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PLASTIC: Support ban on disposable bags

Letter by Victoria Bower, Puyallup on May 11, 2012 at 10:21 am with 45 Comments »
May 11, 2012 1:43 pm

Spring is finally here and many of us are preparing to spend another glorious summer on the beaches of Puget Sound. The Puget Sound is an incredibly diverse and beautiful environment. It is resilient to a point but not limitless in its ability to balance itself as our human actions continue to compound stresses and toxic effects of the residues of modern life.

One such toxic stress is discarded plastic materials, such as disposable plastic bags. Fewer than 5 percent of these bags are recycled. Plastic bags, after initial use, go into landfills, are scattered around our communities and often end up in the Puget Sound, where sadly they litter the beaches and all too often end up in the stomachs of creatures such as grey whales or sea birds, where their presence may contribute to the untimely death of these creatures.

One beached gray whale in West Seattle was found to have 20 plastic bags in its stomach and more than one in 10 gulls in the Strait of Juan de Fuca were found to have eaten plastic, 50 percent of which was thin film used to make disposable plastic bags.

Using multi-use shopping bags and banning disposable plastic bags would greatly reduce the number of bags that end up in the environment and will help assure that no more whales or seabirds are harmed by them.

Leave a comment Comments → 45
  1. Theefrinker says:

    While the pollution of the ocean does in fact sadden and disappoint me, banning plastic bags is not the answer. Perhaps more effort should be spent on encouraging alternatives. Maybe a store offers incentives for people that use “environmentally-friendly” bags, for example. But taking away yet another freedom is not a good idea in my opinion. Besides, I need them for my bathroom garbage.

  2. alindasue says:

    Theefrinker,

    Where have you been? Stores have been offering incentives for people who bring their own bags for years. While I don’t mind saving 30 or 40 cents on my groceries every time, those of us who bring our own bags would bring our own bags regardless. The “incentive” really hasn’t done much to reduce the amount of plastic bags used or the plastic bag litter that is still rampant in our city.

  3. Theefrinker says:

    Sorry alindasue, I enjoy using the plastic bags so I’ve not noticed or inquired about the incentives. But perhaps they need to be more creative. Many have also started charging for the bags, which is a much better idea. They aren’t banning something then, they are offering a choice.

  4. alindasue says:

    Charging for the bags or levying a bag deposit, similar to what Oregon and California does with bottles, might not be a bad idea. Hawaii has a bottle deposit too and during our visit the locals made sure to collect and return all the bottles.

    (However, a fee for bags was rejected when they tried to implement such a plan in Seattle a few years back. Perhaps it just wasn’t time yet…)

    If people have to pay for their bags each time, they would be more likely to return with them or, as in your case, re-purpose them.

  5. Please, enough with the gradual elimination of freedom.

  6. RLangdon says:

    With a California-sized island of floating debris closing in on the West Coast from the Japanese Tsunami, I don’t think some stray plastic shopping bags are the biggest problem that the whales and seagulls have to deal with right now.

  7. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    I have a message for all the enviornazis out there, “get a life and get a job”!!!

    This country is going into the gutter with help for your boy abama and you worry about plastic bags? See my message above.

  8. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Our problems today are not plastic bags or gay marriage.

    Just another distraction. Just another freedom the left is trying to take away.

  9. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Alindasue- interesting to use Hawaii as an example of green. Talk to someone who lived there.

    100% of the energy produced comes from oil. Energy bills are up to $800 for a family.

    And recycling is a nightmare. Only special turn in points. Mainly it helps druggies.

  10. Sroldguy says:

    “Norovirus outbreak traced to reusable grocery bag.”

  11. averageJoseph says:

    Fine, then let’s go back to the old style heavy duty paper grocery bags. Heck,I remember the new environmentally friendly plastic bags were going to save the earth. Funny how times change.

  12. alindasue says:

    concernedtacoma7,

    How long ago did you live in Hawaii? When my husband and I visited Maui and Oahu last October, the ban on plastic bags in Maui County had been in effect for the better part of a year. The stores had paper bags, but I was pleased to see that I was far from the only person bringing in my own bags.

    There were recycle stations for the bottles all seemed to be very active during the day. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.

    As for energy prices, or any prices for that matter… yea, the seemed to be as high as you remember.

