January 13, 2010

Wal-Mart Stores in Northern California Begin Charging for Plastic Bags

Associated Content - 1.12.10

Walmart_logo_expo "Wal-Mart charging for plastic bags is now reality for shoppers in Northern California's Folsom, Ukiah and Citrus Heights. Wal-Mart grocery bags may soon cost a few pennies in other areas as well. Are Californians ready? What appears like a lofty goal - the overall waste reduction of 33% by 2013 - may well be accomplished one bag at a time. With Wal-Mart charging for plastic bags, the retailer implements the second phase of its "bring your own bag" movement that started back in October. As reported by the Sacramento Bee, Wal-Mart strongly encouraged consumers to bring their own bags when buying. At this point, encouragement gives way to cash incentives. Wal-Mart charges for bags at the rate of 15 cents; over-sized bags retail for 50 cents. The jury is still out whether Wal-Mart charging for bags will be a project that also finds its way into the remaining 52 stores..."

Read more here.

Our Take: Financial incentives to encourage people to carry reusable bags are smart. Like successful fee models, such as Ireland's Plastax, incentives have the potential to reduce the consumption of use-and-toss shopping bags dramatically.

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.

November 12, 2009

Investigation shows bottled water is "just water"

NewsNet5.com - Nov. 9, 2009

Whatsinyourwater
"Scan any store cooler and the choices may seem endless. But before you take that first sip, ever asked yourself why you've shelled out big bucks... for water? For an On Your Side consumer investigation, NewsChannel5 bought five different types of bottled water - ranging in price from $1.39 to $1.70 -- and took them to Dr. Michael Nichols. The John Carroll University chemist tested he bottled, and tap water, to see if they were worth the money." The study results showed a variety of minerals present in some brands, though Aquafina showed almost no traces of minerals at all, "meaning it is almost distilled."

Clinic dietitian Amy Jamison-Petonic's advises buying "whatever water you'll drink, but don't buy into the hype. Because at the end of the day, water is water. That knowledge alone can save you money."

Read the article here.

NYT opinion piece column draws attention to BPA in canned foods

The New York Times - 11.8.09

Nytlogo379x64
Op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff isn't taking Consumer Reports Magazine's latest study on BPA lightly. The report found BPA prevalent in an array of canned food products. BPA - "a synthetic estrogen that united states factories now use in everything from plastics to epoxies..." is found in more than 92 percent of American's urine, he said. The chemical has been linked to increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease and genital malformation, among other maladies.

He points to impending legislative action to limit the use of the chemical, and ends by noting that, "While the evidence isn't conclusive, it justifies precautions. In my family, we're cutting down on the use of those plastic containers that contain BPA to store or microwave food, and I'm drinking water out of a metal bottle now..."

Read the entire article.

Floating islands of plastic in ocean may be larger than expected

The New York Times - 11.10.09

Plasticpile
"HAWAII- In this remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement. Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely disbursed rash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific...

Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant gyres scattered around the world's oceans."

Read the entire article "Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash."

November 04, 2009

Kauai County Council bans plastic shopping bags

The Star Bulletin - 10.8.09

The Kauai, Hawaii County Council voted to ban plastic "carryout bags," in a bill requiring that "retailers - from mini marts to plate-lunch spots, pharmacies, liquor stores and supermarkets - may offer only biodegradable plastic, 100-percent recyclable paper or reusable tote bags at checkout. Retailers can choose to charge for the bags. The bill goes into effect on January 11, 2011."

Read the entire article here.

November 03, 2009

Consumer Reports study finds BPA in "nearly all" canned foods

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online - 11.2.09

BPA
"A new test conducted for Consumer Reports magazine found bisphenol A leaching into food from nearly all cans, including those marked 'BPA-free' and 'organic.' The magazine's tests found that levels of the chemical in many of the cans were comparable to those found to cause cell damage and behavioral effects in animal studies... Last week, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences announced it will spend roughly $30 million over the next two years studying BPA. That includes $14 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus funds."

Read the entire Journal Sentinel article here.

Read coverage by the LA Times here.

October 21, 2009

Target Announces 5-cent Incentive to BYOBag

USA Today - 10.21.09

Target Logo
Target has announced it will start offering a 5-cent discount for every reusable bag customers use to pack their purchases. An earlier pilot test among 100 Target stores earlier this year resulted in a 58% reduction in the number of plastic bags used. 

Read the entire article here.

Plastic Bag Costumes

12560650487_BlueMonsterEmagazine.com - 10.09

 
"This Halloween, you can spare the landfill more plastic bags and make an environmental - and fashion - statement with this collection of plastic bag costume ideas. And don't forget to bring your reusable bags along to collect that candy!"

See the Top 10 Plastic Bag Costumes.

October 16, 2009

Florida’s environmental officials propose bag ban

Orlando Sentinel.com – Oct. 14, 2009

FloridaBagBan copy “Florida environmental officials want to make the state the first in the nation to prohibit throwaway plastic and paper bags. The proposed ban would follow a five-year phaseout, during which escalating fees, starting at a nickel a bag, would be imposed whenever such bags were used… By the fifth and final year of the state’s proposed phaseout, anyone wanting a paper or plastic bag for merchandise would be charged a quarter a bag.”

Read entire article here.

CVS Offers Incentive to Bring a Reusable Bag

NBC 10 News – 10.16.09

Cvslogo CVS joins the growing list of retailers offering customers incentives for bringing reusable bags. The company is implementing a green bag card system. For every four shopping trips with a cloth reusable bag, the customer will receive a coupon for $1. There's also word that Target stores are offering a 5-cent credit for every reusable bag used.

Read more about the CVS program here.

Cheap Reusable Bags are Tomorrow’s Landfill

The Envirosax Blog – Oct. 8, 2009Envirosaxcheapreusable

 All over the globe, more and more people are carrying reusable shopping bags. “Unfortunately, these cheap reusable shopping bags are often more of a marketing ploy than a great choice for the environment. To be effective in reducing waste, reusable bags must be able to be reused time and again, and therefore must be extremely durable… Don’t be fooled into thinking that polypropylene is an environmentally sound alternative. You may even find the term ‘biodegradable’ on some of these bags, but the standards for this term is that the bag must be biodegradable in a ‘commercially managed compost environment.’…”

Read the entire blog entry here.

Our Take: This blog is right on. Cheap reusables flooding the market place have become the new disposables. Read more in our article on cheap reusable shopping bags.

Reduce Consumption with these Simple Tips

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer – Sept. 21, 2009

Eight simple tips to reduce your use of paper towels, beverage cups, milk/juice jugs, paper, cleaning products, batteries, dry-cleaner bags and food containers. For example, “Many cleaning products are available in large jugs for decanting into the smaller spray bottles. Also, look for concentrated cleaner refills, for which you can reuse the old spray bottle and just add the water…”

Read all 8 Tips here.

Palo Alto Bans Plastic Bags

The Mercury News – 9.18.09

Mercurynews
“Out of sight, out of mind. Plastic bags officially vanished from Palo Alto grocery stores Friday, and customers scarcely noticed them missing… Although the city ban on plastic shopping bags went into effect on Friday, all seven of the city’s full-service groceries had already made the switch to offering only paper and reusable bags. On Friday afternoon, customers were using both, happily.”

Read the entire article here.

September 24, 2009

Vom Saal claims BPA leaching in SIGGs

Z Recommends - 9.3.09

Researcher Frederick vom Saal stated that four years ago, he conducted an unpublished test on SIGG bottles and found leaching in the parts-per-trillion range.  In light of vom Saal’s statements in an article in The Star, Z Recommends was able to discuss test results they received from a different independent test conducted on a SIGG bottle with the old liner.

“The bottle was found to leach BPA at 1.25 micrograms per liter, which is roughly equivalent to 1.25 parts per billion. In relative terms, this is more than what vom Saal states he had found, although he has not yet provided many details of his tests. In absolute terms, both values are very, very small. Everyone - you included - is exposed to BPA at higher levels from other sources, many of them entirely outside of your control. Canned foods tested by the Environmental Working Group contained up to 385 ppb, and even if you avoid those, there are plenty of others. Labs testing water bottles for BPA have to correct for background BPA in the water - sometimes up to 2 ppb.”

Read the entire Z Recommends article.

Our Take:  We wanted to make sure to acknowledge this story that's been swirling around some media - the whole thing seems a bit weird and leaves us with more questions than answers. Why didn't vom Saal decide to publish his study four years ago, and why is he bringing it up now? Where are the details on the independent study cited by Z Recommends? (etc.)

The article does reaffirm the fact that leaching at anything below the 2ppb level is very minute. A Canada Health study helps put this in perspective, finding that the average bottled water contains 1.5 ppb of BPA.

We'll keep you posted if/when more information on these unpublished tests comes out. Meanwhile, you can learn more in our BPA and SIGG FAQs.

September 18, 2009

BPA Present in Some Aluminum Bottles

SNEWS - 8.10.09

Snews SNEWS was among the first to press with news that “Both SIGG and Laken have acknowledged to SNEWS that until August 2008, every aluminum bottle they produced and sold was lined with a water-based epoxy that contained BPA. To their credit, both have told SNEWS that since August 2008, all bottles manufactured by Laken and SIGG are being made with new liners that are certified to be BPA- and phthalate-free.”  Get fee access to the entire SNEWS store here.

 
Our Take
: As you can imagine, this has been the topic of conversation around the office since this article was released, and it’s something we take very seriously. Many of you have been asking for our take on this issue. We’ve been collecting information, sorting facts from rumors and presenting it an easily-digestible format. Please read our updated SIGG and BPA
FAQs for more information.

Bottom line?

1.     There’s no question SIGG messed up by waiting until now to come out with the contents of their old liner. That said, if you have a bottle with SIGG’s old liner, we believe it is safe for most people. Since unanswered questions remain about BPA in general, we recommend you read our SIGG FAQ see which liner your bottle has and determine what makes sense for you.

2.     SIGG’s new EcoCare liner is safe. It’s been independently tested and SIGG confirms it is free of BPA, phthalates, BPB and other harmful chemicals. Nothing harmful is used and nothing leaches from this liner.

As far as Laken is concerned, all bottles we offer (and have ever sold) by them use their certified BPA-free liner. To learn more about their old liner, see our Laken FAQ.

5-cent Bag Fee Passed in Fairbanks, Alaska

Daily News-Miner 9.11.09


Newsminer copy

Fairbanks, Alaska's Borough Assembly passed a 5-cent bag fee that automatically applies to a few dozen major retailers. The fee is characterized as a "user fee" to address the city's solid waste issues. Revenue from the fee will go toward emerging recycling programs.

Read more here.

September 14, 2009

Voters Do Not Pass Seattle Bag Fee

Business Week 08.19.09SeattleTimesBagFee

On August 18, Seattle voters rejected a 20-cent fee on use-and-toss bags. With about half the votes counted, the bag fee was falling behind 58 percent to 42 percent in the primary. The city had originally passed an ordinance to implement the fee, which would have started in January. However, the plastic industry incited a referendum that brought the issue to voters in an election this August. Groups against the fee outspent opponents by about $15-to-1.

Read more here.

Our Take: Having backed the fee from the start, we are disappointed it didn’t pass. However, more than 46 percent of people voted for the fee, which is pretty huge and shows that bag fees represent a smart, market-based solution to the problem.

September 09, 2009

OUR SCOOP: The Endangered Campus Water Fountain

 The Polaris Institute 9.09

WaterfountainA recently-released study by Canada's Polaris Institute reveals the "good, bad and ugly" on water fountains in the country's university campuses. The report's primary findings show "a disturbing trend of some institutions decommissioning water fountains in older buildings and excluding water fountains in new buildings. In these cases, students, staff and faculty are left to either bring water from home, drink from bathroom sinks or purchase bottled water."

The report ends with recommendations for improving access to public water sources, such as promoting water fountains as an aspect of sustainable campus design and requiring fountains in public buildings as part of provincial building codes. This would be a first step to "help combat the commodification of drinking water in public spaces and ensure access to this vital resource."

Read the full report.

Our Take: Cutting access to drinkable water is not a smart way to cut costs! Not only do people have to shell out big bucks at the vending machines just to stay hydrated – the amount of plastic trash will be huge! Hopefully, the Institute’s recommendations stick, and using high-quality reusable bottles will be encouraged.

Plastic Pieces Large and Small found in Expedition to Giant Garbage Patch

Inside Bay Area.com 9.1.09

Garbage Patch Plastic "Scientists who returned to the Bay Area this week after an expedition to the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' brought piles of plastic debris they pulled out of the ocean - soda bottle, cracked patio chairs, Styrofoam chunks, old toys, discarded fishing floats and tangled nets. But what alarmed them most, they said... was the nearly inconceivable amount of tiny, confetti-like pieces of broken plastic..."

An investigator described this excessive marine debris as the "new man-made epidemic," since the tiny pieces are believed to contain toxic chemicals and can absorb banned substances such as DDT. Not only is there a chemical threat, but the growing garbage patch debris poses danger to marine life and birds.

Read the entire article.

Our Take:This is an issue we’ve been covering for year - see our information on the lingering legacy of plastic in our oceans. Mindless over-consumption of use & toss items is at the root of this problem, and it's up to all of us to wake up and consciously consume far fewer of them.

September 08, 2009

Mexico City another Big Metro to to Ban Use & Toss Bags

Wend.com  8.24.09

Mexico-City-490x367 "Add another city to the list of those that have understood the severe negative effects of single-use plastic bags. Last Wednesday, Mexico City banned businesses from distributing plastic bags that are not biodegradable. The ban affects all stores, production facilities and service providers within the Federal District, which encompasses the city limits. Nearly 9 million people live inside the district, which makes it the second large metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw single-use plastic bags..."

For more, read the entire article.

Our Take: It’s always good news when a major metro region takes action on the plastic bag issue. However, instead of bag bans, bag fees designed to curb consumption are smarter, market-based solutions. Ireland’s PlasTax, for example, reduced plastic bag consumption by more than 90% in the first year alone.

August 20, 2009

Plastic Toxins May Leach into Oceans

Wired.com 08.19.09

“Although plastic has long been considered indestructible, some scientists say toxic chemicals from decomposing plastics may be leaching into the sea and harming marine ecosystems.

WiredToxicSoupContrary to the commonly-held belief that plastic takes 500 to 1,000 years to decomposes, researchers now report that the hard plastic polystyrene begins to break down in the ocean within one year, releasing potentially toxic bisphenol A (BPA) and other chemicals into the water…”

Read Toxic Soup: Plastics Could be Leaching Chemicals Into Ocean

August 11, 2009

D.C. will charge 5-cent disposable bag fee in 2010

Washington Business Journal 6.15.09WashJrn

 “The District gave its final unanimous vote in favor of charging a nickel for each paper and plastic bag that residents get from restaurants, pharmacies and grocers in an effort to clean up the Anacostia watershed… Council members pointed to a recent analysis by the D.C. Department of the Environment, which found that plastic bags make up 20 percent of trash in the Anacostia River and 50 percent of trash in its tributaries. According to that same DDOE report, charging for plastic bags could eliminate up to 47 percent of trash in the tributaries and 21 percent from the river’s main stem.”

Read the full article.

Our Take: We champion bag fees as the most sensible legislative way to influence change in consumption habits.  We're not sure, but it will be interesting to see if a A 5-cent fee will have the same success as Ireland's PlasTax (a 20-cent bag fee that resulted in a 90% reduction in consumption). Regardless, this is a a major step in the right direction.

Bag fee coverage fails to address misperceptions driven by the plastics industry

National Public Radio 8.10.09

Npr The plastic bag industry has spent more than a million dollars in the fight against Seattle’s proposed bag fee.  This is an important battle because Seattle is the largest city in America to try to pass this kind legislation, and if it goes into effect, it sets the stage for other cities to follow suit. The vote is next Tuesday, but limited preliminary polling hasn’t provided a clear idea of what the outcome will be. However, one thing is certain: the 20-cent fee would be enough to incite many residents to change their habits. One shopper admitted to NPR that while she brings her reusable bags with her to the grocery store with good intentions, she forgets to bring them inside 80% of the time. Would the bag fee help her remember? “I would remember. For sure,” she said.

