71 posts categorized "General Interest"

April 01, 2011

Hawaii-sized Recycled Island to be Built from Ocean Garbage Patch

Mother Nature Network 4.1.11

PatchDutch architect Ramon Knoester has an ambitious design that will turn the 7 billion pounds of plastic trash swirling in the Pacific Ocean into the world's most eco-friendly society. That's right. He wants to create a 100 percent sustainable floating island for interested inhabitants. The island made from collected debris will bob somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. And although the idea may seem unthinkable, Koester's firm, WHIM architecture, is already in the process of designing a prototype for the fittingly named "Recycled Island," reports Discovery News.

Check out the project's website for more information about Recycled Island, or learn about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch here

Click here to read the full article.

Image: Ingrid Taylar/ Flickr

March 30, 2011

Turtle Found that Pooped Plastic for a Month

Mother Nature Network 3.30.11

Main_turtle_16 One of the more disturbing effects of our over-indulgence and reliance on use-and-toss disposables rests in the significant health risks it poses to animals via marine pollution. Of the issues being discussed this week at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, one report that has experts talking is the appalling story of a sea turtle that ingested a large piece of plastic that became lodged in its gastrointestinal tract, preventing the turtle from normal digestion. After researchers dislodged the shard of plastic, the animal proceeded to defecate 74 foreign objects over the next month!

According to the report, which was issued by Seaturtle.org's Marine Turtle Newsletter (pdf), about half of all surveyed sea turtles have ingested plastic. 

See what shocking items this turtle ingested by reading the full article here. To access advice and follow conference events, visit the group's website here.
Image: Mnn.com

Some Grocers Abandon Rebates for Reusable Bags

USA Today 3.25.11

20110316__USGroceryPushingReusables~1_VIEWER Grocery store chains including Kroger and Safeway are beginning to move away from the pennies-per-bag rebates they once supplied, saying they don't do enough to prevent customers from forgetting reusables in their cars or at home. In order to avoid plastic-bag bans and taxes, which could potentially cost supermarkets or their customers more money, many chains opted for rebates (credits), but they didn't produce the results owners hoped for.

Company officials said customer feedback indicates most want to use reusable bags, but it’s a matter of making it a habit. Kroger is utilizing plastic bag recycling containers and sprinkling parking lots with signs asking, "Are your reusable bags still in the car?" Kroger also holds bag design contests and giveaways and sends shoppers coupons for reusable bags.

Read about our stance on the downsides of cheap reusables here.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: USA Today

Plastic: Too Good to Throw Away

New York Times 3.23.11

18opedimg-popup Persistently avoiding plastic may seem key to combating over-consumption and the production of plastic-based materials, but, in reality, the issue is far more complex. In a recent Op-Ed piece, Susan Freinkel, a New York Times contributor and author of the forthcoming book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, dispels the common misconception that suggests shunning plastic and settling for bag bans and fees will drastically alter the ethos of our culture.

Instead, Freinkel advocates for shifting the public perception of plastic as cheap and worthless to durable and profitable by eliminating its presence in disposables.

 Check out our "I'm not a . . ." or "Thank you" series, which offer affordable, sustainable alternatives to use-and-toss disposables like plastic bottles and bags.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: www.nytimes.com

March 22, 2011

Japan's Wind Turbines Provide Power After Disaster

Treehugger.com 3.18.11

20110318-japan-wind-turbine Since last week, the scale of destruction caused by the Japanese trifecta disaster of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear power plant crisis, and the unfortunate casualties, has captivated individuals worldwide. As Japan struggles to recooperate, they're relying on a familiar, green power source.

Japan's wind turbines are currently producing 175 MW of Japan's approximate total wind capacity of 275 MW, according to the Huffington Post as reported by Kelly Rigg. Operators are being asked to increase operations where possible to assist with electricity shortfalls, and while shares in the Tokyo stock market have fallen during the crisis, the stock price of Japan Wind Development Co. Ltd. has risen from 31,500 yen on 11 March to 47,800 yen on 16 March, according to the Huffington Post.

To read the full article, click here

Image: Treehugger.com

 

January 13, 2011

Italy bans the bag in 2011

Treehugger.com 1.3.11

Italy-Ban-Plastic-Bags Earlier this month Italy took a dramatic step to reduce its consumption of single- use, non-biodegradable plastic bags – use of such bags is now banned as of New Year’s Day. According to several reports, Italy was one of Europe’s top plastic bag consumers – using about 1/5th of the 100 billion bags used annually across Europe.  

Despite opposition from some retailers who argue that biodegradable bags are too expensive and not as durable, similar bans in other countries have proven successful. According to Treehugger, China’s bag ban has kept 100 billion bags out of the landfill since its inception two years ago.

Bag fees have also proved successful over the years – from Washington DC’s recent 5 cent fee to Ireland’s PlasTax back in 2002.

