Need A Bag? No Thanks.

“Paper or plastic?”  The ubiquitous question rings out in grocery and retail lines across America.  Nowadays it seems the option has existed since time immemorial, but plastic bags were only introduced commercially in 1977.  In three short decades, the plastic bag has ingrained itself in the day-to-day lives of billions of shoppers around the world who generally throw the bags into a trashcan within minutes of use.  For years, environmentalists have called for an end to the use of such bags, as they cause environmental harm, are costly to produce and toxic to dispose of.  Finally, the world community is taking note.

On May 23, 2012, Los Angeles, a city of four million people, became the largest American city to implement a phase out of plastic bags.  The announcement comes in the wake of 47 other California cities, including San Francisco and Santa Monica, announcing some degree of ban.  Malibu, just north of LA, has one of the most complete bans in the nation, outlawing plastic bags at all types of businesses, restaurants included.  California has long been viewed as a testing ground and harbinger for sustainable practices, and those who support banning plastic bags hope that LA will be the breeze that starts the dominos falling.

Americans use about 90 billion plastic bags annually.  The number sounds large, but not when compared to China’s annual use: 1 trillion 95 billion bags per year, almost three billion per day.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The Chinese government banned the use of “thin” plastic bags (<.025mm) in 2008 in an effort to reduce fuel consumption (37 million barrels of oil annually), but most consumers and sellers have flouted the ban, and rampant use continues.  Around the world, from the Philippines to Tanzania, governments are proposing and adopting bans, both in an effort to green their countries and conserve valuable economic resources.

Information and habit seem to be the principal obstacle.  People just aren’t aware of the damage, both environmental and economic, that plastic bags cause, and if they are, often don’t remember or don’t know about alternatives, namely multiple use shopping bags (which have their own environmental concerns, to be sure) The plastic industry is a powerful lobby, and in turn have the backing of the oil industry, whose products are used in all plastics.  But the international community has turned a corner, and is unlikely to backtrack.  It may take many years, or the process may gain speed as new materials and recycling methods are born, but the governments and citizens of the world are taking notice.

Here is where you come in.  Join UGE in our Summer of Sustainability and eliminate plastic bags from your life.  It isn’t hard!  When the cashier goes to put the single soda you just purchased in its own bag, just say no.  When you head to the grocery store for your next big shop, bring along reusable bags.  And if the plastic bag just can’t be avoided, at least make sure to recycle it.  Here at Urban Green Energy, we are committed to living more sustainable lives, from home to office.  Reducing plastic consumption, expanding small wind energy generation, cultivating native plants…these are just a few of the goals we strive for at UGE.  The future is in your hands.  Just make sure it isn’t plastic.


Written by Nicholas DePaul