Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No More Plastic Bags in LA!

The Los Angeles City Council just unanimously passed recommendations to adopt a Citywide policy banning the use of plastic carry-out bags at all supermarkets and retail establishments beginning January 1, 2012, if a fee has not been established by that time; and imposing a point of sale fee on all other single-use bags, such as paper or compostable bags, if a fee or tax for their use has not been adopted by that date.

Also, the Council voted to ban styrofoam at city-owned facilities, including LAX, by 2010.

Not only will this have a big impact on the Bay and the LA river, but it will send a strong message to Sacramento on AB 2058 - the bag fee bill.


Bag Expert said...

The LA Council obviously needs choose a product and use it as a symbol. Are these clowns really getting paid?

For a product that is undeniably better for our environment when compared to paper and even canvas, yes canvas--those bags that pollute the air and water overseas in China!

There is a claim repeated over and over again on the Internet that plastic bags are made out of oil and that 12 million barrels of oil are used annually in the United States to make the plastic bags that Americans use.

It is not true.

Plastic bags are made out of polyethylene. Polyethylene is made of ethylene. In the United States, ethylene is made of ethane which is extracted from natural gas. As a result, plastic bags manufactured in the United States are not made out of oil.

The ethane must be removed from the natural gas anyway to lower the BTU value of the natural gas to an acceptable level. Ethane burns too hot to be allowed to remain in high levels in natural gas that is delivered to homes and businesses for fuel. There is nothing else that the ethane can be used for except to make ethylene. If ethane is not used to make plastic, it will have to be burned off, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions.

Using the ethane to make plastic does not in any way reduce the amount of fuel available for transportation or power generation or increase our energy imports.

If we were to abolish plastic bags, it would have zero impact on our dependence on foreign oil.

The United States is an exporter of polyethylene. The United States imports virtually no polyethylene.

Second misinformed fact: Ireland's ban on plastic bags. Yes, it did reduce the amount of plastic bags, however the use of paper bags sky rocketed. What do you get when more paper bags are produced?
The Environmental Paper Network (EPN) has published a comprehensive report entitled: “The State of the Paper Industry.” The EPN states in the report as follows:

[T]he paper industry’s activities – and our individual use and disposal of paper in our daily lives—have enormous impacts. These include loss and degradation of forests that moderate climate change, destruction of habitat for countless plant and animal species, pollution of air and water with toxic chemicals such as mercury and dioxin, and production of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—as paper decomposes in landfills, to name just a few. (Page iv)

One of the most significant, and perhaps least understood, impacts of the paper industry is climate change. Every phase of paper’s lifecycle contributes to global warming, from harvesting trees to production of pulp and paper to eventual disposal. (Page v)

The climate change effects of paper carry all the way through to disposal. If paper is landfilled rather than recycled, it decomposes and produces methane, a greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. More than one-third of municipal solid waste is paper, and municipal landfills account for 34 percent of human related methane emissions to the atmosphere, making landfills the single largest source of such emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified the decomposition of paper as among the most significant sources of landfill methane. (Page v)

According to the report at page 3:

* Plastics contribute 4% of toxic emissions
* Paper contributes 12% of toxic emissions

According to the report at page 5, discards in the U.S. Municipal solid waste streams by material are as follows:

* Plastics 16%
* Paper and paperboard 25%

The Daily Green has summarized the EPN report. Some of its observations are as follows:

1. Forests store 50% of the world's terrestrial carbon. (In other words, they are awfully important "carbon sinks" that hold onto pollution that would otherwise lead to global warming.)

2. Half the world's forests have already been cleared or burned, and 80% of what's left has been seriously degraded.

3. 42% of the industrial wood harvest is used to make paper.

4. The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries, and contributes 9% of the manufacturing sector's carbon emissions.

5. If the United States cut office paper use by just 10% it would prevent the emission of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases -- the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road.

6. Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste (and one third of municipal landfill waste).

7. Municipal landfills account for one third of human-related methane emissions (and methane is 23-times more potent a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide).

Here's another great article to read...

March 8, 2008
By Alexi Mostrous

Scientists and environmentalists have attacked a global campaign to ban plastic bags which they say is based on flawed science and exaggerated claims.

The widely stated accusation that the bags kill 100,000 animals and a million seabirds every year are false, experts have told The Times. They pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds.

Gordon Brown announced last month that he would force supermarkets to charge for the bags, saying that they were “one of the most visible symbols of environmental waste”. Retailers and some pressure groups, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, threw their support behind him.

