Friday, September 12, 2008

With Friends Like These ....

I got this plastic bag at The Wingnut Grocery™ (*cough *cough* Osbornes *cough *cough*) up the street. I thought it was a hilarious propaganda ploy, no doubt sparked by the growing movement to ban plastic bags.

It says “Nature’s Friend,” over a picture of a tree, and, “Thank you for using plastic bags!” Then there’s a graphic with some interesting statistics:
1,000 plastic bags equal 17 pounds, 1,219 cubic inches.
1,000 paper bags equal 122 pounds, 8,085 cubic inches.

I wonder if they included in that figure all of the plastic bags that end up billowing in the breeze from tree branches, clogging storm drains, floating around in the oceans, and strangling wildlife who either try to eat them by mistake or get various body parts tangled in them.

I detest plastic bags. did an article on how environmentally damaging they are, and included these facts:

They're made from petroleum or natural gas with all the attendant environmental impacts of harvesting fossil fuels. One recent study found that the inks and colorants used on some bags contain lead, a toxin. Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags after they've been used to transport a prescription home from the drugstore or a quart of milk from the grocery store. It's equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.

Wow. China’s country-wide ban, which went into effect in June, will reportedly save that country 37 million barrels of oil a year.

To be fair, the plastic bag industry says these figures are a myth, but frankly I don’t care. I’d be a lot more sympathetic to the plastic bag industry if their product didn’t wind up on every tree branch and fence row from California to the New York Island. Or how about flapping atop every redwood tree and swirling around the gulf stream waters.

Anyway, I have a ginormous cloth bag that I usually bring to the store, simply because it’s easier to swing one huge bag over my shoulder than try to juggle five little plastic ones.

I’m not sure when the world got on the plastic bandwagon; when I lived in Europe in the early '80s it was normal to pay a nominal fee for plastic bags, say 10- or 25-cents. But I’ve noticed that's changed in the past 10 years or so. European grocery stores give plastic bags away for free now, just like here. And boy you can sure tell: they’re as ubiquitous in the litter over there as here.

I'm hoping it's a passing fad. I know more and more municipalities and store chains are banning them. I'd be happy to see them gone for good.