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