by Stephen Meno
The days of deciding between paper and plastic at the checkout counter may soon be at an end. The Los Angeles City Council recently approved a measure to ban all plastic bags from over 7,500 stores and impose a 10 cent tax on customers wishing to still use the store’s paper bags. While other cities in California and throughout the country have already banned plastic grocery bags, many believe that this Los Angeles ban will influence the rest of the country.
In Connecticut, Westport has long been ahead of the trend by being the first place east of the Mississippi to ban all retailers from using plastic bags in 2008. And because of this ban, there has been a 70% increase in reusable bag usage since then. Some retailers are even doing their part to encourage customers to bring their own bags. For example, ShopRite gives a refund of five cents for every reusable you use. In just a few shopping trips, those 99-cent canvas bags will pay for themselves!
So what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t we be thinking about bigger issues like forest conservation and alternative energy? Well, the one billion sea mammals and fish that die annually from plastic ingestion may disagree with you. The EPA found that between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide and since they take 1,000 years to break down, our landfills are filling up fast. Even China, a country not known for its environmental track record, banned plastic bags four years ago resulting in a save of over 4.8 million tons of oil. If you are worried about high gas prices, let’s not waste our depleting oil reserves on something as easily replaced as plastic bags. This is one easy change that will have a major impact.
One person can make a difference. By refusing to use plastic bags, you will individually save at least 500 bags a year from ending up in a dump or a dolphin’s mouth. Just like your cell phone and wallet, make sure you never leave home without your reusable bag. And for anyone who doesn’t carry a purse to throw a reusable bag into (or is forgetful, like me), invest in one that rolls up into a pouch attached to a D-ring that you can clip onto your belt loop. ChicoBag is one of the many distributors that makes this type and you can find other manufacturers on Reuseit.com.
And to go the extra step, contact your mayor or local council member. If major cities like Los Angeles can ban the bag, then certainly your hometown can too. For those of you living along Long Island Sound, make sure to mention to your city officials that Hawaii and North Carolina’s Outer Banks banned plastic bags because so many were washing up on their beaches and clogging sewage pipes. Let’s move away from a disposable mindset to a reusable one, and we’ll save the world one plastic bag at a time!
Image courtesy of SaveThe PlasticBag.com.