Listen to NPR's Debate Over Plastic Bags Heats Up in Seattle

Our Take: The plastic industry’s concern for lower-income persons is highlighted as it's reason for opposing the bill. Conspicuously missing from NPR's coverage is any acknowledgment that the opposition may actually be rooted in the blow that a dramatic reduction in plastic bag consumption would deliver to the industry. Unfortunately, common misperceptions about the bag fee were left unaddressed.For the real facts on bag fees and why they're the smartest solution to over consumption, check out our no-nonsense rebuttal to common bag fee myths.

August 07, 2009

Documentary Reveals the Steep Costs of Bottled Water

Tapped: The Movie 2009

Recently-released documentary Tapped takes a behind-the-scenes look at the bottled water industry, bringing a critical perspective to issues such as BPA, the water industry cycle, infrastructure, and the waste and oil consumption related to the plastic bottles. The film's showing at select theaters around the country, or you can pre-order the DVD through the movie's official web site.

Watch the trailer:


Our Take: Watch this video! It's a hard-hitting take with major mainstream appeal. Plus, the film's site provides a handful of sensible ways to take action, including using high-quality reusable bottles. This delivers a message that's hard to ignore and raises awareness of an issue we've been championing from the beginning.

July 30, 2009

Reusables Stand Out in MSN's Battle of the Bags

MSNBC Online

MSNBC takes a hard look at the impact of disposable paper and plastic bags. Their coverage includes information on emerging legislation that will force change, and it makes the case for environmentally-sensible reusable bags. Hang in through the end for a handy calculator that shows how many paper and plastic bags you and others are helping save (including the number of trees and barrels of oil saved, too).

MSNPlasticBagCalculator copy

Check out the interactive "Battle of the Bags" web page

Our Take: Interesting, interactive tool with tons of information. In the battle of the bags, high-quality reusables emerge as the winner again (versus the cheap ones flooding the market). Our ACME Workhorse was endorsed as a functional, fair trade replacement for plastic bags and our plastic bag facts used in their calculator.


July 23, 2009

Baltimore editorial writer asks for a "good kick in the fee department"

Baltimore Sun - 6.10.09

Public radio reporter and former Baltimore Sun editorial writer Karen Hosler wrote in support of bag fees:

“I need some help to break the disposable bag habit. I know those ubiquitous plastic grocery bags are a major source of litter on land and sea and that such debris can poison fish and choke wildlife. I’ve cringed at bags stuck in trees along the highway and twisted in tall grasses that line tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, a reusable cloth bag languishes in the back seat of my car, forgotten until it mocks me when I return from shopping carrying more of the wretched plastic things.

Luckily, there’s new hope for anti-bag action from the nation’s capital. The District of Columbia City Council Recently approved a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper bags dispensed by groceries, restaurants, liquor stores and quick marts beginning in January. Amazingly, the vote was unanimous…”

Some bits of wisdom she shared: Bag fees are more practical than bans. Ireland’s success with the PlasTax should be heeded. Bag-fee campaigns should promote the impact on the environment. The opposition’s debate on class and income should be thwarted… and so on.

Read "Bag this Bad Habit"

Our Take: Hosler hit the mark with this one! As Ireland’s PlasTax showed, bag fees are a practical, proven and effective solution to the over consumption of use & toss bags. It’s exciting news that the fee passed in D.C., a signal that America is ready for this kind of change.  Bag fees are showing up on ballots across the nation, including Baltimore and Seattle. Show your support, spread awareness on these issues and continue to practice a reusable lifestyle.

July 10, 2009

New UN Report Points to Plastic as Source of Alarming Marine Pollution

UNEP/GRID Report - 2009

Plastic bag litterThe new UN Environment Program (UNEP) report Marine Litter: A Global Challenge is the first attempt to address the growing marine litter problem in seas around the world.  It was launched on World Oceans day, and UN Under-Secretary General/UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner describes marine litter as “symptomatic of a wider malaise: namely the wasteful use and persistent poor management of natural resources.”

