Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 The Lighter Side
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Join Mailing List

Special Reports Last Updated: Jun 27th, 2007 - 02:13:47

Plastic shopping bags being banned
By Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 27, 2007, 01:11

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

First introduced in U.S. grocery stores in 1977, over 380 billion plastic shopping bags are used in the U.S. annually, according to the EPA. By 1996 four out of five grocery bags were plastic. Only a fraction of the plastic bags are recycled (0.6 percent), but about 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away by Americans. It takes a 1,000 years for plastic bags to degrade.

It is estimated that 500 trillion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used globally, or one million bags per minute. Almost 80 percent of plastic bag use is by North American and Western Europe. Asian countries produce a quarter of the plastic bags used in Western countries.

Plastic bags contain chemical additives which can be harmful to human health and the environment. Among the chemicals contained in plastic bags are lead, cadmium, mercury, and the carcinogen diethylhexyl phthalate.

Producing plastic bags requires petroleum and sometimes natural gas. The environmental organization, Californians Against Waste says that if the state of California alone cut out half of the plastic bag use over 2,000 barrels of oil would be saved, and 73,000 tons of garbage would be eliminated from landfills. According to the Worldwatch Institute, it takes 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags.

The World Watch Institute estimates that plastic bags cost U.S. retailers $4 billion annually. Retailers in turn pass the cost of the �free� plastic bags on to consumers in the form of higher product prices. WSJ Target, the second largest retailer in the U.S., purchases 1.8 billion bags per year.

Plastic bags are toxic to animals. An estimated 100,000 birds, marine mammals, whales, and sea turtles die from eating plastic bags every year. The animals either choke on the bags or suffer from intestinal blockages.

The world cracks down

The Republic of Ireland enacted a 15 cents tax on plastic shopping bags in 2002. The tax curbed the use of plastic bags by 90 percent. An estimated 1.2 billion plastic shopping bags were handed out every year prior to the tax in the Republic, according to the environment ministry. During the three-month period after the tax about 277 million fewer bags were handed out.

Bangladesh banned plastic shopping bags in 2002. During the 1988 and 1998 floods, it was discovered that the bags blocked drainage systems, and were one of the main causes of the floods. Taiwan, Singapore, South Africa, and a number of East African countries also banned plastic shopping bags.

San Francisco became the first city in North America to ban the plastic bags from supermarkets and chain pharmacies this spring. Sponsored by Ross Mirkarimi, member of the city�s Board of Supervisors, the ban will take place in about six months in supermarkets and a year in chain pharmacies.

The Swedish housewares chain IKEA began to charge five cents per plastic bag March 15. Up to $1.75 million of the proceeds from the bags will be donated to the conservation group American Forests. IKEA will sell reusable blue bags for 59 cents, previously 99 cents. IKEA estimates that the amount of plastic bags used in their U.S. stores will be reduced by 50 percent. The program first began in IKEA�s British stores in 2006.

Pernille Spiers-Lopez, president of IKEA North America, said, �We realize that our �Bag the Plastic Bag Program� is a small step. But we know our customers want to help and support the sustainability of our planet -- for today and for the future of our children. This program lets our customers know we have our stake in the ground and are committed to continuing to be an environmentally responsible company.�

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Special Reports
Latest Headlines
Through the desert to a country with no name
Gladio reprise: 2011 will see the new fake threat of Islamist terrorism and �anarchism�
Canada surrenders sovereignty and privacy to U.S. Secure Flight Program
From guerilla mistress to Obama confidant: The life and crimes of Gayle Smith
Korea war redux: Koreastone cops
All U.S. embassies and consulates around the world spying on host nation citizens
Napolitano tells public to be patient with privacy invasions at airports but her private life has remained obscure
Drive-by shootings, Metro bombings in DC and parcel bombs on planes but spies in training go unnoticed
Obama conducting �reign of terror� against suspected White House leakers
Human Rights Watch whitewashes Ethiopian genocide
U.S. ratchets up Contra War II against Nicaragua
A tale of two families� 9/11 deaths
Maidhc � Cathail: The United States fights and pays for Israel�s wars
Ghoulish and secretive biowarfare expert William C. Patrick III dead
Pentagon author exposes Zelikow�s key role in 9/11 cover-up
On the road with Ahmadinejad in Lebanon
RFK: Outing the CIA at the Ambassador*
A nuclear armed Japan may be around the corner
Will Hezbollah defeat Israel (again!) in the coming war?
FDA hearings go swimmingly for Frankenfish