Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Feel Good: China's Carbon Footprint

A tip of the hat to China who banned free plastic bags at shops and grocery stores, effective June 1st.

The Chinese use up to 3 billion plastic shopping bags a day.

Often, the flimsy bags are used once and discarded, adding to waste in a country grappling with air and water pollution as a result of rapid economic transformation, officials said.

'Our country consumes a large amount of plastic bags. While convenient for consumers, the bags also lead to a severe waste of resources and environmental pollution because of their excessive use and low rate of recycling,' the statement at the Web site said. 'The ultra-thin bags are the main source of 'white' pollution as they can easily get broken and end up as litter.'

The government statement added, 'We should encourage people to return to carrying cloth bags, using baskets for their vegetables.'

More durable plastic bags still will be allowed for sale by markets and shops, The Associated Press reported.

Could the US be next? Connecticut legislators are also considering baning plastic bags:

A bill before the General Assembly would prohibit retails from using or distributing nonbiodegradable plastic bags on or after Jan. 1, 2010. Retailers could face fines ranging from $200 to $1,000.

But this bill has mixed reviews:

Martin Mador, of the Sierra Club, said he worries the Connecticut bill will drive people back to using paper bags, which have their own environmental issues. Instead, his organization is recommending the state charge shoppers 5 cents for every paper or plastic bag they use.

Four cents could be used to pay for recycling programs, while a penny would be returned to the retailer. Also, Mador said the fee would likely discourage shoppers from using the bags, dramatically reducing their numbers.

'Why does this work? Because everybody wins,' Mador said. 'Let the public use the plastic bags if they like, but charge them for it ... Use the economic engine to solve the problem for you.'

The bill awaits action by the Environment Committee.


Amelia said...

I was out on a writing assignment today (I was covering a village-wide garage sale), and I had finished interviewing a couple, and I was about to leave when I saw they had a "free" box. I looked inside and saw a canvas bag, and immediately grabbed it. It made me happy!

I really hope to see something like the fee for bags to go into effect. It would be a great way to get people to start to really pay attention to their purchasing habits and their environmental effects.

Black Thirteen said...

The fee would just discourage me from shopping there.

I don't like the idea of penalizing people for something like the type of bag they carry their groceries in.

Then again, I am completely anti-environmentalism. Though, not out of any sort of political standpoint. Just the standpoint that I'll be stone cold dead before it's a serious issue, and when I'm dead, I won't care what shape the planet I'm buried in is in.

FeministGal said...

black thirteen, if it discourages you from shopping there, and ALL stores are supposed to enforce the policy by law, then hey, guess you won't be shopping that much at all... only stuff you can carry out of the store :)

As far as being "completely anti-environmentalism," not sure what to say about that except it's extremely selfish (IMO) to not care about what happens to our planet just because you won't be around to see the impact of our generation's wastefulness and neglect. What about our children, and their children?

Black Thirteen said...

Haha, you'd be surprised. I shop very little, actually, and for the most part, tend to only get what I can carry out.

I suppose it's selfish, yes. Most human acts have some inherent quality of selfishness. That's not a crime. When it comes right down to it, the most reliable person in your life is you.

That, and it's not so much an issue of what happens to the planet. I'm quite certain, that long after humanity has burned itself out, the planet will still be here, and still be generally fine, and supporting some kind of life. Just not our kind.

On the subject of children, I don't have any. So it's not as though I'm rudely screwing up the world for my future offspring, because they don't exist.

Hell, if you want to be rather pragmatic about it, the fact that I don't have children is doing way more to help the environment than just not using plastic bags.

Anonymous said...

The 5 cent "bag tax" is also in effect in parts of europe (ireland). While I'm not a huge environmentalist (as in, i dont do any thing to help the environment, but dont go out of my way to hurt it either) this tax did make me use reusuable bags. In the case that I ran to the store and forgot my bag, I could always get everything I needed, and really, that extra 15 cents didnt ever make or break the bank, but it made me more aware of using plastic. I definatly think that that's the way to go over outright banning.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I feel that there is a slight touch of class privilege involved in this debate.

I'm currently on a low income and struggle to make ends meet. Free plastic bags when I shop in supermarkets helps, because they provide a very economical way in which I can hygienically dispose of my rubbish. When I have plenty, I use reusable bags (including canvas bags), but every so often, when I run out, I go and buy stuff in plastic bags, and then they make very good bin liners. While the added cost of paying for purpose-made bin liners may seem small, when money is as tight as it is for some people, that apparently small extra cost is still magnified.

FeministGal said...

snowdropexplodes, i agree there are classist things going on here and lots of people DO use those plastic bags for other purposes... however, most don't. I think there's a lot to consider in environmental issues and you're absolutely right to add class issues as a part of this conversation :) thanks for that!!