Here are a few plastic bag reduction strategies from around the world, taken from the information sheet that we made available at last week’s meeting:
Each year, 12 million barrels of oil are needed to produce the 100 billion plastic bags Americans consume annually. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down. According to Worldwatch, tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals, and turtles die every year from contact with plastic bags. Many cities, countries and organizations have begun to develop strategies to limit or eliminate plastic bag use. Here are some of them:
- Ireland in March of 2002, introduced a plastic bag tax, or PlasTax. Consumers are charged approximately 20 cents per bag. The tax has resulted in a 90% drop in consumption, or approximately 1 billion fewer bags consumed annually. Litter has been dramatically reduced. The tax raised approximately $9.6 million the first year, which went to a fund to benefit the environment.
- Switzerland has shops that charge 15 or 20 cents for plastic bags, but most Swiss shoppers bring their own reusable bags.
- Bangladesh initiated a ban on plastic bags in 2002, after they were found to cut off drainage systems and played a pivotal role in the 1988 and 1998 floods. The plastic ban is leading to a revival of the jute bag industry and other sustainable and biodegradable alternatives. Jute grows abundantly in Bangladesh and requires a lot less energy for processing than plastic.
- Australia will phase out plastic bags by the end of 2008.
- Alaska has 30 rural communities that have banned plastic bags.
- Whole Foods Market is phasing out single-use plastic grocery bags at its stores nationwide to be completed by Earth Day on April 22 this year. They will sell canvas bags and a new reusable plastic sack made from recycled water bottles for 99 cents. The stores will continue to offer paper bags made with recycled paper free of charge.