While we applaud Italy’s effort to curb wasteful consumption of plastic shopping bags, we continue to advocate plastic bag fees and taxes over bans for the following reasons:

  1. Fees are market-based solutions that get people to change their consumption habits – and with a nudge not a shove. Even small, 5-cent fees make a huge impact.
  2. Fees are practical for the consumer.
  3. There is evidence that fees can be adopted in the U.S., and they work! We have an example of a major city (D.C.) reducing consumption of use-and-toss bags by 80% with a small fee.
  4. The money collected from fees can go directly toward addressing the problem.
  5. If you don’t like the idea of your money going to fatten government coffers, no problem. Bring your own bag, and they don’t get a dime.

Read more about our stance on fees vs bans here.

Read the full Treehugger article here.

Image: Guardian

December 07, 2010

BPA exposure may lead to pregnancy difficulties

Mouse-science-diabetes Discovery 12.2.10

A study published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives focuses on the affect endocrine-disrupting chemical(and popular water bottle/receipt additive) Bisphenol-A has on the reproductive abilities of mammals over the course of their lifetime. While the study focused on mice, researchers believe the results may lead to further concern for humans in contact with the ubiquitous substance.

The study involved allowing a selection of female mice to become pregnant. At that point, the pregnant mice were separated and given BPA-containing solutions. The concentration of BPA in these solutions ranged from miniscule amounts to a mouse-sized version of the human dose. A control group was given none.

These different groups of mice were then allowed to continue breeding throughout their lifespan to see how the amount of BPA would affect their ability to breed.

Within four months, litters of those given the BPA solution had shrank by 25%, and the frequency of pregnancies was also notably lower.

Read more about it at Discovery.

November 19, 2010

Another good reason to wash your hands...

Serving-hands Science News 12.4.10

French scientists recently published three alarming new studies on how Bisphenol-A enters the human body.

Their research supports the idea that BPA can pass through the skin with relative ease. One study focused on about 400 pregnant Cincinnati residents, and found that those with the highest levels of BPA worked as cashiers. Cashiers handle receipts, and many receipts that do not use ink to print contain BPA.

In order to confirm this, the researchers took several live skin samples from pig and human subjects, and then brushed the dry skin samples with varying amounts of BPA. Three days later, more than half of the endocrine-disrupting chemical had been absorbed.

Read more on the study at Science News.

TED talk: Are mushrooms the new plastic?

TED.com 10.4.10

In July, Eben Bayer gave a speech at an Oxford TED conference detailing how his company turns agricultural waste into truly biodegradable packing material. How biodegradable? It's literally grown from a fungus.

Polystyrene (or styrofoam, as many know it) is commonly used to pack delicate hardware and breakables for shipping; When it degrades in nature, it releases carcinogens. If adopted for widespread use, Bayer's packing material could reduce the production and disposal of polystyrene immensely.

 

November 18, 2010

ACC Helps Block BPA Legislation

 New York Times  11.17.10         

Just yesterday, the American Chemistry Council successfully mobilized Republicans to block a pending food safety bill attempting to limit the use of BPA in baby bottles and dinking cups.

The bill would allow a six-month grace period for baby item manufacturers to cease use of the endocrine-disrupting chemical.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, expressed consternation, positing that the ACC’s choice to block the bill placed potential monetary gain over the health of our nations infants.

Read the whole article at The New York Times.

Spreading the word, one vacuum at a time

Electrolux-Concept-Vacs-x2-178x178 10.18.10 MSNBC

Stockholm-based appliance company Electrolux AB recently produced a custom set of five vacuum cleaners made from water-bourne plastic trash.

The refuse was collected from different oceans and seas across the globe, with each locale’s most prevalent trash dictating its vacuum’s unique look.

Though the vacuums are not for sale, they do work. Electrolux hopes these fashionable, functional pieces of art will begin a discussion about the growing problem of water-bound plastic pollution and perhaps even move people away from the use-and-toss culture that led to the current situation.

Read more at MSNBC.

October 19, 2010

Washington DC Bag Fee Update

CNNmoney.com 10.5.10

Ten months after it was imposed, the fee on disposable bags in Washington, DC still makes sense, although it's not bringing quite the revenue boost that the district was hoping for.

 

Before the tax went into effect, the district's Chief Financial Officer was projecting income of $3.6 million dollars. But so far income has only amounted to $1.3 million.

 

This is reason to celebrate; it means the fee works. Because people are required to pay for bags upfront, people are using half as many plastic bags as before.

 

Under the tax, district residents are charged 5 cents for each disposable bag they got at the store. One penny goes to the shop while the other four cents go to the city. The four cents going to the city go toward cleaning up polluted rivers. Those in charge of cleaning up those rivers claim that they have already noticed a reduction in bag pollution.

 

Read the complete article at CNN Money.

October 14, 2010

The Great Atlantic Garbage Patch

WHOI 8.20.2010

Scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Sea Education Association have been collecting data concerning the presence of plastic in the Atlantic Ocean for several decades. They've recently published a pair of studies analyzing the data. Here are a few highlights from the writeup in Oceanus:

Assessing 22 years of data collected by SEA ships ... researchers found that more than 60 percent of the tows contained detectable plastic debris. Average densities rivaled those reported from the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” ranging from 1,400 pieces per square kilometer in the Caribbean to more than 20,000 pieces per square kilometer in the Sargasso Sea.