  13. alindasue says:

    Sroldguy,

    The best way to cut down on the spread of disease is to wash the bags regularly. A little soap and water goes a long way, whether is be washing our hands or anything else that we handle.

  14. “Please, enough with the gradual elimination of freedom.”

    So plastic bags are now ‘freedom’ but being able to marry whom you want….isnt??
    Thank god I’m not a right winger…..I like logic, brains and common sense too much!

  15. One side benefit is we use less oil by using less plastic.
    Those bags are useless anyway.

  16. “concernedtacoma7,
    How long ago did you live in Hawaii?”

    You don’t really think she actually lived there do you?
    c7 makes up more things than aislander.

  17. Okay, so those little plastic bags from Safeway will destroy the planet…

    What do we do with the big black “Hefty” bags that end up in the dumpster? Where do you think THEY end up? Maybe we can just dump leftover food scraps straight in the can so we can make sure the local rat population gets fed! Rats are living creatures where we as fair minded humans should ensure their sustenance!

    Hey maybe we could BURN all that garbage in an old fashioned burn barrel…or maybe we could just recycle the egg shells and other assorted food scraps and feed it to the treehuggers!!

    This whole save the planet, greenie stuff is pure horsepucky!

  18. …or maybe we could feed it to Kluwer! :D

  19. averagejoseph says, “Heck,I remember the new environmentally friendly plastic bags were going to save the earth. Funny how times change.”

    You and I must be old. We must have missed the brainwashing of the youth! I remember that very thing too! Plastic was the answer! :D

  20. Time to drag out this old classic. No one could have said it better! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eScDfYzMEEw

  21. harleyrider1 says:

    Victoria,
    Can’t you just do what you think is the right thing to do and live your life, the way you want?

    Your cars have more plastic in them than any bags you will use over your lifetime from Safeway. What about your TV-set, your computer, your kitchen appliances – the list is endless.

    Save yourself if you must – but live what you preach.

    I joined the Marines after high-school to keep the America I liked. Now, that seems threatened daily because of folks like you wanting to curtail my choices, my freedoms.

  22. What these liberal world changing clowns (face it most are liberal leftists) fail to grasp is that as long as there are humans, there will be waste.

    I agree with Harleyrider…They need to zip it, live their own lives, and stop trying to change everything so the world suits THEM. And I say that regarding EVERY screwy liberal social re-engineering agenda.

  23. “They need to zip it, live their own lives, and stop trying to change everything so the world suits THEM. And I say that regarding EVERY screwy liberal social re-engineering agenda.”

    Todays hypocrisy moment is brought to you by those that think plastic bags mean ‘freedom’, and their brand of social engineering…isn’t.
    Hypocrisy thy name is conservative.

  24. “threatened daily because of folks like you wanting to curtail my choices, my freedoms.”

    And what of the people whom you want to curtail choices and freedom?
    Is that why you joined the marines, so you can curtail others freedom because you ‘don’t LIKE’ it?

    And really, plastic bags= freedom?? Think about that…..plastic bags mean ‘freedom’ to you. Don’t you find that a bit ‘sick’?

  25. averageJoseph says:

    being able to marry whom you want

    Obviously you are kluwless. The homosexual “marriage” issue is not even close to allowing people to marry whom they want. Even if it became law, there are still many, many restrictions on who can marry whom.

  26. averageJoseph says:

    Thanks for trying to deflect and derail the thread topic muck.

  27. Bandito says:

    If everyone recycled their plastic bags there would be no need to legislate their use. Obviously that’s not happening.
    The Right wants to exercise their right to pollute their surroundings and that of their neighbors in the name of freedom.

  28. Bandito says:

    If everyone behaved responsibly there would be no need for any laws. But that isn’t happening.

  29. averageJoseph says:

    LOL… yep, the “right” is polluting. Hey genious, try visiting a “poor” neighborhood sometime and look at all the garbage. Then tell us how all those rich right wingers living in those poor neighborhoods want to pollute.

  30. alindasue says:

    averageJoseph, I’ve met more poor conservatives than liberals. Those not too poor to afford “liberal brainwashing” at institutes of education tend to be more liberal – or moderates like myself.

    harleyrider1 said, “…but live what you preach.”

