There is a crisis going on right now and you might not even know about it. The bottom line is we can only count on ourselves to fix it.
Plastic grocery bags are an ugly eyesore that presents serious environmental worries. One thing I didn’t know is that they are made with oil. In the United States, 2 million barrels of oil are used annually to make plastic bags that Americans consume. Considering the price of oil, I find that to be odd. What’s crazier is that one million plastic bags are being used every minute worldwide and between 500 billion and a trillion plastic grocery bags are consumed each year. So why not utilize reusable shopping bags made of recycled cloth or a similar biodegradable fabric? The only one to ask is yourself. For all practices and purposes, the plastic bag never goes away or at the very least will take thousands of years to break down.
Then there’s cost: Many or all stores charge 5 cents for each plastic bag your groceries are stuffed in. How about a 5 cent discount for bringing your own? Experts say it costs cities 17 cents to dispose of each plastic bag. Others explain that it costs $4,000 to process and recycle one ton of plastic bags. That ton will sell for roughly 30 dollars which, for sure, doesn’t say much financially. These needless distractions scar the landscape and are often referred to by officials as urban tumbleweed. So what’s to be done? They are a choking hazard for children and wildlife. For starters, we can say no when purchasing small items but this is not enough! Why is there so much usage in the workplace? They are all over businesses, in the office, at the cleaners, etc. Ironically, the same people that complain about litter are often the ones responsible for these flying plastic bags. Getting back to cost, a plastic bag made its way into my mother’s catalytic converter. The damage? $1800 bucks. They are dangerous, contaminating the soil, harming the environment and our savings accounts. They make ugly our streets, parks and waterways. Australia is beginning to phase them out completely as are other countries including South Africa, parts of India, China, Italy, Taiwan and Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, plastic bags were banned in 2002 after they were considered to be the major factor in blocking sewers and drains, contributing to the severe flooding that devastated the country in 1988 and 1998. Hmmm. Flooding. Sound familiar.
Those that live in the plastic state of California, who claim to be the most environmentally conscious in the United States recycle less than 5 percent of all single use plastic bags. This, the same state that estimated Americans consume 84 billion plastic bags annually. On a positive note, recently, 30 rural Alaskan villages and towns have banned plastic bags and San Francisco became the first major municipality to ban the use of plastic bags. If San Francisco can do it, why can’t Hudson?
Environmental analysts report that plastic bags and other plastic that ends up in the ocean, kill up to one million sea creatures every year and the number of marine mammals that die each year because of eating or being entangled in plastic is estimated at 100,000 in the North Pacific Ocean alone. Fact is when birds and sea animals are looking for food, they are finding plastic.
This over all topic negatively impacts our health, economy and quality of life.
In 2002, Ireland imposed a 15 cent tax on plastic bags which led to a 90 percent reduction in use. Ireland uses the tax to help fund other environmental initiatives. Plastic bags are also taxed in Whales where they have been recognized as wasteful in Society. Also, they are set to be banned in Sweden, Germany and an outright ban in Paris.
The next time you see a plastic bag hanging from a tree or bush, blame yourself because there is a crisis going on right now and you know about it. The bottom line is we can only count on ourselves to fix it.
James Francis Waddleton