He asserts that, “Some of the litter, like thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased-out rapidly everywhere – there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere."

Plastic is cited as one of the primary pollutants and greatest threats to marine life.  According to UNEP “Plastic – especially plastic bags and PET bottles – is the most pervasive type of marine litter around the world, accounting for over 80 percent of all rubbish collected in several of the regional seas assessed. Plastic debris is accumulating in terrestrial and marine environments worldwide, slowly breaking down into tinier and tinier pieces that can be consumed by the smallest marine life at the base of the food web.”  A study of fulmar seabirds in the North Sea found that 95 percent of them had plastic in their stomachs.

UNEP/GRID called for higher fines for ocean dumping as well as flexible economic incentives and deterrents to address the problem.

Download Marine Litter: A Global Challenge

Our Take: Once again plastic bags and bottles are singled out for their contribution to this problem.  Remember, all the plastic we produce and consume will last forever! Mindless over-consumption of use & toss items is at the root of this problem. -  it's up to all of us to wake up and consciously consume far fewer of them.

Bottled Water Contains High Levels of Contaminents

Environmental Working Group - 10.15.08

A study published by the Environmental Working Group shows that bottled water contains contaminants such as disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue and pain medication. Because these are found in bottled water at a rate no less than tap water (a fact echoed by the EPA) the EWG recommends consumers drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water.

WaterContamination

The study draws attention to the tremendous environmental and social costs of bottled water:

 “Of the 36 billion bottles sold in 2006, only a fifth were recycled (Doss 2008). The rest ended up in landfills, incinerators, and as trash on land and in streams, rivers and oceans. Water bottle production in the U.S. uses 1.5 million barrels of oil per every year, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ resolution passed in 2008, enough energy to power 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year (US Mayors 2007). As oil prices are continuing to skyrocket, the direct and indirect costs of making and shipping and landfilling the water bottles continue to rise as well (Gashler 2008, Hauter 2008).

Extracting water for bottling places a strain on rivers, streams and community drinking water supplies as well. When the water is not bottled from a municipal supply , companies instead draw from groundwater supplies, rivers, springs or streams. This “water mining,” as it is called, can remove substantial amounts of water that otherwise would have contributed to community water supplies or to the natural flow of streams and rivers (Boldt-Van Rooy 2003, Hyndman 2007, ECO Northwest, 2007).”

Read more about the study's results

See the test results

Our Take: More proof that bottled water is a waste of money & natural resources!  Instead of spending money on something that comes out of your tap for free, take advantage of all the great options that make drinking tap water an even healthier option, such as any of our selection of BPA-free water bottles.  Pair a wide-mouthed bottle with a Guyot TapGuard filter for better-than-bottled quality water, or drop in a Nuun natural hydration tablet to give your water a boost of essential electrolytes.

July 09, 2009

Colbert Report: BPA No Laughing Matter

ColbertBPA copyThe Colbert Report - 07.01.09

Steven Colbert interviews The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof on the rise of endocrine disruptors in the water we drink – which has lead to reproductive malformation in aquatic species & puts people (especially pregnant women) at risk. A significant contributor to the levels of endocrine disruptors is a chemical used to soften plastics (BPA) during manufacturing. Kristof calls for government regulation of these harmful chemicals.

Watch the entire interview

Our Take: Great to see Colbert put his high-profile satirical clout behind this issue. Don't wait for the government to take action, avoid BPA, pthalates and other toxins whenever possible by choosing high-quality, safe products. Read our FAQ on BPA for more information.

July 06, 2009

Retailer's Bag Fee Cuts Consumption by 70%

Yahoo Finance - 06.29.09

“Four weeks after introducing a $0.05 charge for single-use grocery bags, Metro grocery stores across Quebec and Ontario (Metro, Metro Plus, Super C and Marche Richelieu) are reporting that 70 percent fewer bags have been distributed in store, when compared to the monthly average.

Demand for reusable bags has increased by five times since June 1, when the fee was implemented. Such positive results will help Metro reach its goal of reducing the distribution of single-use grocery bags by 50 per cent by the end of 2010...”

