Why Aren’t We Doing This?

I came across this in a case study today… At this point it’s old news, but why is it we aren’t doing things like this in the U.S.? Are we too spoiled? Are oil companies too powerful? Yes.

The China State Council issued a new regulation on the utilization of plastic bags — A Notice on Restraining of Production and Use of Plastic Shopping Bags. From June 1, 2008, the production, sale and use of film plastic bags are prohibited.

The new regulation requires a nationwide prohibition of the production, sale and use of plastic shopping bags thinner than 0.025 mm. All supermarkets, department stores and other markets in China will be required to charge customers for plastic shopping bags. No free plastic shopping bags will be provided.

All retailers will have to post the price of the plastic shopping bags and the price of the plastic shopping bags will have to be listed separately from other items purchased by customers. The price of plastic shopping bags can not be merged into the aggregated price of other items purchased. The price of plastic shopping bags should not be less than the net cost of the bags. Individuals and companies found to be non-compliant will face a maximum penalty up to RMB 20,000 (approximately US$2,800).

Source: General Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (translated).

As of 2010, this simple law has reduced plastic bag consumption by 50% — keeping an estimated 100 billion plastic bags out of the landfills. Why is this important? Because plastic bags and other plastic products (depending on actual chemical composition) can take at least 100 years to decompose. The very thin plastic bags are capable of clogging up infrastructure and negatively impacting (killing) wildlife.

According to the WorldWatch Institute, “Prior to the ban, an estimated 3 billion plastic bags were used daily across China, creating more than 3 million tons of garbage each year. China consumed an estimated 5 million tons (37 million barrels) of crude oil annually to produce plastics for packaging.”

Because of this implementation in China, other countries and cities around the world have followed suit by  limiting plastic bag use. In 2000, Mumbai banned thin plastic bags in order to prevent them from clogging storm drains during monsoon season. Bans or taxes have also been enforced in Australia, Ireland, Italy, Bangladesh, Belgium, Taiwan, Kenya, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, South Africa, and Tanzania (there are even more!!).

In the US, San Francisco became the first city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets and pharmacies in March 2007. Several months later the rest of California passed laws requiring large supermarkets to take back and recycle plastic bags (from BBC News). Some other cities that have followed CA’s lead are Westport (CT), Edmonds (WA),  Brownsville (TX),  Bethel, (Alaska), the Outerbanks Region of NC, and Portland (OR).

C’mon people… sometimes we can’t avoid getting a plastic bag for some reason, but if we had to pay for each bag we used, everyone would think twice about it. The U.S. should really do something like this on a national level. It’s such and easy fix that is highly impactful. We American’s will just have to suck it up.

What can you do as in individual?

At the very least, get a paper bag. At the extreme least, cut up the plastic bag before you throw it out so it doesn’t clog things or choke animals. The best option (aside from using no bag at all and reducing the amount of things you buy at once) is to carry your own re-useable bags.

Here, I’ve already done the google search ;)

One Comment on “Why Aren’t We Doing This?

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