Have you heard about being studied by Mountain View?
The ordinance would ban single-use carryout bags and (potentially) charge for paper bags at all retail stores in Mountain View, excluding restaurants, charitable non-profit thrift organizations, and protective bags for produce, meat and prescriptions.
Like me, when you think plastic bag use you probably think grocery shopping, but the scope of this ordinance would be wider. It would involve all retail stores. Hmmm. It’s hard to imagine Kohl’s and Target without their bags.
However, I have no trouble imaging the harm plastic causes the environment. Plain and simple, using plastic causes problems.
Here are some facts:
Between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used yearly worldwide. (I can’t even fathom these numbers. Can you?) It’s estimated that Californians use 12 billion plastic bags a year. Less than 5 percent of those bags get recycled.
A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Our oceans and landfills are clogged with plastic debris. Use-and-toss bags often end up in trees and rivers choking wildlife.
So this writer asks, why don’t we already have a ban? San Jose and San Francisco are on this band (banned) wagon. Even Los Angeles has adopted it. What are we waiting for? C’mon, Mountain View, step up. Ban single-use plastic bags. Help protect our environment.
But that’s just my opinion. There are others – advocates and critics alike convinced their stance is the right one. The jury may still be out on what will be most effective for the future.
Some critics believe a ban would be more of a Band-Aid than a solution—trading one set of problems for another without any significant environmental solution because paper bags are equally offensive and problematic.
Manufacturing paper bags effects forests, causes air and water pollution (acid rain) and uses more energy to produce a final product. Have you ever been near a paper mill? The stench is unforgettable. Paper is denser and isn’t completely degradable either—landfills are full of paper.
From where I sit, the real issue isn’t about a choice between paper or plastic, it’s about how we can least impact our environment. Simply banning plastic bags isn’t enough. Many, myself included, believe we need to change our cultural attitudes. We need to care—care about protecting the environment and living greener—and act responsibly.
Reusable totes are a good start. Some, like Chico Bags, are small enough to tuck inside your pocket or your purse—even a small one. And they come in fun colors.
Yes, totes need to be washed occasionally and that involves energy use, but despite concerns about germs, they don’t need to be washed after every use. If something spills inside one of my bags, I rinse it and wipe it clean. I don’t wash my purse every time I use it and it comes in contact with a world of unseen germs every day.
Totes are a little less convenient. I have to remember to bring it with me— BYOB. (I remember when those letters held an entirely different meaning for me.) Sometimes I forget and have to go back to the car to get it, but hey, the extra walking can’t hurt.
I keep three or four bags in my car all the time. One has a local school logo, another a Safeway logo. That doesn’t stop me from using it at another grocery store—no embarrassment for this shopper. In fact, I say it’s good luck for the “other” store. I’m guessing they’re pleased they carry what I’m looking—I’m there, I’m not in Safeway. (Hmmm. Maybe that’s an idea for a new ad.)
What about the myth that plastic bags are free—I don’t want to have to pay for a paper bag, (with this ordinance stores can charge a fee if a customer elects to use a paper bag instead.) Folks, nothing is free. A store might not charge me outright for a plastic bag, but somewhere along the way the cost is reflected in their item pricing, and I’m paying for it.
Looking back, plastic bags have only been around for about 50 years. Before that shoppers used paper bags, but go back further – people grew their own food, they hunted and gathered and used whatever was at hand – a basket, a crate, a flour sack or a bottle. When paper and then plastic entered the picture we called it progress. It was certainly more convenient.
But such inexpensive convenience may have paved a difficult road, especially from an environmental point of view.
Plastic bags are not recycled effectively—yet. I can’t help thinking that banning plastic should open the door to the opportunity to develop improved, more biodegradable bags.
I reuse plastic bags all the time, and I’ll miss being able to easily replenish my supply if the ban goes into effect. But if it turns out to be the best solution environmentally, I’m on board.
Still not convinced? How about this final fact for considering switching to a reusable bag: over a lifetime, the use of reusable bags by just one person would save over 22,000 plastic bags.
Get informed. Listen to what others have to say about this issue. Don't miss your chance to speak up about it – pro or con. Attend the open session on the subject for residents and retailers: