The Wise Demise of Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are beginning to give way to the use of reusable bags.

| June/July 2007

  • Canvas Tote Bag
    It can be fun and easy to ditch plastic grocery bags in favor of reusable canvas bags. It's an easy way to make a positive difference for the environment.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS

  • Canvas Tote Bag

It’s not unusual for consumers to reconsider a familiar product and wonder “Was this a bad idea?” Hazardous products may face a recall, declining sales, or in some cases, an outright ban. It's happened to a wide range of consumer products including dangerous toys and medications with harmful side effects. Environmentally damaging products that have been phased out include leaded gasoline, many pesticides and ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

In recent months, several initiatives have banned some familiar, but wasteful, products because there are now greener options available. Here's a rundown of which products are being banned and the better options that are replacing them.

Plastic Grocery Bags

Where: San Francisco and Leaf Rapids, Canada, recently banned plastic grocery bags made from petroleum.

Why: The bags are hard to recycle, they're made from petroleum, and on the coast they often blow into the water, where they're an eyesore, and hazardous to marine life if ingested.

Complications: San Francisco hopes stores will stock biodegradable plastic bags, but they are more expensive than petroleum-based plastic (6 to 10 cents each, instead of 1 cent each). Paper bags may not be an eco-friendly alternative. They consume forest resources (if not made from recycled paper) and making them creates pollution.

Best Alternatives: There’s a clear consensus on this issue: Reusable bags are the best. Consider using a whole set of canvas bags for your grocery shopping.

6/5/2007 1:54:39 PM

You say: "San Francisco hopes stores will stock biodegradable plastic bags, but they are more expensive than petroleum-based plastic (6 to 10 cents each, instead of 1 cent each). Where did you get this information? It is FALSE. I understand from a local company here that the cost is 7-15% more NOT 6 to 10 TIMES more as you state Please advise.

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