Yes, you read that right. Average density of plastic debris in large areas of the Atlantic "rivaled" the Pacific Garbage Patch. If that's not scary enough, it shattered the Pacific Patch's record in other areas.

...the highest value recorded during the 22-year period was 580,000 pieces per square kilometer at 24.6°N east of the Bahamas. The region, where 83 percent of all the plastic debris was collected, is known as the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, a part of the ocean bounded by a series of wind-driven currents, such as the Gulf Stream, that collectively flow clockwise around the subtropical North Atlantic.

In areas of the North Atlantic, we've recorded plastic present at 30 times the amount of the now-legendary Pacific Patch.

Additionally the research has lead SEA and WHOI to a few answers and a number of intriguing new questions; If PET plastic bottles litter our beaches and continue to make their way into the ocean, why have we found almost no trace of them in the oceanic samples?

Learn more by reading the complete Oceanus article here.

FTC Combats Greenwashing

Ftc-issues-new-labelling-guidelines-for-ecofriendly-products-bkt_5488 Inc. 10.7.2010

The Federal Trade Commission recently revised guidelines for products being labelled as "degradable," "eco-friendly," or "recyclable."

This is part of an effort to put an end to the disparity between what companies and consumers consider an environmentally-friendly product. Any label making such claims will have to be able to back up such declaration with "competant and reliable scientific evidence."

The FTC will be able to take action if it considers a company's marketing to be deceptive or flat-out untrue. This would initially come in the form of a cease-and-desist order, which becomes a fine with further violations.

Check out the whole article on Inc.com.

 

September 21, 2010

BPA Wiping Out Lobster Population

Lobster-die-offs Treehugger 8.11.10

Scientists at the University of Connecticut recently linked a major decline in the population of lobsters native to the New York coast with a rise in a few pollutants, including bisphenol A(BPA) from plastic waste.

The three-year, $3 million dollar study claims that a specific group of pollutants are working as endocrine disruptors. This lengthens the maturing lobsters' molting cycle, leaving them without chitinous armor for weeks at a time. This further results in deformities, increased susceptibility to disease, and in many cases, death. The coastal lobster population has declined 85% in the last twelve years.

Read the whole article here.

Our Take: Most of us have heard about BPA leaching from some plastic bottles. This article just offers further cause for worry. This data confirms the no-brainer advice we've been giving for years - avoid BPA as much as possible. And remember, it's not just plastics that pose a risk. Cans are another important source of BPA

Catastrophes like this come from decades of mindless waste and pollution. Buy high-quality reusables; they won't wind up floating in the ocean and they don't contain toxins like BPA to begin with.

Plastiki Completes Voyage

S-PLASTIKI-large The Huffington Post - 7.23.10

The Plastiki has been sailing the Pacific Ocean since mid-March and recently reached the destination of its maiden voyage. The journey lasted four months and spanned approximately 8,300 miles from San Francisco to Australia.
 
The expedition aimed to raise awareness of plastic over-consumption. The Plastiki's hull was constructed of more than 12,000 empty plastic bottles. The Plastiki website estimated that over the course of the intercontinental excursion, the United States used more than 8.7 billion plastic bottles.

Read the full article here.

Our Take: Interesting way for an eccentric heir to draw attention to the problem of water-bound plastics and illustrate how plastic garbage can be reused in innovative ways. For more, read our article on plastic's impact on oceans.

Greener Polycarbonate Production

BPAfreeBottles Researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have developed a new method of polycarbonate production that could be used to manufacture BPA-free bottles in the near future.

The bottles would be non-toxic and leach-free, plus the production method would literally take greenhouse gasses out of the air and use them as ingredients to create the bottles. The new polycarbonate can contain 40% C02 by volume. Read the full article here.

Our Take: While this new technology is only in its infancy, the adoption of such green-friendly practices by companies such as Eastman-Tritan(link to Eastman Tritan FAQ) would mark notable progress to reducing our carbon footprint, and another reason to feel good about using a high-quality reusable bottle.

November 15, 2009

Study finds 457 chemicals released by common cleaning supplies

The Environmental Working Group - 11.09

Environmental working group chemicals
"Ordinary school cleaning supplies can expose children to multiple chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, and other documented health problems and to hundreds of other air contaminants that have never been tested for safety, a study by the Environmental Working Group shows. Laboratory tests done for EWG found that a typical assortment of cleaning products released 457 distinct chemicals into the air..."

Read the entire report here.

Our Take: This study reveals the ugly truth: that so many common products that we use every day are laden with potentially harmful chemicals. The good news - there are many simple DIY alternatives.

May 21, 2009

OUR SCOOP: Cydney Lewis Eco-Art

Cydneylewis ReusableBags.com 05.28.09

Local Chicago artist Cydney Lewis, and friend of our founder Vincent Cobb and his wife Marni, creates one-of-a-kind sculptures out of everyday items. Rather than throwing away plastic, paper, wire and wood, Lewis fashions the would-be trash into wonderful pieces of art.

Lewis's jewelry pieces are being sold at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.



