I grew up believing the nonsensical was reserved for fairy tales and Lewis Carol books. That when something did not make any sense, it merely would not occur in the real world.
Well something nonsensical landed on the desks of the Senate and was just approved. It was a bill which approved banning local plastic bag restrictions. At first glance this IndyStar article sounded great. Read again.
The bill bans government from:
- Taxing plastic bags
- Restricting retailers’ use of plastic bags
What the bill being passed means:
- It did not change any existing policies- shoppers can still use plastic bags to their hearts content.
- It’s worthy to note: It did not stop retailers from choosing to ban plastic bags if they want to. Stores can still make their own decisions about banning plastics.
But will they?
It did nothing to encourage local businesses or consumers to stop plastic bag use. Of course, it protects plastic manufacturers and retailers from the burden of making changes. I don’t mean for any business to go under, more so, cannot these businesses make some changes to pollute less? There are green alternatives out there to the normal plastics being used. Why not start making those changes?
If the bill had NOT passed:
- A bill could have eventually moved into place, similar to bills in CA banning plastic shopping bags from being used.
- A bill could have eventually been moved into place, taxing plastic bags or offering incentives and/or discounts to those that use reusable bags.
Namely if the bill had NOT passed we in IN could be on our way to reducing a TON of plastic bag waste, or taxing the use of the little plastic monsters to discourage usage.
Did you know?
- ” Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled (BBC).
- The average American family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year (Natural Resources Defense Council).” 
The Social Media Feeds and the Ban News
One commentary was that plastic is cheaper than paper bags. Yes, that is why retailers use them.
Cheap does not equal better. I’m not sure why we are so proud of cheaply made items in America? I like a good deal like anyone else, but typically quality lasts longer and wastes less.
One comment was that grocery prices would go up. My logic: If people purchased their own reusable bags (from the store) the store would profit off those bag sales. If the store profits they would not have to raise prices on anything. The store would make money initially off reusable bag sales.
Let’s look at a statistic for CA law banning plastic bag use:
“If the contested legislation takes effect, retailers that operate in cities not already covered by local bag bans will save $150 million annually on the plastic grocery bags they no longer need to purchase and distribute to customers for free, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data shows.”
Those bags being provide for free to us are actually costing the retailer money. I’m sure the cost is affects the consumer somehow (nothing is free), but still we aren’t charged so the retailer is absorbing the costs somewhere. So if they no longer had to purchase plastic bags they would save money.
Why would the IN Senate ban future bills from being passed that WOULD be good for the environment? Worse case scenario if people throw an uproar over a complete ban. I guarantee if there were a tax or fee for bag usage, people would scramble to purchase a few reusable canvas totes of their own.
Yes, people would complain at first, people always complain. Personally, I have a “greater good” take, but I’m not naive to think others need to share that same mentality. The great thing about people is… they are adaptable!
Other statements were Big Brother-ish in nature and how the government should not be making decisions for businesses. This sounds like white noise to me. Our government is supposed to enforce laws and rules for the common good.
I also noticed people stating a “Be the change you wish to see in the world” mentality. Namely, if the government doesn’t force it– we should be doing it ourselves anyway. This is true, we are adults and we are responsible for our own actions. We should not be littering, we should be recycling, and we should be using reusable resources.
I am not perfect. I am a Semi-Super Mommy, remember? I forget my reusable bags sometimes. You can recycle the plastic bags at kiosks at the entrance of grocery stores or you can reuse them at least once as trash can liner. Donate to a local daycare for kids “blowout” clothing to be sent home in.
But WHY do NOTHING to discourage the use Indiana?
Since this blog is about DOING something, I present to you my new social media campaign. #LessPlasticIndy
Submit pics of your reusable grocery bags with this hashtag. I will post on social media a few times a month on this topic.
To purchase reusable bags: Go to the Genbumom Amazon store ‘Reusable Grocery’ section. Or better yet, to reduce packing and shipping waste, pick up a few bags at your local grocery or health foods stores.
I want to be proud of living in Indiana. We should be a step ahead, not behind on our environmental and sustainability views.
Below is what is going on in California and some SCARY FACTS about those pesky plastic bags.
California Leading the Way
In November of 2014 the SB270 law banned the use of plastic by retailers in CA.Many areas in California already locally banned the use of plastic bags.
“Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out of checkout counters at large grocery stores and supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Target starting next summer, and convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers.
It allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.” 
The law was slated to take affect July 2015 but it’s been put on hold.
In a nutshell,
Legislation in California is still in a tricky interim period and outside interest groups (bag manufacturers and their suppliers) hotly debate the environmental groups data on how much negative impact plastic bags cause to the environment.
“Bag makers are promoting the Environmental Fee Protection Act in this business-versus-business fight to make Californians’ heads spin and perhaps entice grocers to spend money fighting the measure rather than opposing the referendum — not to help the environment, experts say.” 
They have spent more than $3 million gathering signatures to oppose the new law. Throwing money at their own interests and negating the impacts that plastics have in our environment.
The Bag Industry Argues
One argument is that plastics do not take as long to biodegrade in the ocean as sunlight speeds its decomposition rate. A 2009 study by Nihon University in Japan found it can take just under 1 year for a plastic bag in warm water exposed to sunlight to “photo degrade.”
However, this study does not take into account the toxicity released into local marine life and the long term effects on the food chain.
Plastic bags are typically made of polyethylene. In sunlight, “polyethylene’s polymer chains become brittle and crack, eventually turning what was a plastic bag into microscopic synthetic granules. Scientists aren’t sure whether these granules ever decompose fully…” 
If claims are made that consumers will recycle their plastic bags, the statistics are staggeringly low. I’ve read as low as 1% of bags get recycled and as high as 4%- not good numbers.
So, the bags may photo-degrade fairly “quickly” in sunlight and warm water…
“This doesn’t sound so bad until you realize those small bits of plastic are toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer. These end up in the guts of animals or wash up on shorelines, where humans are most likely to come into direct contact with the toxins.” 
Also, these are ocean degradation rates. The rates in a landfill are approximated by different sources between 10-100 years. This also depends on several factors in the landfill itself. It could be longer.
- “Scientists estimate that every square mile of ocean contains approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it (United Nations Environment Programme).
- A single plastic bag can take up 500 years or more to degrade (Measuring biodegradability, ScienceLearn.org).” 
Paper degrades typically within a month and can be composted, so opt for paper bags and compost them when you can.
Better yet, purchase sturdy canvas reusable bags. I have some listed on the Genbumom Amazon store.
Even better, save the waste generated by having items shipped to you and go to your local health food or grocery store and buy their reusable bags.
Some green manufacturers are producing bags that are compostable, they appear like their plastic polyethylene’s counterparts but are made from recycled materials and are supposedly biodegradable. I’ll save that research for another day.
I’ve posted about guilt before as the perfect tool for changing our habits. If you FEEL GUILTY using plastic bags, STOP using them. You feel guilty with good reason! Let that guilt transcend into something new… Action.
It’s a very simple change.
- Calefati, Jessica. Next California plastic bag initiative is tricky strategy by out of state interests. November 2, 2015. www.mercurynews.com
- Nirappil, Fenit. California becomes first to ban single use plastic bags. November 30, 2014. www.huffingtonpost.com
- Harris, William. Accessed February 23, 2016. How Long does it Take Plastics to Degrade? science.howstuffworks.com
- Do Plastic Bags Ever Decompose? by Earth Talk. Accessed February 23, 2016. www.indyweek.com
- Facts about the Plastic Bag Pandemic. www.reuseit.com