Why Can’t The U.S. Ban The Plastic Bag?


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Why can’t the United States of America ban the obsolete and unnecessary plastic bag? Many communities around the country have tried and a few have even succeeded thus far, with San Francisco, Maui, San Jose, Long Beach, Portland OR, and the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles immediately coming to mind. But while our cities and towns are trying to cobble together some sort of local ban or taxation scheme instead of our Federal government stepping in, there are entire countries passing plastic bag bans. China, Ireland, Italy, Rwanda, and India are just a few places that have succeeded in banning plastic bags in the majority of their states, cities, towns and provinces. The fact that China, even with its 1.3 billion residents and well-known pollution issues, has managed to ban the bag is quite impressive and shows that the U.S. is lacking any political will to do the right thing. The plastic bag lobby has an incredibly loud voice inside the halls of Congress and City Council offices, and has been very successful in thwarting many plastic bag bans that communities have been trying to pass for years.

An estimated 60,000 plastic bags are used in the US every five seconds alone, and upwards of 93% (2007 study) are never recycled, ending up in the Pacific Garbage Patch where they decompose for 100 years while leeching toxic chemicals into our water and strangling wildlife.

Is this the legacy we want to leave behind for future generations? I don’t think so.

So what can we do about it? First of all, we all need to educate ourselves to the facts about just how much damage plastic bags can do to our world and its inhabitants. We can reduce our plastic consumption and encourage others to do the same. We can work with our towns to start a plastic recycling program if they don’t have one in place already. We can bring our own reusable bags to the grocery store (or any other store), and if we forget them we can choose paper over plastic as paper biodegrades in a few weeks and can even go into compost piles. If enough of us start acting like the plastic bag is on its way out, maybe it will get the attention of our leaders and give them the strength to stand up to the plastic bag lobby and get these bans passed.

After all, if China can do it, the United States should be able to as well.

Photo by kouk

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  1. You must be kidding. Because, friend, ordinary, everyday American people who are just struggling to survive their ordinary, everyday lives do not WANT plastic bags banned! They CHOOSE plastic bags, for several very practical, everyday reasons. I know you greenies think you should own the planet, but bear in mind, us ordinary, everyday folk live here too, and we are far more concerned about getting through our days than about saving the world. Especially since we know how ridiculous it is to think that we even have the power to “save” or “destroy” a planet much bigger and more resilient than political correctness allows us to give it credit for.

    In short, plastic bags WORK for real, everyday humans. And what works even better, is CHOICE. Wake up!

    1. Ah yes, those pesky difficult-to-handle reusable bags are just such a pain compared to single-use made from oil wildlife killing plastic ones. What in the world was I thinking. My bad.

  2. @ Connie,

    Humans managed to climb down from the trees, erect trillion ton structures that even today we don’t know how they built, managed to circumnavigate the globe, etc., etc., all without the marvelous gift of plastic bags.

    I think (some) humans will have the ingenuity to solve the game theory problem of: how do I get my stuff from the Wal-Mart counter to my car.

    No need to act like 21st century commerce will cease to exist because you’re inconvenienced.

  3. I “chose” plastic bags just like everyone else who didn’t have a clue of the environmental impact. And you know what? I CHOOSE to never use the stupid, inconvenient pieces of trash again. Anyone who has ever had one of the cheap things break and tumble loads of groceries to the ground can tell you plastic bags suck. I’m so happy for reusable bags. They carry much more and are easier to load and use. Connie: get a grip and try reusable bags. they’re more convenient once you’re in the habit of putting them in your car, and CHEAPER because you generally get money back for using them.

  4. I’m not *that* old and the stores didn’t have plastic bags when I was a kid – I remember when they started asking if we wanted paper or plastic. Somehow we managed without them and I’m sure people can do so again.

  5. Goog grief…why do things that will actually make the world a better place piss people off so much? They act like the world is theirs and theirs alone to trash as they see fit.

    Here’s a newsflash, CONNIE… You share this planet with billions of other people and yes, many are as ignorant as you seem to be, but your distinctly American perspective that freedom of choice means you can do whatever you want with no thought to future consequences that might affect others does not sit well with the more intelligent of our species. We LIKE clean air, water, wildlife and such.

    Since you’re so concerned with “struggling to survive” and you’re deathly afraid that not having a crappy plastic bag will somehow interfere with said survival, I’d like to reinforce what others have already said…reusable bags will SAVE you money in many cases. I have a ton of them because a lot of stores will GIVE them to you. Shall I send you a few””on my dime, of course? I promise you your “survival” will not be compromised by using them.

    Also? Please consider cutting back on the coffee.

  6. Connie, you don’t really specify the meat of your argument, instead splitting the argument into two factions: “greenies” like the article’s author and “ordinary, everyday, American people” like yourself. Why not drop the personal stuff and just say why plastic bags work for you?
    I feel like political entertainment has put people in the position of thinking we’re fighting each other. The so-called greenies want the same thing you do, essentially, for humanity to continue without destroying ourselves or our environment, for so-called ordinary Americans to continue living. I believe the Earth will survive despite our intervention, but animals, ecosystems, human beings, are not as resilient.

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