Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Republic of China Bans the Bag!

A little noted news article yesterday announced that China is phasing out flimsy plastic bags altogether and cutting back on heavier plastic bags, known in China as "white pollution". Last summer San Francisco did this, as did a small town in Canada. Many other in the countries in the world have done so, as well, and their populations seem to be surviving pretty well. How embarrassing that even China, the pollution capital of the universe, is ahead of us here in the States.
While people seem to be more aware than ever about global warming, they don't make the connection to plastic being made from petroleum. Despite the broad marketing of reusable bags, encouraging virtue doesn't seem to be making much headway. We're going to need to go with policy. I predict in the next few years you'll see a lot more municipalities going that route. Eventually supermarkets will come around and people will change their habits when they actually are charged for using plastic bags.
In the meantime people have creative reuses for the ubiquitous bags that fill up our homes, even if we're dutiful cloth bag grocery shoppers. Our household gets two plastic bags a day for our newspaper. Nice on rainy days, useless on sunny ones.

Here's one of those eco-conundrums: is it better to recycle bags at the supermarket, where you're taking on faith they actually remanufacture them into new products, or give them to the neighbors to reuse, (in this case for doggie doo)? I'm interested in what others think about that.
My friend Alice has come up with an amazing reuse scheme for her New York Times bags. She carefully reinserts them into a bag so they're easy to pull out, and leaves them for her newspaper delivery guy when she has 20 or so, for him to reuse himself. These things are tiny gestures in the face of climate chaos, of course - but they make a difference!
If we're going to make sustainability headway, much of the decrease in energy and resource use will be in the details.

Kakadu and Jabiru are nature preserves in Australia.


Sam said...

My husband and I found those plastic bags that are used for newspaper inserts on the sidewalk the other day. I think they were used by the person who litters neighborhoods with the coupons (Walgreens, RiteAid, CVS, etc) every friday, but we couldn't figure out why he/she had left behind perfectly good plastic bags. There were about a 100 or so. We use them for trash as we don't generate too much trash since we began composting.

C said...

Our new envrionment minister (in Australia) has announced a nation wide plastic bag ban in supermarkets as well -

If you read the article, you'll see that some retailers already charge for plastic bags eg Bunnings a hardware/gardening superstore chain (they let customers reuse their cardboard boxes for free) and Ikea and Aldi.

Unknown said...

You might want to ask your newspaper delivery person if they want or use the bags. When I was delivering papers, reusing them took too much time to finish our route in time. The new bags came hanging on a plastic holder with a hook so it could be installed from the rear view mirror. The used ones must be taken out of the bag, the correct end identified, and straightened out so that the paper didn't rip it. We simply passed the "returns" on to other customers with dogs.