Revolutionary Plastic Bag Bans in California May Affect US Consumer Culture

San José is the largest city in the United States to successfully ban the single use of plastic bags. The ban will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2012, but it is having a far-reaching effect on counties and cities within California. Los Angeles County, for example, will not allow shoppers single-use plastic bags when checking out their groceries. Only the meat and produce section are allowed to issue plastic bags because of the risk of contamination associated with unclean totes. By 2012, it is expected that plastic bags will be a thing of the past in pharmacies and grocery superstores throughout California. Although critics are fighting back, claiming that recycling is a better solution than bans, California as a whole appears to be leaning towards abolishing single-use plastic bags completely, a move which will likely have a domino effect throughout all the 50 states.

The Menace of Plastic Bags

Plastic Bag BanThere are some fundamentally strong reasons why California is taking plastic bags so seriously.

Here is a short list of some of the harm caused by plastic bags:

• Plastic bags are almost indestructible from the ecological perspective. While they do break down into smaller pieces, they never quite disintegrate away, leaving toxic pieces to contaminate soil and water. Eventually these plastic pieces are ingested by grazing animals and make their way into the food chain.

• Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which scientists estimate can last for more than a 1,000 years. Ethylene is a substance derived from petroleum and natural gas.

• Plastic bags litter open spaces.

• Plastic bags are known to suffocate marine life.

• Plastic bags are an unnecessary expense to taxpayers. Taxpayers not only pay to have polluted landscapes cleaned up by cherry pickers but they also pay to fix the waste disposal machinery that breaks down when plastic bags jam them.

A Difficult Battle

While cities and counties in California are increasing awareness about the menace posed by plastic bags, it is a difficult battle because manufacturers are not easily willing to give up a product for which there is an insatiable demand. Additionally, shoppers not aware of the wider implications of usage defend its convenience. However, when strong measures are taken, plastic bag usage can quickly drop. For instance, in 2002, Ireland charged plastic bag users a small fee. The result was an astonishing drop of 90% in consumption within a week. Reusable Shopping Bags suddenly become more popular!

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Tags: California, Ireland, Los Angeles County, Planet Earth Bag, Plastic Bags

Filed under:Plastic Bag Ban

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