But scientists, politicians and marine experts attacked the Government for joining a “bandwagon” based on poor science.

Lord Taverne, the chairman of Sense about Science, said: “The Government is irresponsible to jump on a bandwagon that has no base in scientific evidence. This is one of many examples where you get bad science leading to bad decisions which are counter-productive. Attacking plastic bags makes people feel good but it doesn’t achieve anything.”

Campaigners say that plastic bags pollute coastlines and waterways, killing or injuring birds and livestock on land and, in the oceans, destroying vast numbers of seabirds, seals, turtles and whales. However, The Times has established that there is no scientific evidence to show that the bags pose any direct threat to marine mammals.

They “don’t figure” in the majority of cases where animals die from marine debris, said David Laist, the author of a seminal 1997 study on the subject. Most deaths were caused when creatures became caught up in waste produce. “Plastic bags don’t figure in entanglement,” he said. “The main culprits are fishing gear, ropes, lines and strapping bands. Most mammals are too big to get caught up in a plastic bag.”

He added: “The impact of bags on whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals ranges from nil for most species to very minor for perhaps a few species.For birds, plastic bags are not a problem either.”

The central claim of campaigners is that the bags kill more than 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds every year. However, this figure is based on a misinterpretation of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that, between 1981 and 1984, more than 100,000 marine mammals, including birds, were killed by discarded nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags.

Fifteen years later in 2002, when the Australian Government commissioned a report into the effects of plastic bags, its authors misquoted the Newfoundland study, mistakenly attributing the deaths to “plastic bags”.

The figure was latched on to by conservationists as proof that the bags were killers. For four years the “typo” remained uncorrected. It was only in 2006 that the authors altered the report, replacing “plastic bags” with “plastic debris”. But they admitted: “The actual numbers of animals killed annually by plastic bag litter is nearly impossible to determine.”

In a postscript to the correction they admitted that the original Canadian study had referred to fishing tackle, not plastic debris, as the threat to the marine environment.

Regardless, the erroneous claim has become the keystone of a widening campaign to demonise plastic bags.

David Santillo, a marine biologist at Greenpeace, told The Times that bad science was undermining the Government’s case for banning the bags. “It’s very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags,” he said. “The evidence shows just the opposite. We are not going to solve the problem of waste by focusing on plastic bags.

“It doesn’t do the Government’s case any favours if you’ve got statements being made that aren’t supported by the scientific literature that’s out there. With larger mammals it’s fishing gear that’s the big problem. On a global basis plastic bags aren’t an issue. It would be great if statements like these weren’t made.”

Geoffrey Cox, a Tory member of the Commons Environment Select Committee, said: “I don't like plastic bags and I certainly support restricting their use, but plainly it’s extremely important that before we take any steps we should rely on accurate information. It is bizarre that any campaign should be endorsed on the basis of a mistranslation. Gordon Brown should get his facts right.”

A 1968 study of albatross carcasses found that 90 per cent contained some form of plastic but only two birds had ingested part of a plastic bag.

Professor Geoff Boxshall, a marine biologist at the Natural History Museum, said: “I’ve never seen a bird killed by a plastic bag. Other forms of plastic in the ocean are much more damaging. Only a very small proportion is caused by bags.”

Plastic particles known as nurdles, dumped in the sea by industrial companies, form a much greater threat as they can be easily consumed by birds and animals. Many British groups are now questioning whether a ban on bags would cost consumers more than the environmental benefits.

Charlie Mayfield, chairman of retailer John Lewis, said that tackling packaging waste and reducing carbon emissions were far more important goals. “We don’t see reducing the use of plastic bags as our biggest priority,” he said. “Of all the waste that goes to landfill, 20 per cent is household waste and 0.3 per cent is plastic bags.” John Lewis added that a scheme in Ireland had reduced plastic bag usage, but sales of bin liners had increased 400 per cent.
Back to top

In response to the article, the British government minister charged with eliminating plastic bags wrote a letter to The Times stating:

We have never said that plastic bags were a leading cause of death in marine animals, though general plastic waste does make a contribution. There are nonetheless serious reasons for our aim to end the practice of dispensing for free, single use bags. They are a significant cause of litter…. Most of the rest of the 13 billion bags used each year end up in landfill. They are a potent symbol of our throwaway society and public opinion recognizes this. Of course, these bags contribute only a small part of the waste that leads to climate-changing emissions, but we need to change the small things as well as the large and to work with the grain of public opinion. [Emphasis added.]

The British Government admitted that plastic bags were under attack, because they are a "symbol."

