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A Lesson From Ireland

by: Konagod

We occasionally have our own little sturggle in this house over plastic shopping bags. We have LOTS of them. Too many in fact. And I do recycle them, but many people do not. Just take a look around your cities, along your roadsides and particularly along the creeks, streams and rivers. It's a mess.

Both of us agree that supermarkets rely too heavily on plastic bags. We are always annoyed when the people bagging our groceries often insist on putting one tomato in a separate plastic bag, or when they instinctively attempt to put a 6-pack of beer (which has a carrying handle!) into a double bag.

I do like to use our durable cloth bag which was free from Central Market during a promotion a year or so ago. And we also have another cloth mesh bag which works well except for small items -- jalapeños could slip out.

Still, I have a very bad ungreen habit of using plastic grocery bags with my rationale being that they come in handy for kitty litter disposal. And that is also flawed because they still go to the landfill. I really should find an alternative and go 100% bag free. So should the United States. Many people in Ireland are doing it.

In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.

“When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me,” said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red backpack.

It will take a big nationwide effort to accomplish a similar feat in the United States, but we can do it. It can't be a haphazard mishmash of rules, taxes, or appeals for voluntary compliance. We need a unified plan to eliminate this unnecessary blight, and soon.
In January almost 42 billion plastic bags were used worldwide, according to; the figure increases by more than half a million bags every minute. A vast majority are not reused, ending up as waste — in landfills or as litter.

Within a year or two we could look back at our excessive usage of plastic bags and wonder what the hell were we thinking and what took us so long to change. But change is going to require aggressive action against those who manufacture them, as well as from retailers who have the insanely misguided opinion that the bags are necessary.
Efforts to tax plastic bags have failed in many places because of heated opposition from manufacturers as well as from merchants, who have said a tax would be bad for business. In Britain, Los Angeles and San Francisco, proposed taxes failed to gain political approval, though San Francisco passed a ban last year.

This is bullshit because what are people going to do, stop buying groceries? If a tax or an outright ban on plastic bags is implemented across the board, there is then no alternative for shoppers. I would not have the option of taking my business to another store. And this is not a big adjustment to make in the grand scheme of things.

We save plastic bags in a kitchen drawer and every 3 months or so I have to clean it out and drop off a load at the recycling bin. As you can see, I'm overdue for a run right now.

We represent one house in a nation of 300 million people. Do the math. It's a lot of wasted plastic.

Crossposted from konagod


holy shit kona! when i read about banning of plastic bags one of the first things i think about is "what will i do when i walk the dog?" plastic grocery bags are an essential part of responsible dog ownership.
by: Minstrel Boy (contact) - 02 Feb '08 - 11:29
True 'nuff, Menstral Boy. What an easy way to cut the waste!

Man, if it wasn't for that damned whiskey, we'd rule the planet!
by: trog69 (contact) - 02 Feb '08 - 13:57
I, too, use the plastic bags for kitty clumps. With five cats, I go through a lot of bags. I 'm not sure what I'd put the kitty waste in if we stopped using the plastic bags. Something to think about. Perhaps a quart plastic box could be kept near the boxes to use. Dump contents into the trash bin, but, what a stink that would create during the summer months. Good on you to send the extras to recycle. If I do decide to use something else for the daily collection, I'll drop off my extras to recycle, too. sup
by: oldwhitelady (contact) - 02 Feb '08 - 17:51
Sometimes outfits like Goodwill Industries will take your plastic bags to use for their own customers.
by: Peter of Lone Tree (contact) - 02 Feb '08 - 18:54
Well said Peter, even though the blackdog goes out on the Grand Prairie.
by: blackdog (contact) - 02 Feb '08 - 19:51
I made a 'bag organizer'...basically a tube of fabric with elastic on the top and bottom and a loop for to hang on the wall. That's where my plastic bags live until I need to use one for the cat boxes...and until the number of plastic bags grows so large it's time to make a recycling run to my pet health food store.
Matches my kitchen curtains, and looks pretty good...right up until it's time to make the Recycle Run. ing7
Think I'm becoming obsessive about recycling plastic Rx medicine bottles go to the vet.
He says it helps him keep expenses down. sup
by: tali (contact) - 03 Feb '08 - 03:43
" plastic Rx medicine bottles go to the vet." -- tali
If they're large enough, the bottles are also useful for storing "strike anywhere" stick matches.
by: Peter of Lone Tree (contact) - 03 Feb '08 - 08:35
Since we're doing household hints, here's one for those excess plastic bags: Take as many as you have toddlers to buy birthday gifts for, and fill them each with as much dry cleaning plastic wrap as practical. (Saran Wrap also works in a pinch.) When you hand out these "Anti-Infinks Inhalation sets", you know the parents of those howling little monsters will be forever grateful for the peace and quiet they'll enjoy! The kiddies of course, will be just tickled pink(and blue)!
by: trog69 (contact) - 03 Feb '08 - 10:29
I don't know how many of you read Art for Housewives, but here's a link to a great page with tons of links for crafty projects using plastic bags and plastic bottles. You can beautify the planet with trash. Who knew?

by: blondesense (contact) - 03 Feb '08 - 11:01
I have read that plastic bags are recycled into composite lumber -- that tough shit that lasts forever. The only reason I would never donate my bags to Goodwill or anyone else who would redistribute them to the public is that I really prefer having more control over where my waste goes. At least I know I'm going to recycle mine and I can't speak for the Goodwill customers or anyone else who might simply toss them in the trash.

I can't validate this but I read a statistic that said about 1% of the plastic bags are recycled. If true, that's really pathetic.
by: Konagod (contact) - 03 Feb '08 - 11:04
And I forgot to mention this link

You can fuse your plastic bags together to make fabulous tote bags. Think of possibilities of using fused plastic!

You can also cut the bags into strips and knit or crochet them.
by: blondesense (contact) - 03 Feb '08 - 11:04
I save some of the larger bottles for me own use...great for storing seeds that I harvested from some of my garden plants, smaller nails and screws (that otherwise end up all jumbled together in the bottom of the toolbox), pins and other sharps.

I'm growing malva sylvestris among the roses, and a small number of the plants have a blue flower- I save the seeds from them. Slightly larger number have the usual maroon flower, but with a larger bloom and a greater petal count. I saved those too.
Malva is related to the hollyhock, but is a perennial...and can be invasive...but it's really pretty, and has a loooooong bloom season, so whatcha gonna do... confused

Liz, sup
Think I've seen stuff in some of the gardening magazines where they charge real money for stuff made from recycled plastic bags... braided deck rugs, I think they were...and the selling point was that they were made from plastic bags.
by: tali (contact) - 03 Feb '08 - 14:37
That's a great idea that Ireland implemented. (I'm lucky to live in a community with curb-side recycling pick-ups.)

I wonder how many trees will be slaughtered for political snail mail slams and spams this year?

I do get tired of bringing that crap from the mail box up to the house, and then having to haul it back down to the end of the drive-way for recycling on trash day. Grr.
by: Foiled Goil (contact) - 03 Feb '08 - 23:54
You can also mince them up fine, and use it to thicken cream soups.
by: trog69 (contact) - 04 Feb '08 - 14:23

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Title: A Lesson From Ireland
Date posted: 02 Feb '08 - 10:49
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Filed under: Environment
I Like This: 6 (vote)
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