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Ban on Plastic Bags, Rise of the Resuable

June 3, 2010

On Wednesday June 2, California Assembly moved to ban the use of plastic bags across all grocery stores and pharmacies, according to a story by Associated Press. This ban is the first of it’s kind in the United States. However, United States is not the first to ban plastic bags; countries that have already banned plastic bags include Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Taiwan. Mexico City and Mumbai, India are two of the recent cities who have also banned plastic bags.

The goal of the ban is to get rid of unsightly plastic bags that end up in urban rivers and ocean and to reduce the amount of plastic bags heading for landfills. The ban still needs to be approved by the state Senate, but has enormous support from the local community; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the bill as “a great victory for our environment.”

The bill does have consequences, about 500 jobs in plastic manufacturing business will be lost and the state could lose close to $1 billion in taxes. What people tend to overlook, is the fact that these jobs are not being lost but replaced by growth in jobs in the reusable and biodegradable bag industries. It might hurt the government and the businesses at first, but most of these industries can change to produce a more sustainable and profitable product.

The movement to ban plastic bags is gaining momentum throughout the globe and is causing people to invest in reusable bags. These bags are made from numerous material, ranging from hemp to cotton and are able to carry much heavier loads than the average plastic bag. The worse thing that can happen from using a reusable bag for grocery is food poisoning. A study found that 40 percent of the bags they swab tested had elevated levels of bacteria; the cause for such contamination is that people tend to use these bags for multiple applications (such as storing gym clothes) and then forget to clean these bags. People are just not used to the concept of throwing their shopping accessory in with their laundry, i guess. Other than this simple avoidable set back, the pros of using reusable bags and their impact on the environment far outweighs the cons.

Columbia Missouri artist Lauralee Sparling said it is hard to break the plastic bag habit and to move to reusable bag. She and her husband Tim Sparling have started a small business called Smart Bags where they make and design their own reusable bags and sell them at the Peace Nook. She addressed the problem of people not cleaning their bags, saying that if people keep multiple set of bags they can throw one in the washer and use the other set. “It’s like bedsheets. You keep an extra pair that you can use when you throw the other in the washer.”

Sparling said she takes her bags everywhere, from the library to the beach. They are studier, can carry more grocery, have multiple uses and can be personalized. Sparling said that their business works with numerous artist to create unique series of these bags. She believes if the bag reflects the owner personality it makes it easier for them to get into the habit of carrying them around everywhere.

There are numerous places in Columbia, Missouri where you can find such bags. The major grocery stores at Columbia (Schnucks, Walmart, Hyvee etc.) all sell brand name bags for as low as a dollar.

For someone who wants a bag with little more flair, they can find them at the Root Cellar and the Peace Nook, where local artists hand-make and custom design reusable bags for sale.

A custom made bag at Peace Nook by local Columbia, Mo. artist — photo by Adnan S. Khan

These bags range in price from $5 to $15, quite a bit of money for a grocery bag considering you can get a plastic one for free. On the bright side, the resuable bag wil come in handy for numerous years and there is less chance that it will accidentally fly out of your trash and strangle a poor baby duck.

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2 Comments leave one →
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