Sunday, September 28, 2008

Plastic Bag Ban for Pasadena Considered

In a mostly unheralded decision last week, a subcommittee of Pasadena's Environmental Advisory Commission voted to recommend the complete ban of single-use plastic shopping bags for retail establishments in Pasadena.

The Waste Reduction, Transportation & Environmental Health (WRTEH) Committee held nearly 18 months of monthly hearings, including two large public hearing events with panelists from local markets and representatives of the plastic bag industry.

Among other startling factors, the Committee discovered that some 86 million one-use plastic bags are used and discarded in Pasadena alone. Of those, 81 million end up in the landfill, or as litter, every year.

At a future EAC meeting the WRTEH Committtee will recommend that the full Commission take additional public input, and then take action on a general WRTEH recommendation to outlaw single use plastic bags in Pasadena.
The WRTEH committee will leave some of the details of any Commission recommendation to be worked out by the full Commission, but is expected to recommend:

(1) a ban on single use plastic bags by all retail establishments and vendors licensed by the city;

(2) a ban on single-use paper bags with less than 40% post-consumer recycled content; and

(3) a fee, possibly $.25 per bag, on permitted paper bags.

The are a number of considerations being balanced in the recommendation. Among other things, when the entire life cycle of single-use plastic is considered and compared to that of a single use paper bag, plastic creates a worse environmental detriment. Paper, at least, bio-degrades both in the landfill and when released into the environment. Indeed, paper can be backyard composted. Moreover, recycling rates for paper are high, whereas even with the recent state-law mandating large-store recycling, only 5% of plastic bags have been recycled statewide.

Since the most sustainable practice is reusable cloth bags that are actually reused, both paper and plastic are subject to reduction efforts.


Anonymous said...

When you go to a grocery store in Germany, you have to pay minimum 25 Euro cent for a small plastic bag. 50 cent for bigger ones. This is for so many years now that I cant remember it being different. These plastic bags are so thick and of such a good quality, that you can use them for really heavy weights (like e.g. 4 bottels of wine). Most of these plastic bags are bioplastics.

And here comes the crucial point: if you ban plastic bags, you need to tell the people where they have to put their waste in. You cant switch completely to paper, how many rain forests do you want to fell to feed these paper needs? Now, if people dont have any more free plastic bags, they will start to buy them. Thats what they did in Germany. They go to Ralphs and buy a super saver 50 or 100 piece bargain pack of plastic bags and they take the cheepest, made in china. Will say, the problem isnt solved at all.

The problem will be solved (more or less), when dumping stopps. Dumping in Germany is forbidden due to environmental risks and it should be here as well (sorry for this continuing Germany thing, but I am German and I thought I offer a benchmark). If burning temperatures are high enough, waste can be burned almost free of residues.

Continuing dumping, the problem will be bettered only (well, maybe not, if you consider what IN these bags...), if there are bags offered, which are biodegradable.

Important discussion
All the best

Roger, Gone Green said...

I appreciate your comments . . . two thoughts, though:

First, here, in the US, it is a start. As it happens, any permitted paper would be required to have recycled content, in addition to having a city fee, so the thought is that between the extra cost and administration cost to the retailer, and the extra cost to the consumer, paper bags will be used less and less.

Second,the issue is not to go to zero impact on the environment but a sustainable one. I think a recommendation like this moves us strongly in that direction.

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