagitoregon.org/


Reusable Bags, the Best Option?

In the paper vs plastic debate, it is clear that both types of bags have pros as well as many cons for use. It would seem that the alternative reusable bag is the best option for reducing waste. However, before you go out and buy a slew of reusable bags to do your part in saving the environment, you need to consider how wasteful reusable bags can be. According to reuseit.com, there are a few things to consider before purchasing or picking out your reusable bags: Firstly, Who is making the bag and where? If the bag is cheap, then you may be purchasing a foreign bag which was not made under fair trade and fair labor laws. Next, you have to ask if the bag will last? If the bag is cheap, it most likely will not last long, even though the price may be right. If the bag doesn't last, it will go in the trash and contribute to waste. If a bag is free, you will probably end up with lots of them and they will waste away in a closet or pantry, never to be used. A lot of bags will have grocery store logos on them, and you may not want to use a Trader Joe's bag at Whole Foods, leaving those bags wasted as well. To ensure you have the lesat amount of wasted reusable bags, focus on the quality, not the quantity. Invest in a few well-built, nice looking reusable bags that will last you a while and that you will actually use.
In order to invest in a few, good quality bags, you have to know which kinds of bags are the best for you. Here is a list of advantages and disadvantages of the different kinds of reusable bags, courtesy of greenlivingtips.com:

Polypropylene reusable bags

Polypropylene is a form of plastic

Advantages

•Can be recycled

•Strong and durable

•Can be made from recycled materials

•Chemical resistant

•Very cheap to produce

Disadvantages

•Low quality bags made from thin polypropylene do tend to wear out very quickly

•Polypropylene is made from oil. However, if the bag is made from recycled polypropylene, it is giving new life to what otherwise may have entered the waste stream

Reusuable jute bags

Jute is a plant fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It's often referred to as hessian in products, such as a hessian bag
Advantages

•Biodegradable

•One of the strongest natural fibers

•Relatively cheap to buy

•Durable

•Jute crops require little water

Disadvantages

•Not very resistant to moisture unless chemically treated

•Jute may be grown with the use of pesticides

•Most jute products are imported (travel miles = greenhouse gases)

Reusable calico bags

Calico is a usually a cotton fabric that's unbleached and not fully processed
Advantages

•The lack of bleaching and processing makes it kinder to the environment as less chemicals are used

•The fabric relatively cheap to produce

•Cotton is very strong and durable

Disadvantages

•Not water resistant unless chemically treated

•Unless organically grown, cotton requires a huge amount of pesticide

•The growing of cotton is very water intensive

Reusable cotton/canvas bags

Advantages

•Soft fabric

•Durable and strong

Disadvantages

•Unless the cotton is grown organically, high levels of pesticides are used

•Fully processed cotton required extensive additional treatment

•Cotton is a water intensive crop

Reusable hemp bags

The word "hemp" tends to stir up all sorts of association with marijuana. However, in terms of textiles, industrial hemp is a different plant from the same family with very little of the hallucinogenic properties of its cousin.
Advantages

•Incredibly strong, durable and rot resistant fiber

•The crop can grow in poor soils with little water

Disadvantages

•Can be quite expensive due to resistance on the part of governments to allow the crop to be grown domestically, purely due to incorrect associations with marijuana; so most hemp products in the western world are imported. Thankfully, this is slowly starting to change.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

99 Reuses for Plastic Bags

There are many converations today about what to do with the overabundance of plastic bags.  People ask if they are better and ultamatly "greener" to produce than paper bags, and what happens to them.  Are they recycled?  Do they end up in a land fill, or the ocean?  Large cooperations are making efforts to lessen the impact of massively producing such large quantities of plastic bags but my question is what can WE be doing?  Single consumers on a day-to-day basis can start to make a difference simply by using products in more ways than they were originally intended.  The link below leads to an article listing 99 ways that you, as a consumer, can use a plastic bag after bringing home your bag of groceries.  They are not special means of recycling or places you can go to protest landfills, but different used for somethig that's already made and in your home. If you can get five uses out of one bag instead of using five different bags then you can significantly lessen plastic bag waste and get the most out of what is produced.

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/reuses-plastic-bags.html

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Recycling plastic bags is not the solution:

           When discussing the flaws with one-use plastic bags, the misconception that they can "simply be recycled" frequently is brought up. While recycling certainly can be better than simply throwing the bags away, it's not the conscience-clearing solution that some people wish.
            First of all, only 3% of plastic bags produced end up being recycled.  With 100 billion plastic bags used each year in America, that leaves 97 billion bags unaccounted for. Even if half of all plastic bags used in the United States were recycled, we'd still have 50 billion bags a year to worry about.
            Recycling plastic bags does not pay for those behind the recycling process, either. It costs $4000 to recycle enough plastic to make $32 worth of plastic bags. The economics simply don't add up to give financial incentive to recycle the product. Perhaps due to this, companies are deciding to simply ship the bags to different nations with more lax environmental laws, where they are simply burned instead.
           It's too easy to assume that because recycling is usually a good thing to do, it applies to everything. Don't assume! And just as important: Don't let your friends assume either!