By now many of us are used to the concept of reusable shopping bags.
In fact, if you’re anything like my mother and I – you have one in your purse, a collection hanging near the front door and a trunk full for spontaneous grocery shopping or unexpected sales.
However, I am not naive and I recognize that not everyone has adopted this practice.
For those who have not, what would you do if plastic bags were banned in your city?
For some people, such a ban is reality. Many cities throughout North America have said no to plastic bags by formally banning them. These cities include Seattle, San Francisco and Fort McMurray, Alberta. As of this summer, Toronto joined the list becoming the first major city to ban plastic bags.
For Toronto, the ban was a complete surprise. The debate that led to this decision was focused on getting rid of the five-cent fee charged for each plastic bag. Mayor Rob Ford wanted to remove this “nickel tax” and once again give plastic bags away for free (CBC). While Ford was successful and the fee was scrapped, council then approved a motion to outright ban retailers from giving out or selling plastic shopping bags (CBC). David Shiner, part of Ford’s executive team, said the motion was derived from the debates of his colleagues, the emails that were coming in and the fact that many other jurisdictions have made a similar move forward because there are so many alternative available. The intent of his motion is to say, ‘You have to do better’ (CBC).
The ban is official as of January 1, 2013.
Though Metro Vancouver does not have a ban, I challenge you to make this a New Year’s resolution. If you do not think you can ban the use of plastic bags completely (we all forget our reusable every now and then) then at least make an effort to drastically reduce the number you use. Since it is holiday shopping season – why not start early?
Consider the facts:
Single-use bags, both paper and plastic, represent a significant threat to the environment. This threat stems from the sheer volume of these bags in the landfill, the resources necessary to produce and transport them, and the emissions resulting from such processes (Envirosax). Additionally, plastic bags are so light that they are easily caught on the wind and carried into trees in our parks. Consequently, plastic bags can cause interference in ecosystems and have detrimental impacts during floods when they clog city drains and pipes (Envirosax).
- Approximately 380 billion plastic bags are used in the US each year. That’s more than 1,200 bags per US resident, per year (Envirosax)
- Approximately 12 million barrels of oil is necessary to make these plastic bags (Envirosax)
- Even when they photo-degrade in landfill, the plastic from single-use bags never goes away, and toxic particles can enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals (Envirosax)
- Plastic bags are often mistakenly ingested by animals, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. Other animals or birds become entangled in plastic bags and drown or can’t fly as a result. Thousands of marine animals and more than 1 millions birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution. Greenpeace says that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from getting entangled in or ingesting marine debris. Nearly 90% of that debris is plastic (Envirosax)
- The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that there are 46,000 piece of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean (Envirosax)
- Less than one per cent of all plastic bags are recycled because recycling costs are much higher than the recovered plastic is worth (City of Red Deer)
This is the perfect time of year to make this change. Get everyone in your family on board by stuffing a reusable bag in their stockings! You can get some that come in a little pouch so as to be easily tucked in a purse or the front of a car. This is definitely this week’s hot gift.