Paper or .... Paper?

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 10:17 PM

In Oct 2013 Portland Or, passed a city wide ban on the use of plastic bags. This was an effort to drastically reduce the amount of energy and product wasted on a mostly single use Item. This ban seemed to have caused quite a reaction within the city, although I don't think anyone would argue that plastic bags aren't a waste of materials, energy and production costs, it begs the question do we really know what goes into a typical plastic bag, and how much of an impact are we making by choosing not to use them? This provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect on the use and production of these items and why the city took such drastic measures to stop the wide use of them. 

Plastic bags come with a huge environmental impact, spanning from large energy consumption, limited life span, rapidly increasing landfill percentage, and an in ability to biodegrade naturally. This isn't news to anyone, however the single use mentality of these items seems to so ingrained in most people’s daily life that we tend to forget about these huge impacts that we are making everyday. Plastic bags can be used for so much more than the act of transporting groceries to ones house. A quick google search reveals plenty of ways to re use these bags. In a perfect world we would all make a conscious effort to reduce our use, and waste of plastic bags, however it is clear that we have yet to do so as a whole.


The city of Portland  took matters into there own hands after trying to place a ban on plastic bags for some time. Watching the success in other cities in America, the city council voted “5-0 to phase out plastic checkout bags at an estimated 5,000 restaurants and retailers, including food carts, farmers markets and corner stores”. (Slovic, Beth) This forces the people of Portland to choose paper bags or reusable bags when shopping. Lots of Portlanders have risen to the challenge and started only using reusable bags, to mitigate the waste of plastic as well as paper bags. The ban has greatly reduced the use and waste of plastic bags within Portland’s city limits. Hopefully with all the effort given into reducing the cities’ consumption of plastic bags shoppers will reflect on the impact they are having and start incorporating the reuse mentality to other items such as the paper bag they are given instead of the once plastic bag. 


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