Take Your Canvas Bags . . . Everywhere
by Charles Lemos, Fri Jul 09, 2010 at 10:35:16 PM EDT
Tim Minchin is a British-born, Australian-raised singer/comedian. He recently achieved a certain notoriety with his opus dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI (warning explicit language) but Tim has been pushing the envelope for years on various social issues. Recently he even turned his barbs on Google over privacy issues. But of all his work, his anthem to canvas bags is my favorite. It's simply brilliant.
San Francisco's now three year-old ban on plastic bags in grocery stores has cut use by 5 million plastic bags per month with four other California cities enacting similar bans. Last month, the California Assembly approved AB 1998, which would require shoppers who don’t bring their own bags to the store to purchase paper bags made of at least 40 percent recycled material or buy reusable totes. The statewide ban, which would go further than the San Francisco ban, would be the nation's first statewide ban. Some 19 billion plastic bags are consumed annually in California.
According to the bill's the sponsor, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, a Democrat from Santa Monica, California spends $25 million annually to collect and bury a portion of them. China banned plastic bags in 2008 saving an estimated 37 million barrels of oil annually. In 2002, Bangladesh imposed an outright ban on all thinner plastic bags in the capital, Dhaka, after they were found to have choked the drainage system during devastating floods. The measure triggered a revival of the local jute bag industry. Other plastic bag bans have been enacted in places from Ireland to Australia, and the United Nations has called for the bans to go global. Here in the United States, North Carolina has banned plastic bags on its Outer Banks.
Some more background from the Christian Science Monitor:
“By passing AB 1998, Californians are signaling to the nation their commitment to wean themselves from a costly plastic and paper bag habit that is threatening marine life and spoiling the natural beauty of this state,” Ms. Brownley said in a statement. “Single-use bags are major contributors to marine debris, which has injured or killed 267 species worldwide.”
She calls the plastic bags “urban tumbleweed.”
Environmental groups have enthusiastically welcomed the idea of a bag ban. “Clearly this is the right thing to do regarding the environment and ocean life,” says Wade Crowfoot, a senior analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). He notes the growth of the great pacific garbage patch, a vortex of plastic trash that many scientists suggest extends over a very wide area of ocean – with estimates ranging from an area the size of Texas to larger than the continental United States. “There is undeniable evidence that these plastic bags negatively impact ocean life because they don’t break down. They hurt marine life,” he says.
Mr. Crowfoot was an aide to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom when the city became the nation's first to ban plastic bags in 2007. He said the ban resulted in the removal of 150 million bags a year – 160 per person – and that the sky-is-falling predictions by opponents, over cost and inconvenience, did not materialize. “There were minimal complaints once this got going,” Crowfoot says.
“We are very happy about this development,” concurs Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, adding that the California legislation could become a model for the nation. Although several cities already had such legislation and others were considering it, she and others point out that AB 1998 creates the kind of uniformity needed by chains with stores in more than one locale. “This offers a consistent, statewide approach so that everyone can know what to expect and [it] creates consistency for those businesses which span communities,” she says.
The American Chemistry Council has come out against the measure in a statement:
“The last thing California consumers need right now is to have what amounts to a $1 billion tax added to their grocery bills,” the group’s senior director, Tim Shestek, said in a statement. He added, “It’s astounding to think the Legislature is seriously considering creating a new $1 million bureaucracy to monitor how people choose to pack their groceries.”
That's just nonsense. I've been carrying my canvas bags around for over a decade. If I have spent $25 USD on them over that time, I'd be surprised. They are washable, last for years and sturdier than paper or plastic.