Link: Cydney M. Lewis art

Our Take: Another example of a growing trend we’re seeing – using throwaway items we think of as trash or a nuisance and turning them into something artistic. Artwork that repurposes our waste helps draw attention to the issue of consumption in a creative way.

April 30, 2009

Check It Off: Kitchen reusables

Kitchenreusables The San Francisco Gate 4.12.09

 

Sure those throwaway items in the kitchen - coffee filters, paper towels, napkins - are convenient, but eventually the cost of all that use-and-toss stuff starts adding up, and then there's the guilt from adding to landfills. Instead of using disposables, why not invest in reusables and save in the long run? Here are some ideas.

 

Our Take:  A great article that provides simple ways to reduce consumption – beyond disposable bags and bottles. Nice to see advice from a major publication that aligns with what we’ve been advocating for years with our family of high quality reusables.

 

Link: Check It Off: Kitchen reusables

February 19, 2009

I Lego N.Y.

Lego The New York Times 2.02.09   

During the cold and dark Berlin winter days, I spend a lot of time with my boys in their room. And as I look at the toys scattered on the floor, my mind inevitably wanders back to New York.


Our Take:   A cool, artistic take on the plastic bag issue that also shows the ubiquity of plastic bags in our trees, cityscapes and landscapes, sadly.

Link: I Lego N.Y.

January 19, 2009

'Trashion' Trend: Dumpster Couture Gets a Boost at Green Inaugural Ball

The Wall Street Journal  1.13.09Obamajacket

In the world of trashy fashion, designer Nancy Judd has hit the big time.

Ms. Judd spends her days in a studio here crafting clothing from castoff plastic bags, electrical wire and old cassette tapes...

The star piece: A man's coat made from Mr. Obama's campaign fliers. She says it took her 200 hours to cut and paste and sew it.

Link:  'Trashion' Trend: Dumpster Couture Gets a Boost at Green Inaugural Ball

Affluence is a lot of garbage

SF Gate  1.04.09SFGate

Looking back on it now, the straw that broke America's back was the advent of the no-deposit, no-return bottle.

For a generation, Americans had paid a 2-cent deposit on their soft-drink and beer bottles. No decent American, imbued with Yankee thrift, could bear to throw one away...

A decade later, Americans were happily heaving out 30 million no-deposit, no-return bottles a day. Guilt free.

It was the beginning of the nation's new Never-Use-Anything-Twice syndrome.

Link:  Affluence is a lot of garbage

January 08, 2009

A life without plastics?

The Chicago Tribune 12.27.08ChicagoTribuneLogo

Amid a recent flurry of worrisome reports about plastic, a simple question came up: Could we live without it?

I decided to try. For one week, I pledged to buy no new plastic and to keep the kids away from it as much as possible.

Our Take:  A great article by a working mom that shows it’s possible to make gradual changes towards consuming less plastic in our daily lives. She discovers the wisdom of reusables – and reinforces that none of us will ever eliminate plastic items, but every small step makes a big difference!

Link: A life without plastics?

October 22, 2008

The Art Is Trash

Newsweek 10.20.08 Newsweek_2

Mountains of garbage have never looked more beautiful than in Vivan Sundaram’s photographs. His exhibit “Trash,” now on view in Manhattan’s Sepia gallery (before traveling to Sydney and Tokyo), includes 15 large-scale photos and three video installations that depict the underside of the economic boom gripping his home city, Delhi. Used soda cans, soiled milk bags, empty yogurt containers, dirty toothbrushes and plastic toys mix with industrial waste products to create a striking indictment of consumption.

Our Take: Trash as art compels us to stop and think about what happens to all of these “things” we consume, whether recycled or not. It also shines a light on the culture of consumption that has made its way to India – a country known for its cradle-to-grave recycling practices.

Link: The Art Is Trash

September 17, 2008

'Recycled' British plastic found dumped in India

Plastics & Rubber Weekly  09.10.08Prwlogo_4

Plastic packaging and bottles that consumers believe are going to local recycling plants are ending up buried in India, according to a UK news investigation.

[Reporter] Mark Jordan travelled to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and discovered wells of British-branded rubbish, estimated to be around 30 feet deep...Concerned locals told the investigation that there were at least ten such waste wells and that the pits also contained American waste.

Our Take: It’s an inconvenient truth that many items entering the recycling stream don’t get recycled. We’re seeing increasing evidence of recyclables getting burned or buried in landfills -- or shipped overseas. Recycling has its place in reducing waste -- but it’s no silver bullet (e.g., it doesn’t change consumption).

Want to learn more about why recycling doesn’t work for plastic bags? See our myth-busting article:Recycling Can Fix This, Right?

Link: 'Recycled' British plastic found dumped in India

August 20, 2008

50 reasons to stop using plastic shopping bags

MSN.com, 07.17.08

Shouldn't we all, with the price of oil - yes, they're made with oil - and environmental worries, be moving to reusable shopping bags and bins? Plastic shopping bags are a blight, and they never - for all practical purposes - go away.

Like that cool site that tracks the growth of the U.S. national debt, Reusable Bags shows the growing number of plastic bags used around the world. It's almost 1 million every minute.

