Shopping? Just Say No to Plastic Bags

It’s so hard to resist those small plastic bags. Store clerks mindlessly fill them with one or two items, and they can’t help but double or triple bag them as they have become so flimsy. Take a look at people walking out of the grocery store, you will see nothing but a shopping cart full of 10-20 of these.

There are 893 homes in my community of the Woodlands. If every home brings home just three plastic bags from the grocery, drug, or any other place each week, this would be an average of 12 bags a month per home. That would add up to 10,716 plastic bags a month. Over the course of a year, the residents of the Woodlands alone could consume over 128,592 plastic bags.

Plastic bags hold very little groceries

Did you know that 90% of the plastic bags in the US are not even recycled? Recycled bags can go on to make lumber, trashcan liners or other plastic bags. Publix has plastic recycling containers in front where these can be deposited. However, the one thing people can do now is stop the use of these bags. People need to get into the habit of using reusable grocery bags. These bags can hold so much more than plastic and can be re-used for many years.

There are times when I just forgo getting any type of bag when I’m at a store. I tell store clerks to save the bag as I’ll just carry the items out with me. Yesterday at Barnes and Noble, a clerk put a magazine and a small book inside a bag. I told him to save the bag as I would carry them out. I can’t imagine someone not being able to carry the books they buy out of a store. Putting purchases in plastic bags has become so automated for clerks, and customers must get proactive and just say no to more plastic bags

Using plastic bags to pick up messes left by their dog is actually not the best way to reuse these bags. Unfortunately, it takes over 1,000 years for that plastic bag to break down in the landfill. There are many biodegradable dog bags at the pet stores now and some types are even compostable. You can even get a container that attaches to your dogs leash so you’ll never leave home without one.

Many cities have banned plastic bags or have imposed a fee on them. Here is a list of cities banning or addressing the plastic bag issue as of February 2011:

Cities that have banned plastic bags
San Francisco
Malibu
Palo Alto
Fairfax – voluntary removal of bags
San Jose
Long beach
Calabasas Feb. 3, 2011

Places in U.S. considering ban
Portland
Maui Kauai
Brownsville TX
American Samoa
Boston
Phoenix
Baltimore
Arcata CA
Sunnyvale CA
Jersey City NJ
Wilton CT
Dubuque IA

Places around the world with a plastic bag ban
Italy
Mexico City
Thompson City, Canada
Wood Buffalo, Alberta, Canada (All single-use bags)
Thailand
Delhi, India
Mumbai, India
Karwar, India
Tirumala, India
Vasco, India
Rangoon, Burma
Bangladesh (bags have been banned since 2002)
Rwanda
Sydney’s Oyster Bay in Australia (along with twelve other towns in Australia)
Israel

Places around the world considering the ban
France
London

Places Discouraging plastic bag use

Washington DC (5 cent tax)
Madison, Wis. ( mandatory plastic bag recycling law)
Many European countries have a tax on the bag
China does not give out free bags

The largest opposition to the ban of plastic bags comes from the petroleum and plastics industries and of course, consumers that don’t want to change their habits. Our state could join this group of cities and countries who have had enough of the plastic bags filling up our landfills. There seemed to be some action taken by the Crist administration when they required the Department of Environmental Protection to perform an analysis and submit a report to the legislature regarding plastic bags. Until such time that the Legislature adopts the recommendations of DEP, no local or state government may enact any regulation or tax on the use of such retail bags. This is why no city or county in Florida can do what individual cities have done in California.

This does not prevent individual stores from banning plastic bags like Whole Foods did in April of 2008. Whole Foods customers have the choice of paper or reusable bags. When a customer brings in their own bags, Whole Foods will credit them $.05 for each one used. Same with Target. Although they have not banned plastic bags, they give customers with reusable bags the same credit, but pay attention, as many store clerks forget to credit customers for doing this.

Until the time that our state enacts changes for plastic bags, it is up to corporations such as Wal-Mart, Publix and other major retailers to do their part to encourage reusable bags or to ban plastic bags altogether. Until then, residents must do their part to make a difference in the amount of bags they will consume.

The largest opposition to the ban of plastic bags comes from the petroleum and plastics industries and of course consumers that don’t want to change their habits. Our state could join this group of cities and countries who have had enough of the plastic bags filling up our landfills, but they have not.  According to Florida Environmental Public Information Officer Kristin Lock, “During the 2010 legislative session the Florida legislature did not enact any legislation regarding regulation of retail bags. The legislature also did not repeal section 403.7033, Florida Statutes, which prohibits any local government, local governmental agency, or state government agency from enacting any rule, regulation, or ordinance regarding use, disposition, sale, prohibition, restriction, or tax of such auxiliary containers, wrappings, or disposable plastic bags.”

This does not prevent stores from banning plastic bags like Whole Foods did in April of 2008. Whole Foods customers have the choice of paper or reusable bags. When a customer brings in their own bags, Whole Foods will credit them $.05 for each one used. Same with Target. Although they have not banned plastic bags, they give customers with reusable bags the same credit. But pay attention as many store clerks forget to credit customers for doing this.

Until the time that our state enacts changes for plastic bags, it is up to corporations such as Wal-Mart, Publix and other major retailers to do their part to encourage reusable bags or to ban plastic bags altogether. Until then, residents must do their part to make a difference in the amount of bags they will consume.

About Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Tamarac Talk and Coral Springs Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2010 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Tamarac and to give resident's a forum. We are not affiliated with the City of Tamarac. That's why this site can be occasionally opinionated and obviously open.

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