By Fredrica Syren:
Wow, what an election it was! And I for one am happy that something positive did come out of all this: California voted yes on Proposition 67 to ban single use plastic bags. So what does this exactly mean, and how will this affect the consumers?
Proposition 67 forces California stores to charge 10 cents per bag that they provide for shoppers. Today, single use bags add up to about 15 billion single use plastic bags annually. Very few of these bags are recycled, so this new bill eventually will reduce (from the billions) the number of plastic bags ending up in landfills or worse — on a beach, in a park or in the ocean — each year. Proposition 67 does not affect single use plastic bags for meat, bread, produce, bulk food or perishable items.
The main argument against Proposition 67 is that plastic can be recycled anyway. However, that is not completely true. Although most plastic is said to be recyclable, the truth is that most of it is downcycled, a process of converting waste materials or useless products (such as plastic) into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality.
In the U.S., there has been a huge anti-plastic movement. A trend spreading throughout the country, banning plastic as policy is being adopting by cities more and more. For example, Los Angeles began 2014 with a ban on the distribution of plastic bags at checkout counters of big retailers. More and more cities and countries — including large cities like New York, Portland, San Francisco and Chicago as well as England, Mexico, India, Burma and Bangladesh — are making an effort to deal with the plastic bag problem.
The effects of plastic on the environment and wildlife are well documented: chemicals leaking into water and soil, and wildlife ingesting plastic or getting tangled up and dying as a result. The problem with plastic bags is that they have a relatively short life span. They are designed for short-term use, and they almost never get recycled. Plastic bags clog our landfills, and research shows that, because plastic bags are made from polyethylene, a petroleum-derived polymer that microorganisms do not consume, the bags may never fully decompose and will therefore stay in landfills forever. It’s estimated that, every day, 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide and then thrown into the trash.