Link: 50 reasons to stop using plastic shopping bags

August 06, 2008

VIDEO CLIP: Plastics are Forever

The Cleanest Line - Patagonia, 08.05.08

Maui native Micah Wolf teams up with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and photographer Ben Moon to create this powerful music video that empowers us to do something about the amount of plastics in our oceans.

MULTIMEDIA: Laysan Albatross & Plastics - A Deadly Diet

Monterey Bay Aquarium, 06.01.08Albatross_montereybay_2

Of 500,000 albatross chicks born each year on Midway Atoll, about 200,000 die of starvation. The awful truth—in their searches of the ocean surface, albatrosses mistake plastic trash for food and end up feeding Lego blocks, clothespins, plastic bag bits and a host of other man-made junk to their chicks. As a result, the large amount of plastic crowding the chick’s stomach leaves little room for food and liquid. The amount of plastic floating in our oceans has grown dramatically over the last fifty years. Anthony L. Andrady, a polymer chemist at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina says that plastic takes decades to break down on land, but even longer at sea because the water keeps the plastic cool and algae blocks ultraviolet rays. “Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere.”

Link: Laysan Albatross & Plastics - A Deadly Diet 

Plastic Island - Nasty, Gargantuan & Growing

ReusableBags.com, 08.01.08 Latimes_alteredoceans_3

A couple of websites recently caught our attention, each detailing the Sci-Fi-esque (but very real) floating plastic island located approximately 500 nautical miles off the California coast. "The island" is a grotesquely large patch of floating plastic trash held together by currents stretching across the northern Pacific almost as far as Japan. Discovered by Charles Moore, this "plastic island" is made up of about 7 billion pounds of plastic garbage.

Sea preserves a plastic plague - LA Times 08.03.07

The LA Times produced a fantastic five-part multimedia series on the state of our altered oceans. Part four delves into the “plastic island”, officially called a gyre. This disturbing presentation features great videos, haunting photography and lots of helpful information.
Link: Sea preserves a plastic plague

Plastic patch in pacific grows to twice the size of the US - Daily Kos 02.06.08

Another great site investigating this mess is the Daily Kos. They feature an interview with Marcus Eriksen, one of the research directors at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (the same folks sailing the “Junk Raft”). Eriksen said: "The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States."
Link: Plastic patch in pacific grows to twice the size of the US

The trash vortex - Greenpeace International 11.12.06Greenpeace_trash_vortex

Greenpeace created this cool, simple visual explaining “the island”—“Plastic trash and other flotsam that is either directly thrown or washed by rivers into the North Pacific, is swept up by the currents of a gigantic swirling vortex called the North Pacific Gyre. In the centre, the calm, just northeast of Hawai’i the result is a trash carpet that scientists calculate has now reached the size of Texas.”
Link: The Trash Vortex

Our Take: There is a similarity between this huge plastic island in the middle of the ocean and the enormity of plastic bag consumption. Scientists can't agree on the size of "the island" just like no one knows exactly how many plastic bags are being produced and consumed. The one thing everyone agrees on is that the scale of both is huge and deserves our attention. This "island" is the direct effect of our overconsumption. By achieving a significant reduction in use-and-toss items, we can actually make a difference. 

August 02, 2008

City council approves bag fee, foam ban

The Seattle Times, 07.29.08Seattletimes_bag_fee_approved_2 

On Monday, the City Council [of Seattle] approved a 20-cent fee, starting in January, for each disposable paper or plastic bag used at grocery, drug and convenience stores. While other U.S. cities have banned plastic bags, Seattle is believed to be the first to discourage use by charging a fee. Although the new fee may force Seattle residents to permanently alter their shopping habits, council members said the environmentally correct behavior will become natural, just like recycling.

The city plans to give at least one free, reusable bag to each household, and the council directed Seattle Public Utilities to come up with a plan by the end of November on how to provide extra bags to low-income residents.

Our Take: This is major news. Seattle is the first U.S. city to follow Ireland's lead in implementing a successful plastic bag fee model. We are confident that Seattle residents will alter their shopping habits quickly - reusable shopping bags will become an integrated part of life in the Emerald City and plastic bag overconsumption will disappear. Seattle City Councilmember, Tim Burgess said it best - "I think that after a few months of legislation, we will wonder what all the fuss is about."

Watch for the plastic bag industry to violently attack this fee based model since it represents the beginning of a paradigm shift.

Link: City council approves bag fee, foam ban

July 30, 2008

Evil Incarnate - Plastic Bag News and Action Alert

Spoutingoff_2Spouting Off, 07.29.08

Support California's landmark legislation to reduce plastic bag consumption—and fight industry's spin to "save the plastic bag"

The American Chemistry Council and plastic bag manufacturers have joined forces to launch a web and radio campaign to stop California’s proposed plastic bag fee, modeled after Ireland’s hugely successful Plastax initiative. Basically, the campaign distorts the facts and scares Californians into thinking the legislation will cost them more money, when the reverse is true.

