Monday, November 14, 2011

Plastic Bags, and Why We Should Ban Them

Rarely have I been as affected by a movie as I have by "BagIt!" This film manages to be informative, entertaining, and inspiring, without being preachy. I'll attempt to do the same. Here are some lessons that I took away.

The correct answer to the question, "Paper or plastic?", is "neither, I brought my own bags". Here are some reasons why: A common estimate is that global consumption of plastic bags is 500 billion annually, which breaks down to 1 million bags used per minute. Why make something that gets used for one hour out of something that takes over a thousand years to degrade?

The production of plastic bags requires great amounts of petroleum, a non renewable natural resource. Toxic chemicals are also employed during the manufacturing process.

About 10% of plastic ends up in our oceans. Presently, there are five great "gyres" or vortices of plastic. We picture a swirling mass of plastic bags - but it's worse than that. The plastic doesn't biodegrade, it photodegrades, which means that it breaks down into a plastic pellet soup that extends into the depths of the ocean and can't be cleaned up. The pellets find their way into the stomachs of marine animals and birds that mistake them for food. The animal's intestines fill up with choking plastic instead. We also take this toxic mess in when we eat these fish, turtles, etc.

Plastic bags are not "free" to the user. The cost of purchase by the vendor is passed on to the consumer, as is the cost of sending this waste to the landfill.

I am by no means perfect, but "BagIt!" inspired me to tighten up on my use of plastics in general. As far as trying to eliminate the use of the plastic shopping bags, I now keep one of those bags that fold up into it's own small pocket in my purse, and one in my backpack. I have also purchased small cloth bags for produce. Here's a good source:

Here in Boulder, Colorado, we're attempting to legislate against the use of plastic bags. We're joining with many other cities, and countries throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. You would be surprised to see he number and variety of places that have either banned, or instituted a fine on the use of plastic bags. Click here to see a partial list:

There are many more reasons not to use plastic, but I suggest you do yourself a favor and see the film.

For more ways to save energy and the environment, see our website,