Sunday, February 10, 2008

Time for Springfield to eliminate plastic bags


If Mayor Domenic Sarno wants to be known as Springfield's environmental mayor, he could set in motion a plan that would virtually eliminate plastic bags in this city.

First, hold this image in your mind: You're sailing in the North Pacific, on your way home from a sailing race in Hawaii, when you notice you've sailed into as sea of plastic waste suspended just below the surface of the water. You have to sail through an area twice the size of the continental U.S. before you are clear of it. That's what happened to Charles Moore, businessman turned environmental activist, in 1997. Today the plastic soup is estimated at 100 million tons and growing. Independent UK.

Plastic bags are a significant part of this soup. Less than one percent of these bags are recycled and they can cause damage in unexpected ways. In the state of Maharashtra, India, plastic bags clogging sewer drains were blamed for flooding that caused the deaths of more than a thousand people in 2005. Bangladesh has banned plastic bags completely for that reason, as has Sri Lanka.

Not surprisingly, a number of other countries are ahead of the U.S. in dealing with plastic bags, including China, France and Israel. The most successful strategy seems to be on Ireland's model-- charge a substantial tax on each plastic bag consumers use and don't allow stores to pick up the cost for the shoppers. Plastic bag usage has fallen by 90% and the substantial revenues raised are going into environmental projects. before the tax, Ireland's consumers were being given an astounding 1.2 billion bags a year.

Seeing as we lack a national strategy, cities are beginning to take action. Portland OR, Oakland CA and the city and county of San Francisco have all banned plastic bags, as well as 30 cities and towns in Alaska!

Sen. Brian Joyce of Milton has introduced legislation to charge Massachusetts consumers a tax on each plastic bag. Boston has been considering a ban. How about if Springfield takes the lead in Western Mass.?.
Map from Independent Graphics

2 comments:

patrick said...

the ironic thing here is that plastic bags are probably the most re-used forms of garbage there is. Here’s what the ban on plastic bags means in real life: the average, bill-paying citizen will have to spend more time, money and energy carrying his/her groceries home while big oil companies continue to sell more oil than ever (in the form of gas) at whatever inflated price tickles their fancy. Banning the use of plastic bags is an environmental red-herring. so what’s worse, throwing away oil in the form of plastic bags, or pouring oil into the atmosphere in the form of car exhaust? if there’s one thing oil is good for, it’s for making plastic.

Anonymous said...

I thought the goal was to reuse, as well, as recycle. These bags have to be the poster child for the reuse advocates. There is nothing better for the disposal of dirty diapers than grocery store plastic bags. These bags are great packing material when shipping, much better than peanuts, IMO. They are the best liners for bathroom trash cans. We use them often for crafts and school projects. They work great as lunch

I can't think of any other "garbage" items that we reuse even half as much as we do plastic grocery bags.