We just found out about this and here's what we plan to do to support California's policy and help them be a model for cities across the U.S.:

-Post the excellent blog that alerted us to this development in our Newsroom, which gets more than 250,000 unique visitors a month, and add it to our Top Stories Newsletter, which has 8,000 subscribers.

-Point people towards the action alert to support California’s Plastic Bag and Litter Reduction Act (AB 2058).

-Inspire people from all states to tell their Senators to address the issue of plastic bag pollution! Use the form letters provided here to contact your state legislators.

The American Chemistry Council is using scare tactics and twisted facts on the issue of plastic bags because they don't have a leg to stand on. They're feigning concern about rapid deforestation, should consumers kick the plastic-bag addiction and replace it with paper bags, totally (and conveniently) ignoring the very viable solution of reusable bags.

YES, WE’LL HAVE TO FIGHT to get the real facts out there: Taxpayers DO shoulder the costs of plastic bags in countless ways. Recycling of plastic bags is a paltry 5%, at best. And paper is no better an alternative. It's time to wake up and focus on long-term solutions, not spin. Click here to learn more about the plastic bag issue.

Link: Action Alert to support California's Plastic Bag and Litter Reduction Act

July 24, 2008

VIDEO CLIP: The Dangers of Plastic Bags

ReusableBags.com 07.23.08

Late last week, a fantastic slide show making its way around the internet caught our eye. Using a potent combination of facts and images, it tells the story of plastic bag over-consumption we first laid out at our web site five years ago. Its short, visual format provides an incredible tool to educate and inform.                    

We liked the slide show so much, we hustled to:

  1. Convert and post it as an easy-to-view video on YouTube, opening it up to millions worldwide.
  2. Discover who produced it and give them credit. It turns out to be a fellow Chicagoan! Vishal Mody - a public school teacher.
  3. Share it with you, our 80,000+ newsletter subscribers, and post it in our Newsroom.

Please take just 4 minutes to watch it and help spread the word!

July 23, 2008

L.A. City Council votes for ban on plastic shopping bags

Latimes_3 Los Angeles Times, 07.23.08

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to ban plastic carryout bags in the city's supermarkets and stores by July 2010 -- but only if the state fails to impose a 25-cent fee on every shopper who requests them.

Council members said they hope an impending ban would spur consumers to begin carrying canvas or other reusable bags, reducing the amount of plastic that washes into the city's storm drains and the ocean.

"This is a major moment for our city, to bite the bullet and go with something that is more ecologically sensitive than what we've ever done before," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl...

Our Take:  Bravo, California! Los Angeles joins the ranks of San Francisco in reducing plastic bag consumption.  However, the biggest news is not the ban, but that Los Angeles is the first major U.S. city to vote to implement a plastic bag tax, by charging $.25 for “use-and-toss” bags, should the legislature not pass a statewide ban. A similar Plastax in Ireland reduced plastic bag consumption by 90%, and we are really excited to see the first U.S. effort to do the same. Even more importantly, Los Angeles also takes aim at paper bags, sending the message that over consumption of any kind is wasteful.

Los Angeles alone will put a dent in plastic bag consumption by reducing the 2.3 billion plastic bags it uses each year. We hope the city proves to be a model for many more across the nation.

Link: L.A. City Council votes for ban on plastic shopping bags

July 17, 2008

Green with envy

Willamette Week, 04.16.08   Vcrollbacktree_willamette_week

Portlanders drive an average of three fewer miles a day than the average American Joe. We have more certified green buildings per capita than any other U.S. city. Time to kick back with an organic IPA and watch the clouds go by, right? Hardly. Wake up, Portland. We’re slipping. Sometime between Gov. Tom McCall’s speeches and Al Gore’s Nobel Prize, Portland ceded the green crown.

Link: Green with envy 

June 25, 2008

US mayors vote to phase out bottled water consumption

International Herald Tribune, 06.23.08 Iht_logo 

Making international news on Monday, 250 US mayors voted to put an end to using taxpayer money to purchase bottled water for its employees and functions. This is bad news for the likes of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc., who have enjoyed a steady increase in sales the last few years. Bottled water requires vast amounts of petroleum to produce—both in the manufacturing of the bottles and in the shipping process.

Our Take: Well done US mayors! While critics of the resolution call it “sound-bite environmentalism”, we say it’s leading by example. Encouraging employees and in so doing, citizens, to drink tap water (which is held to higher standards than bottled water) is a great step toward changing the minds of the masses. We think Gigi Kellett from Corporate Accountability International said it best: “It’s just plain common sense for cities to stop padding the bottled water industry’s bottom line at taxpayer expenses.” What do you think?

Link: US mayors vote to phase out bottled water consumption 

April 25, 2008

Canada Plans To Ban Polycarbonate Baby Bottles

Reuters 04.18.08
Canadascientific
Canada intends to become the first country to ban the import and sale of some types of plastic baby bottles because they contain a chemical that the government says could harm infants and toddlers. Health Minister Tony Clement said on Friday he would bring in rules to outlaw plastic polycarbonate baby bottles, perhaps within the next year. These bottles are made with bisphenol A, which is also used in food and water containers.