    Always good advice.

    harleyrider1 pointed out, “Your cars have more plastic in them than any bags… What about your TV-set, your computer, your kitchen appliances – the list is endless.”

    True. That is why it is best to choose our products wisely and to use them to their longest extent. We don’t need new cars every couple years. We don’t need to “upgrade” our devises until the old ones wear out. We don’t need a special appliance for every kitchen function. (My “food processor” is a cutting board and a sharp knife.)

  31. alindasue says:

    XBJ98N said, “What do we do with the big black “Hefty” bags that end up in the dumpster? Where do you think THEY end up?”

    They end up in the landfill, but they are being used to hold garbage, not as garbage.

    Ideally, the garbage bags should be living their second lives as recycled plastic. As far as I’m concerned, all consumables should be made from recycled resources. Any time I buy garbage bags, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, printing paper, paper plates, aluminum foil, etc, I look for the post consumer recycled content.

    Plastic shopping bags that survive to be re-purposed (they tend to break too easily) are not the problem.

    As Bandito said, “If everyone recycled [or re-purposed] their plastic bags there would be no need to legislate their use. Obviously that’s not happening.”

    It’s the tons of flimsy plastic bags that end up in the landfills as trash or, worse, end up as litter floating around like so many demented kites and causing problems for both humans and wildlife that are the problem.

    I also remember the claims that plastic bags would be more environmentally friendly. I didn’t believe it then and, after decades of their widespread use, I don’t believe it now either.

  32. averageJoseph says:

    floating around like so many demented kites

    I love it. Excellent visual alinda.

  33. truthbusterguy says:

    This city is starting to feel like North Korea.

    Let’s try their solution to this problem. No food to put in the grocery bags means fewer bags and a cure to our obesity problem.

  34. alindasue says:

    truthbusterguy,

    How about we try a different solution: Everyone bring their own bags or baskets from home and the money not spent on plastic grocery bags could be put towards reducing the costs of healthy foods.

    I’ve never been to North Korea to compare, but the amount of healthy foods available and the freedom to buy them is not a problem here. People bringing their own bags or baskets to the grocery store is not likely to change that.

  35. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Alindasue- I lived there for a couple years and still have work ties there (Oahu).

    The most democrat dominated state in the country and shows. Everything the state touches falls apart. The roads are worse then Tacoma’s (with no seasons), bums EVERYWHERE, drugs, etc. They have the gift of a huge cash cow, tourists (and the military), and waste all that money. They cannot even keep Waikiki clean. Education is terrible. Men drop out of high school at a very high rate and it is socially excepted. Worst work ethic in the US. They are about spend $10bil on rail, equal to $10k per resident in the state, and it will faster to drive anyway.

    The locals 100% hate anyone non-local (i.e. haole). There is no Aloha unless they are getting paid to put on a fake smile.

    I have no idea how the plastic ban in Maui has worked out, I have only been there a few times. I must say I did notice I got paper bags at a store and it did not make much of a difference. I would find it annoying today given I live in an apartment, easier to carry more with plastic.

  36. alindasue says:

    concernedtacoma7 said, “The locals 100% hate anyone non-local (i.e. haole). There is no Aloha unless they are getting paid to put on a fake smile.”

    Most of the locals we encountered were pretty nice people.

    I’m generally an off-the-beaten-path kind of traveler. One evening, we spent a couple hours at a local park talking about the local area (and sharing mutual gripes about the prices) with a couple local guys. We were received well when we went to church at a local congregation of our religion (LDS). I found less friendliness from those who were paid to “put on a fake smile” in the tourist spots than from the general people that we met.

    I never saw Waikiki. We spent the night in Honolulu, but since it looked pretty much just like Seattle except without the hills, it held no appeal for us. We were mainly on Oahu to visit the LDS temple and Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. After sleeping that night in Honolulu, we spent the next day driving across the island and around the coast looking at beaches and scenery (and the wild chickens) before catching our flight back to Maui.

    As far as I know, the ban on plastic bags is only in Maui county. I can’t tell you for sure what kind of bags they give on Oahu because I always bring my own. The grocery stores we saw on Maui did give paper bags to those who didn’t bring their own.

    You say it’s easier to carry more to your apartment with the plastic bags rather than paper. However, if packed properly, the paper bags hold considerably more than their plastic counterparts. That’s why so many re-useable bags are patterned after the shape of the paper bags.

