Posted by admin | 01.11.2011 | Conservation

Bagging the Bag

Despite differing politics, Ireland, South Africa, Bangladesh, China, Italy, San Francisco, Mexico City, and Washington D.C. have managed to find common ground on one issue – the disposable plastic bag. These countries and cities are part of the growing governmental movement to eliminate the bag’s usage throughout the world.

Plastic bags, which became common over the last few decades, pose numerous problems. Over 500 billion are used each year: enough to wrap around the equator 5 times. And many of us are familiar with the environmental consequences. They take a tremendous amount of time to decompose, so they will fill landfills, cover forests, and float in oceans for generations to come. Also, many animals mistake plastic for food items and ingest them, leading to sickness and death.

Each government approaches disincentivizing bag use differently. Ireland established itself as a leader when it placed a 33¢ fee on plastic bag use in 2002. By effectively taxing the bag it saw a radical reduction in use and the resulting waste. China and Washington D.C. have employed similar tactics. After the 5¢ D.C. tax was implemented last year, an 85% decline in usage was seen the following month. 

Some locations opt for a total ban, like San Francisco, Mexico City, and most recently Italy. Residents now must use biodegradable plastic, cloth, or paper bags. Mexico even implemented severe penalties for offenders with fines up to $90,000 and jail time.

Not all bag bans have been passed down from the government. Some retailers have committed to minimizing plastic waste by starting with consumers in their stores. In 2008, both IKEA and Whole Foods stopped offering disposable plastic bags.

Whether it trickles down from the top or bubbles up from the bottom, the movement is afoot for banning the plastic bag. Check with your local government to see what is being done about removing single-use bags from your area.