Link: Canada Plans To Ban Polycarbonate Baby Bottles

April 10, 2008

VIDEO CLIP: Plastic Bag Animals

ReusableBags.com 04.10.08

Thanks to friend of ReusableBags.com, Dave S. for turning us on to this clever artist, Joshua Allen Harris. He has crafted inflatable animals by tying plastic bags to subway grates in New York. The effect is very cool and a bit haunting. 

AUDIO CLIP: Manufacturers Push Biodegradable Plastic Bags

npr, All Things Considered 04.07.08

Npr_logo1_3As more and more cities and states consider plastic bag bans and tax proposals, companies are beginning to weigh their options. Biodegradable plastic bags are designed to quickly break down. But where does the plastic go?... The story also cites a staggering statistic: every year US plastic bag consumption = nine billion pounds. Listen to story…

Our Take: The plastic polymers are still there, but they are out of sight! These may become a popular choice for big brand companies/marketers looking to reduce negative exposure when their bags are hooked in trees and laying on sidewalks. While on the surface biodegradable bags may seem like a good idea, there’s a host of problems associated with them (e.g.  A proliferation of biodegradable plastic bags will really sc
rew up recycling efforts, they don’t get at the heart of the problem: consumption, etc. – click here for more…) This is a perfect example of a seemingly good idea that truly does more harm than good.)
 
 
Link: Manufacturers Push Biodegradable Plastic Bags

 

Plastic Bag Bans Gaining Momentum Around the World

National Geographic News 04.04.08Categoryimages_thumbs_national_geog

 Across the globe politicians and corporations are debating the effectiveness of plastic bag bans versus plastic bag taxes. Ireland, Italy and Belgium all tax plastic sacks, while places like San Francisco and China are banning them all together. Other countries and companies are implementing or considering recycling programs. Each attempt to deal with the issue has its pros and cons. According to Vincent Cobb, founder of ReusableBags.com, the movement has gained momentum. “We all have the tendency to buy too much stuff, and I think the symbolic nature is what has made this such a powerful thing.”


Our Take: Our founder was interviewed for this article – here is a quote: “A tax charged at checkout is what we need to change consumer behavior. Plastic bags aren’t inherently bad; it’s the mindlessness and volume of consumption.”

Link: Plastic Bag Bans Gaining Momentum Around the World 

Seattle Officials Propose 20-cent Grocery Bag Fee

The Seattle Times 04.03.08Ap_plastic_bag_080229_mn

Using Ireland’s successful plastic bag tax as a model, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is proposing a 20 cent “green fee” on all disposable bags. The proposed fee is the first of its kind in the nation made by a mayor striving for a legacy of environmental stewardship. If the City Council approves, the fee would go into effect January 1. In an effort to ease the transition, the city will mail one reusable shopping bag to each household.

Our Take: Kudos to Mayor Nickels! This is big news – we’ve been laying down the challenge to US politicians for several years to take the bold move and implement a Plastax modeled initiative. (For the record San Francisco did attempt a “loosely” based model in 2005 which failed.) With Ireland’s disposable-bag use down 90 percent, Seattle is on the right track. Plastic industry interests will work hard to derail this since in all likelihood it will start a trend…it will be interesting to see what happens. What do you think?

Link: Seattle Officials Propose 20-cent Grocery Bag Fee 

March 11, 2008

Good Morning America Now Features Reusable Bags

Good Morning America Now 03.10.08

View Good Morning America Now's segment on BYO-Bag. With a focus on how to remember your reusable shopping bags, many of the samples featured were from our store. Guest Olivia Zaleski "really recommend(s) looking at that website. They have everything for everyone."

January 31, 2008

Project Green: The Chemicals Within

Newsweek 02.04.08
Newsweekplastics_widehorizontal
Many common household products contain compounds that could be affecting our health.
The shocking thing is that we really don't know the health effects of many of these chemicals on the market today. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, chemicals already in use were grandfathered in without scrutiny. These include the three classes of compounds targeted in a November report released by a coalition of environmental groups, "Is It in Us?"—a plastic strengthener called bisphenol A (BPA), brominated flame retardants known as PBDEs and plastic softeners called phthalates.

Bisphenol A is a basic constituent of the polycarbonate plastics found in many baby bottles, sippy cups and juice bottles. Although the chemical industry and FDA say they are safe, there is evidence to the contrary. Research studies show that low-dose exposures, particularly during gestation, may later lead to breast and prostate cancer, abnormalities in the reproductive tract and behavioral problems, among other things.

Phthalates have also raised concern: these compounds are used to soften the plastics in products such as rubber duckies, vinyl shower curtains, certain medical devices, and are also found in hundreds of personal care products (e.g. fragrances, body lotions, nail polishes and shampoos). Potential problems from exposure include abnormalities to the reproductive tract and a decline in sperm quality.

The flame retardants, PBDEs, are found in fabrics, upholstery, foam mattresses, circuit boards and the casings of computers and televisions and animal studies show they can have negative impacts on learning and memory, sperm counts and thyroid functioning.

Our Take: ReusableBags.com has been providing education, leadership and safe alternatives for the past five years. With more awareness of these issues, we hope to see some real change! A reminder that all the bottles we carry are BPA-free.