One of the comments posted on The Times website regarding the letter is very incisive.
No, plastic bags are not a significant cause of litter. People who throw them away irresponsibly are a cause of litter. They are the villains here and should not be allowed to get away with blaming inanimate objects for their own selfishness.

And what exactly is the environmental problem with plastic ending up in landfill? Animals can't find and mistakenly eat it; it doesn't emit CO2 or any other greenhouse gas; it doesn't leech chemicals into the water table. Where is the environmental harm?

Please understand a ban is not the answer. We can all do a better job by recycling and reusing.

There, I said it.

Greenette said...

Thanks for your reponse "bag expert." Sounds like you are really passionate about the subject. Perhaps you could start a campaign to get your information out. I've never heard this point of veiw before.

The Green Routine said...

BS Bag Expert. Your mixing a smidgen of scientific fact with a heaping serving of misinformed opinion.

Ethylene and its derivatives have plenty of uses ranging from use as a welding gas, to agricultural and medical uses. It didn't take more than a minute to find a dozen other uses for it other than making plastic bags.


Canvas bags are sustainable. Everything causes some amount of impact when it's produced, but for most people the impact of canvas bags will be significantly lower. Why? Because they'll be replacing them once every 5-10 years instead of once a week.

Paper bags are not the solution either. In my opinion, if you don't bring a reusable bag, you should just have to load the stuff up in your vehicle or carry it home without one.

I don't understand why you'd ever want to choose to use a disposable product when there is a non-disposable alternative that's not at all inconvenient.

How many times have you had a plastic bag rip and drop all your groceries on the floor? I've lost count.

Bag Expert said...

In response to the last post. There is no misinformation in my original post.

The point about bags and oil is that they don't "suck" oil. They are produced by natural gas which is our (THE USA's) richest resource and most abundant. The USGS.gov just reported another 1637 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that has been untapped!! WOW!!

Canvas bags are great, however do you understand how they are produced? With 99% of them being manufactured overseas is it okay if we pollute in someone else's country? Canvas bags, the majority of them are made from plastic, and the non-woven bags are produced with harsh chemicals, lead, and various other heavy metal tolerants that become exposed in the air and water.

I for one, along with the majority of our population choose a disposable bag for convenience and to reuse. Are you telling me you've never reused a plastic bag? You must not have pets, mini trash cans around the house and multiple other activities that benefit from such a product.

Another obvious about canvas bags is the industry in which they are produced. Because most of these bags are produced outside of the USA, manual labor is a serious issue. There are countless articles about such a topic.
I won't even waste my time with your last comment about ripping.

The truth is this. Our governments local, state and higher should never be imposing a consumer right. Our choice is paper, plastic or neither. Taxing or banning is just outrageous and proof that our government is becoming larger and more controlling. This is not what we were built on...

Millennial 4 Earth said...

i haven't quite decided on where i stand on this issue. there are a lot of pros and cons to each side of the story....however, i'm 100% pro-reuse. i try to use my reusable bags (and i only have a few, rather than one per store ... even though the folks at whole foods do get a little cranky when i use my giant bag there). sometimes i forget them. in that case, i either go without a bag if it's little enough to carry on my own (gets some weird looks, but that's ok) OR i get paper or plastic. i've found that i actually do need them - some great reuse examples include:

* pet poo (both dog and cat)
* packing wet/dirty clothing
* waste liners
* packaging material for shipping
* recycle bags (the paper ones from the grocery store are great for this)
* moving - i use the big bags from the clothing retailers to move my books - they're just the right size, have sturdy handles, and can be reused over and over.

here are some other ideas for reusing bags: http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf740430.tip.html

Bag Expert said...

Couldn't agree more with the last post. If you can handle not having a bag at the store great, however if you need one of the two disposable bags for reasons for convenience be sure you choose the bag that will best fit your reuse capabilities. Well said!!

elizabeth said...

I'm shocked at the "bag expert's response". It's really easy to reuse hemp, recycled canvas, organic cotton or any of the other bags that are not chemically intensive to produce, don't end up polluting land and water and filling the landfill. Have you seen any of the images of the enormous piles of plastic, ocean deadzones, dead animals? Or maybe noticed it by the side of the road or on the beach? If that's what you're arguing for, no matter how many facts you have, I just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Bag Expert - you are very ignorant in all of your "knowledge"

club penguin cheats said...

They are a potent symbol of our throwaway society and public opinion recognizes this. Of course, these bags contribute only a small part of the waste that leads to climate-changing emissions, but we need to change the small things as well as the large and to work with the grain of public opinion.

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