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GoingGreen posted a blog entry in GoingGreen's BlogEach year, over 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. Yes, that’s a 1 with 12 zeros. Most of these bags are used only once, after which they are discarded (only a tiny percentage are recycled). It’s quite hard to imagine such an enormous amount of plastic rubbish, but it’s not hard to realise this is not a good thing. Each of these plastic bags can take 500 - 1000 years to degrade, or maybe even longer, scientists don’t really know, but they’re pretty convinced it’s a very, very long time. These bags pollute our oceans, kill sea life and sea birds, and may be poisoning us humans as well. They also make beaches around the world look very unaesthetic. So how do we tackle this huge environmental problem? We could simply start using fewer plastic bags and reuse any that we do use. This may be a tough sell however. Another solution may be switching to paper bags. But are paper bags really that much better than plastic ones? Let’s have a look at some of the environmental benefits of paper bags. Paper bags are easier to recycle Most paper bags are recyclable. Almost any paper bag that does not contain any plastic and isn’t contaminated with food can be recycled. Paper can’t be recycled endlessly however. After having been recycled 5 - 7 times, a paper bag has to be discarded. If the paper is not or minimally inked, it can then be composted. Recycling paper does not come without its environmental issues unfortunately. Harsh chemicals and significant amounts of water and energy are needed during the paper recycling process. Not as harmful to marine lifePaper bags degrade faster in water than plastic bags and they will often sink to the bottom, whereas plastic bags usually float. Paper also doesn’t soak up pollutants as plastic does. This means paper bags are much less likely to cause harm to marine life. Paper bags hold more stuffOn average, a paper bag can hold more than a plastic one because they hold more volume and are stronger. Although there are some environmental benefits of using paper bags over plastic, neither are very environmentally friendly. Paper bags require more natural resources to produce than plastic bags, and recycling them still requires significant use of energy and water. A better option is to use reusable canvas bags.
People's World posted a article in PoliticsCalifornia may soon follow in the footsteps of its largest city: On Aug. 29, the state Senate voted 22-15 in support of a statewide ban on plastic bags. The bill, SB 270, will phase them out in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning in July 2015, and in convenience stores one year later, with the goal of making California a plastic bag-free state by the end of 2016. The legislation, which passed both houses of the state legislature, must now be signed by the governor. If that happens, the state will achieve a historical victory for the environment. The good news? The governor plans to sign it. "I probably will sign it, yes," said Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat. "In fact, I'll tell you why I'm going to sign it; there are about 50 cities with their own plastic bag ban, and that's causing a lot of confusion," he remarked, referencing the similar plans in place in areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco. "This is a compromise. I'm taking into account the needs of the environment, the needs of the economy, and the needs of the grocers." In agreement was Senator Kevin de León, a Democrat from Los Angeles, who stated, "SB 270 is a win-win for the environment and for California workers. In crafting this compromise, it was imperative to me that we achieve the goals of doing away with single-use plastic bags, help change consumer behavior, and importantly, support and expand California jobs." That last note clashes with the words of Republicans, who have opposed the ban, claiming it will cause job losses for bag manufacturers. But such an assertion suggests a misunderstanding of the legislation, which will not do away with non-plastic bags; compost bags and paper bags will continue to be available, albeit for a ten-cent fee per bag. There is a strategy to that, as well: The goal is to encourage the use of recyclable and biodegradable materials and to give California manufacturing a boost by encouraging the continuous production of such bags. Hardly a jobs killer. Leslie Tamminen, director of Seventh Generation Advisors, a sustainability and clean energy advocacy group based on Native American philosophy, said, "Data from the over 121 local plastic bag bans [in California] has proven that bans are effective at reducing litter and changing consumer attitudes, and have refuted industry's claims of apocalyptic impacts on jobs and poor communities. A state plastic bag ban saves taxpayers huge amounts of money spent on litter cleanup, and protects the environment." It's worth noting that other nations have already moved forward on this issue, with the U.S. current lagging behind; Ireland, Taiwan, South Africa, Bangladesh, and Australia all have heavy taxation or outright bans of plastic bags, according to National Geographic. It is likely the countries have recognized the severe ecological threat presented by plastic bags, which non-profit environmental group Heal the Bay referred to as "urban tumbleweeds." Charles Tyler, a professor at the University of Exeter School of Biosciences in the UK, added, "Scientists have shown that some of these chemical compounds from plastics," which affect human health, "are getting into the environment and are in some environments at concentrations where they can actually produce biological effects in a range of wildlife species." David Barnes, a marine scientist with environmental research group the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England, said scientists have linked the uptick in plastic bag consumption with a dramatic increase in the deaths of sea life over the years. He remarked, "One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics. Plastic bags have gone from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere." Today, "even in [some of] the remotest of environments, there is plastic floating on the sea surface. ... And I bet [plastic bags] will be washing up in Antarctica within the decade."
Green Blog posted a article in Business & PoliticsEvery year around 100 billion plastic bags are manufactured, sold and used on the European market. In 2010, there was 200 plastic bags for each person living in Europe. As one can imagine, many of these plastic bags end up as litter in nature where they pollute the environment, especially aquatic ecosystems, and harm wildlife. But this past Tuesday, the European Union moved one step closer to reduce the use of plastic bags in Europe. It was the European Parliament which voted in favor of a proposal from the European Commission to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic bags by half in 2017 and by 80 percent in 2019, compared to 2010 levels. It’s hoped that the so-called light bags, which are mainly used to wrap up loose food, will gradually be replaced by biodegradable and compostable bags by 2019 in Europe. The vote, however, was just the first reading of the bill and the future of this legislation will be decided on after the upcoming European Parliament elections at the end of May. “MEPs have today voted to significantly strengthen draft EU rules aimed at reducing plastic bag use and waste, notably to include obligatory European reduction targets and a requirement that plastic bags come at a cost,” said Margrete Auken, a Danish MEP who is a member of the Green group, shortly after the vote. “As front-running countries have demonstrated, dramatically reducing the consumption of these disposable bags is easily achievable with a coherent policy.” This reduction could be achieved by imposing taxes or fees on plastic bags, issuing advertising rules or even banning the use of plastic bags in certain shops. But it will be up to each member state to enforce their own rules and guidelines. This legislation advocates for a mandatory charging of carrier bags in the food sector and a recommendation to charge for plastic bags in the non-food sector. “The huge and growing consumption rates of plastic bags - 100 billion bags per year in the EU alone - demonstrates a reckless waste of resources. Plastic bags are a symbol of our throw-away society and unsustainable lifestyles,” said the European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potocnik in a statement. “We use them for a few minutes, but their legacy lasts for hundreds of years, often as harmful microscopic particles that are damaging the environment worldwide, especially the marine environment. In the North Sea, the stomachs of 94 percent of all birds contain plastic,” Potocnik added.