Source: Project Green: The Chemicals Within

January 16, 2008

In Line for Hindmarch's Tote

ReusableBags.com 01.17.08

Check out this YouTube video that captures the essence of the mania surrounding last summer's arrival of Anya Hindmarch's much touted "I'm not a Plastic Bag" tote bag. (Great slogan - but a lousy reusable shopping bag.) This 2 minute video tells a simple story of absurdity. The following viewer comment says it all "Wow! It's amazing what we Americans will do..."

Link: In Line for Hindmarch's Tote

July 06, 2007

Plastic bag levy rises to 22 cents

Ireland.com 7.01.07

The plastic bag levy has increased to 22 cent today in a further bid to reduce littering.

The former minister for the environment Dick Roche announced the rise last February which comes after evidence suggested the initial impact of the tax in 2002 was beginning to weaken.

Statistics showed each shopper used 328 bags a year before its introduction compared to just 21 afterwards. However plastic bag usage rose to 30 bags per person during 2006. The levy is seen as one of the most successful anti-littering devices introduced in Ireland and was copied internationally.

It initially sparked a 90 per cent drop in the use of plastic bags.

The funds help finance local environmental projects such as recycling facilities.

Link: Plastic bag levy rises to 22 cents

Zero waste: Making sure the impact of a farmers market is all positive

LancasterOnline.com 7.02.07

In the perfect world of a farmer's market, the farmer picks and puts his crops into a reusable box and uses foot power to carry the goods to the marketplace. There, the customer buys the food, puts it into a string bag, walks home, cooks and eats it all.

Link: Zero Waste

Paper or plastic? Macy's won't ask

TwinCities.com 6.29.07

Paper shopping bags are the latest casualty at Macy's stores.

Sales associates have been told to use plastic rather than the ostensibly classier paper bags with handles, which cost more to produce.

"Seeing your bags flapping in the trees is one of the worst things you can do today to affect a brand," said Vincent Cobb, founder and president of Reusablebags.com. He said grocers and convenience stores - not department stores - are the worst offenders.

To environmentalists, the paper vs. plastic discussion is irrelevant. Americans use too many disposable bags, period. True, plastic bags do not biodegrade, while paper does. But when you factor in the trees used to make heavier paper bags, plus the manufacturing and distribution, it's a wash, Cobb said.

"The ecological footprint of plastic isn't any worse than paper..."

Link: Paper or plastic?  Macy's won't ask

Buying Into the Green Movement

01gren1901 The New York Times 7.01.07

HERE’S one popular vision for saving the planet: Roll out from under the sumptuous hemp-fiber sheets on your bed in the morning and pull on a pair of $245 organic cotton Levi’s and an Armani biodegradable knit shirt.

That vision of an eco-sensitive life as a series of choices about what to buy appeals to millions of consumers and arguably defines the current environmental movement as equal parts concern for the earth and for making a stylish statement.

Consumers have embraced living green, and for the most part the mainstream green movement has embraced green consumerism. But even at this moment of high visibility and impact for environmental activists, a splinter wing of the movement has begun to critique what it sometimes calls “light greens.”

Critics question the notion that we can avert global warming by buying so-called earth-friendly products, from clothing and cars to homes and vacations, when the cumulative effect of our consumption remains enormous and hazardous.

“There is a very common mind-set right now which holds that all that we’re going to need to do to avert the large-scale planetary catastrophes upon us is make slightly different shopping decisions,” said Alex Steffen, the executive editor of Worldchanging.com, a Web site devoted to sustainability issues.

The genuine solution, he and other critics say, is to significantly reduce one’s consumption of goods and resources.

Link: Buying Into the Green Movement

Will My Plastic Bag Still Be Here in 2507?

070627_exp_womanbagstn Slate 06.27.07

News reports have cited a statistic that the ubiquitous receptacles take 500 years to break down in landfills. How do we know?

Actually, we don't. Plastic bags have only been around for about 50 years, so there's no firsthand evidence of their decomposition rate.

So, where does the 500-year statistic come from? Although standard polyethylene bags don't biodegrade, they do photodegrade. When exposed to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, polyethylene's polymer chains become brittle and start to crack. This suggests that plastic bags will eventually fragment into microscopic granules. As of yet, however, scientists aren't sure how many centuries it takes for the sun to work its magic. That's why certain news sources cite a 500-year estimate while others prefer a more conservative 1,000-year lifespan. According to some plastics experts, all these figures are just another way of saying "a really, really long time."

Link: Will My Plastic Bag Still Be Here in 2507?

June 29, 2007

World asks town that banned the plastic bag: how can we do it too?

The Guardian 05.12.07

Two weeks after becoming the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags from its shops, an extraordinary transformation has taken place in the south Devon community. Carrying a plastic bag has become antisocial behaviour.

Wicker baskets, rucksacks and reusable bags of every shape and size swing from the arms of shoppers in the bustling town of 1,500 people. But if you're spotted with a plastic one you risk becoming a social pariah.

Link: World asks town that banned the plastic bag: how can we do it too?