Posted on March 4, 2011 - by

A Plastic State of Mind: Ban the Bag


Image: 30gms

One day, retailers across China awoke to discover that the government had banned giving away plastic bags for free. From June 2008 on, consumers would be required to pay explicitly for plastic bags, and the cost had to be clearly marked and could not be hidden in the price of the goods.

The production, sale and use of ultrathin plastic bags (less than 0.025 mm thick) was banned outright. Consumers were urged to use shopping baskets and reusable cloth bags instead.

Can you imagine what life would be like if plastic bags were banned in the U.S.?

We lack the sweeping legislative power of a centralized government, but San Francisco has long had a ban on plastic bags, and a congressional battle is underway in Oregon for the state to become the first to ban plastic bags. Shoppers would then be required to bring their own bags, or pay a nickel for a paper bag. But it is not obvious that paper bags are any more environmentally friendly than plastic bags—they require 4x the energy of plastic bags to produce and in a covered landfill, they do not degrade substantially faster than a plastic bag (Reuse It). On the other hand, the push for paper bags can be seen as a move to support Oregon’s timber industry.

The real solution is reusable bags. Bringing your own bag guarantees that you will not be adding to waste streams in the near future, is cost-effective and can be stylish to boot. Color-coordinating shopping totes with vegetable color, anyone?

Finally, I recently came across a music video titled “Plastic State of Mind,” a parody of Jay-Z’s “New York State of Mind.” With the smooth rhymes and hip aplomb of the original, director Ben Zolno explains exactly why we should ban single-use plastic bags.

Plastic State of Mind / Ben Zolno

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