Monday, October 29, 2012

"A Bag Problem Blossoms" - from NYTimes

Yet another unpublished post from my Drafts folder. 5 years after this NYT article and plastic bags are still a problem. We've been bringing our own to shop for a number of years, and I always keep a light-weight, foldable Chico Bag on me so I won't have to take a bag when I buy something somewhere.
Folded up, with a clip to hook onto your belt or purse strap.
Opened up, it can carry up to 35 pounds, I think. Mine says "Seney National Wildlife Refuge"...or used to before it was in the wash a few too many times.
If you're frugal or can sew, you can make your own with some free patterns from the Sewing Forum at

Editorial from the NY Times - December 3, 2007

Now that the leaves have finally fallen, a new decoration becomes more visible on the nation’s many deciduous trees: those plastic bags that float high into tree limbs and flutter noisily with each autumn breeze. Despite this unappealing vision, a ban of all plastic bags would be hard to champion, although the earth would be a greener and healthier place without them. What this unsightly airborne litter does offer is an opportunity for industry and consumers to think a lot harder about how much such convenience is costing the planet.

Plastic bags are as much or more trouble than they are useful. Up to 100 billion are used each year in this country, and they make bringing groceries home (or even protecting a newspaper from rain) so easy. But they also choke wildlife, create litter and overload dumps for generations to come. It also takes 12 million barrels of oil to make a year’s supply.

The plastic bag, like the plastic water bottle, has plagued environmentalists for years but has only recently worried consumers. It may be that the fear of global warming is now so, well, global that people are trying to do their bit by subtracting from the earth’s garbage load.

Whatever the cause, lawmakers across the country are proposing bans on plastic bags or ordering up studies. The most dramatic action has come in San Francisco, where a voluntary recycling program for plastic bags turned out to be a dud (less than 5 percent were recycled). So the city banned plastic bags in large grocery stores last month and in large pharmacies by April. It may take some time to figure out whether this effort really works. At best, the industry could find a way to make better bags that only last for a while.

Already the market is responding to this public worry. Some stores are giving discounts or rewards for shoppers who bring their own bags. Others charge for each bag a customer uses. Many stores provide recycling bins for their plastic bags, although in most cases they are about as easy to spot as the discount cereals.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recommends neither paper nor plastic. Plastic pollutes and floats toward the nearest naked branch, but 10 billion paper bags each year use about 14 million trees. The council suggests that if you can’t bring your own bag, the best choice is one you will, for sure, either reuse or recycle.