    Note that I said, “…if packed properly.” Sadly, the ability to bag properly has become a rare and nearly lost art. The flimsy plastic bags are so hard to pack well that most cashiers these days don’t even bother trying. They throw three to six items in (sometimes only one item!) and move on to the next bag. Slowly, though, since more of us are bringing in our more durable re-usable bags, the cashiers are starting to catch on. I’m not having to re-bag my groceries at the car nearly as often these days.

  37. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Google “racism in paradise”. You had a nice, tourist experience connecting with a group you have a common bond with. Glad you had a good time.

    Is packing a bag an “art”? Weight is weight.

  38. alindasue says:

    concernedtacoma7 said, “Is packing a bag an “art”? Weight is weight.”

    I packed a couple of the lightweight stuff-able nylon bags they sell at Safeway (and other places). They don’t weigh much more than one of those flimsy plastic bags, but can handle carrying at least twice as much. I also tend to go for practical useable items like shopping bags when buying souvenirs. I guess you can call it an “art”, but I just think of packing a couple light weight bags to be the practical thing to do.

    As for “racism in paradise”… people tend to find what they are looking for. I’d heard the same thing about people in Japan too, but when I went there, I didn’t have much trouble with the Japanese people either.

  39. While we are on the subject of plastic bags, why not talk about disposable diapers also. There are more of these in our landfills than plastic bags so while we are at it let’s go back to cloth diapers, (this will raise some screams, lol). We all need to be concious of the environment, be a good stuart of the land and try to live as “green” as possible without becoming anal about it (like the tree huggers do).

  40. alindasue says:

    Darlin,

    There are many disposable diapers in the landfill, but fortunately we don’t often see them as litter. Still, when feasible, cloth diapers can be a better ecological choice.

    I say “can be” only because some of the methods often used to disinfect and whiten cloth diapers (excessive amounts of hot water use and chlorine) can also be just as harsh on the earth.

  41. RLangdon says:

    You know, when I called the waste management company that collects my curbside recycling, to ask why their guys always seemed to manage to dump a lot of the shredded paper from my bin onto my driveway, instead of getting it in their truck, they suggested I put the shredded paper in a recyclable plastic bags.

    “Recyclable Plastic Bags?” I said.

    “Sure! They sell them at Sam’s Club.” they said

    So, I went to Sam’s Club and bought a box of 100% Recyclable Plastic Bags. They are the same size as the T-Shirt plastic bags that are used at the grocery stores, but these bags are 100% Recyclable.

    Why can’t the grocery stores just switch to 100% Recyclable Plastic Bags like I did, instead of using the environmentally hazardous regular plastic bags?

    Seems like a simple solution. Right?

  42. alindasue says:

    RLangdon,

    The plastic grocery sacks ARE recyclable, just like the ones you bought. The problem is that most people don’t bother. When they are recycled or re-purposed, they are not a problem. The problem is that they don’t biodegrade in the landfill and when they become litter, as frequently happens, they become a hazard to both wildlife and humans.

  43. RLangdon says:

    Thanks for the info alindasue.

    So, why not get our scientists to start creating biodegradable bags to replace all paper and plastic in the stores? Then when the hit the wild they start to disintegrate and stop being a wildlife hazard.

    Possibly even make bags out of vegetable fibers and other edible materials that might even be consumed by animals should they get loose out in the wild areas.

  44. Bandito says:

    Costco manages well without the use of plastic bags. They re-purpose their cardboard boxes. All it takes is the right attitude an open mind and good old fashioned ingenuity.

  45. spinone says:

    Retail plastic bags make up less than 0.05% of municipal waste nation wide. The combined reusability/recylce rate of retail plastic bags is approaching 90% in some municipalities. That is the very foundation of the Reduce/Reuse/Recyle program. The Pacific NW has the highest recyling rate in the country. There are “0” confirmed instances of marine life being harmed by plastic bags. Plastic film made up less than 0.06% of the Seattle whale’s stomach content and in no way contributed to its demise. There is no plastic bag problem. There never was a plastic bag problem. Reduction of litter of all types is a worthy goal. Focusing on plastic to pass an agenda of regulation is scienifically dishonest and a discredit to the legitimate conservation movement.

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