By Sharon Aron Baron
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.
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 stopping 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 forgo getting any bag when I’m at a store. I tell store clerks to save the bag as I’ll 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 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 pet stores now, and some types are even compostable. You can even get a container that attaches to your dog’s 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
Fairfax – voluntary removal of bags
Calabasas Feb. 3, 2011
Places in U.S. considering ban
Jersey City NJ
Places around the world with a plastic bag ban
Thompson City, Canada
Wood Buffalo, Alberta, Canada (All single-use bags)
Bangladesh (bags have been banned since 2002)
Sydney’s Oyster Bay in Australia (along with twelve other towns in Australia)
Places around the world considering the ban
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 with 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 as 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 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 ban plastic bags altogether. Until then, residents must do their part to make a difference in the amount of bags they will consume.
- Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and Tamarac Talk, Coral Springs Talk, and Parkland Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2011 to provide News for the residents of Tamarac and is the #1 News Source for Residents.