San Diego passes plastic bags ban ordinance
Booya! San Diego does the deed and passes ban on single use plastic bags
One more city to the list to come to its senses but it is not without controversy that these bans occur around the country. Some complain about these measures, some try to deny it is a problem but most seem to laud the decision. My common sense (before and after doing the research for this post) told me this is a great decision and could have come sooner. So let’s take a look at this issue.
The single use bags ban situation
This article from the Sacramento Bee shows that more than 14 billion single-use plastic bags are handed out by retailers in California, of which only 5 percent are recycled! Californians pay an estimated $25 million annually to collect and bury plastic bag waste. These bags have shown to slow down and jam sorting machinery at recycling centers several times a day.
According to How Stuff Works, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion of those bags are used worldwide every year-380 billion of those in the US alone. That statistic is staggering. The article goes on to say that Americans throw away 100 billion of those single use plastic bags, which is equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil directly in the ground. My brain just short circuited.
Banning single-use plastic bags doesn’t just seem to make environmental sense – it seems to make great economic sense.
The funny thing is I tried to find real valid arguments of parties opposing those city bans but they really seem to come up short when it comes to arguing their point. Plus, the only sources I found were the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) -two parties with large vested interests in preventing those bans- so I really doubt the objectivity of their arguments. In a nutshell, the ACC is arguing that “1″ banning plastic bags will not solve anything and/or reduce the amount of waste and that “2″ we have to prioritize our efforts on changing behaviors (“1″ not true and “2″ agreed). Is it just me or this non-sensical answer is just laughable? Educating people about changing their shopping habits is great and should be done but it won’t help to solve this issue in the short run. That’s why such ordinances are crucial to accelerate those changes. On the hand, ISRI posits that banning plastic bags hurts the recycling economy and preventing the creation of jobs but also that it is difficult to recycle those bags. In all fairness, it does cost a lot to recycle one ton of those single use plastic bags. When did we decide to stop something because it was difficult. What are we, 5?
Well, I have looked at it and it’s hard not to take sides. At home, I was already RE-using those single use bags as trash bags. I don’t remember the last time I bought trash bags. Although I know this is far from not the ideal solution but I do feel like it is an improvement rather than just throwing them away. But man, they sure do stack up. So if they stack up in my kitchen, what must it be like in landfills, rivers, etc?
The San Diego situation
The single use plastic bag ban was passed unanimously in mid-October 2013 by the City Council’s Rules and Economic Development Committee. BUT, let’s not rush to vicotry yet. This is a first step but victory will not happen until at least a year from now.
The next step is to conduct an environmental review and a bit of formatting the language used in the ordinance.
If you are wondering if AAALL plastic bags will disappear in SD, well don’t get your hopes up because there are plenty of caveats to this ordinance like for example the fact that
the ordinance would ban plastic bags at most stores, mandate a 10 cent per bag charge for customers who ask for paper bags, and require shopkeepers to maintain records for three years.
Plastic bags could still be used for meat, produce and prescription medications. Also, the restrictions would not apply to charities, large non-food retailers like Home Depot and customers who participate in government food programs.
Soooo, basically grocery stores and all small independently owned retailers. That seems hardly fair and thorough and while a good effort, this ordinance seems very incomplete to me.
Baby steps… baby steps…
We’ve arrived at the solutions section. What ARE the better options?
Paper you say? NO way… it’s as bad if not worse.
One of the best options around would be to use biodegradable bags. They already exist and are already in use. the downside, 10cents more expensive than the regular ones. Small shop owners will accuse this rise in costs the worst… unless they raise their prices a bit.
Another viable option is using reusable bags. They are sold eveywhere nowadays.
But why buy any old reusable bag when you can do the same thing in style AAAAND buying Fair Trade. Here is our better option: The Upcycled Sari Tote