Read the article: Distribution of single-use grocery bags decreases by 70 per cent at metro (06.29.09)

Our Take: We’ve long been in favor of bag fees as way to influence change in consumption habits. Usually, it takes government action (like the PlastTax or Seattle’s proposed bag fee) to establish a fee, but this is a great example of a retailer taking the matter into their own hands – and succeeding!  A 5-cent fee is generally thought to be too small to really change consumer behavior, but this example shows that every bit counts! 

Study Shows Significant Environmental Toll of Plastics

Yale Environment 360 - 07.02.09

The amount of plastic that will be produced this decade will nearly equal the total produced in the 20th century, and the substance is increasingly taking a toll on human health and the environment, a new study says...”Plastic-reef-100

A study of more than 60 scientists published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B found the ill effects of this rapid, worldwide accumulation of plastic to include: significant changes to hormones that affect fetal development and other physiological processes, ingestion of millions of tons of plastic debris by marine animals, transport of invasive species by floating plastic debris that remains in oceans for thousands of years and leaching of harmful chemicals into groundwater from the plastic in landfills, among others.

Read the article: Yale Environment 360: Environmental Toll of Plastics (07.02.09)

Our take: This study shows yet again that our fight against over-consumption of plastic bags is about more than just litter. Disposable plastic items are quickly accumulating worldwide with no end in sight, and the possible effects are staggering.  The more we change our habits to reduce the amount of plastic that will pollute water, endanger species and threaten our health, the better. 

June 29, 2009

OUR SCOOP: Poll Shows Seattle Bag Fee in Dead Heat

"Shopping Bag Referendum Divides Seattle Voters: Half of Seattle likely voters today say they are certain to vote yes on a ballot referendum that would require a 20 cent fee on disposable shopping bags; half say they are certain to vote no...Ballot measures in general are more volatile than candidate elections. Future poll results may show a shift in opinion as voters focus more on the issue." - Survey USASmiley bag

According to a new poll commissioned by Seattle news station KING 5, support for Seattle’s landmark bag fee is gaining ground - with 47 percent of respondents saying they’d vote in favor of the fee and 46 percent saying they’d vote against it. 

Our Take: It’s such a close race, and the Aug. 18 vote is coming quickly.  With many voters still undecided, the Green Bag Campaign needs your help now more than ever - learn more about this important legislation and the simple ways you can help! Modeled after Ireland's successful PlasTax, if Seattle's bag fee passes, it's the perfect opportunity for this model to take hold in the U.S. 

June 10, 2009

Bad Logic Plagues Bag Fee Op Ed

Seattle Times 7.30.2008

"The July 8 public hearing on Seattle's proposed 20-cent tax on disposable grocery bags and a ban on polystyrene foam food containers felt like the Fremont Street Fair.  People celebrated.  There were speeches on the evils of plastic, singing grannies waving reusable bags and evil monsters parading about the hearing room.  In such an atmosphere, it was difficult for the council and mayor to do anything other than say yes to the proposals.  But there were good reasons to say no...." Read the full article here.

Our Take: The bag fee is a proven, market-based solution to excessive plastic bag consumption. Here's our take on some of author Peter Nickerson’s misguided (but unfortunately not uncommon) arguments:

  • “We don’t have a litter problem” - To begin, a 5-mile walk is hardly a scientific study of a major metropolitan area, and statistics on plastic bag litter suggest otherwise.  It takes a single plastic bag more than 1,000 years to degrade, so even if you currently don’t see a litter problem, it doesn’t mean you don’t have one – or won’t in the future.
  • “these currently free bags…” - As an economics teacher, surely Mr. Nickerson has taught “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  There’s no such thing as a “free plastic bag” either.   The annual cost to U.S. retailers alone is $4 billion, passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.  And production of bags requires use of valuable natural resources we’re accustomed to paying a premium for.
  • “…we will buy reusable bags, probably by the millions.”Cheap reusables do create a new version of the same old problem – an issue that’s blown out of control since flimsy polypropylene bags flooded the market.  However, there are other plenty of other win-win options out there, like high-quality reusables made from durable, washable materials.
  • “…consumption of plastic bag liners doubled as a result of the tax” - There are definitely some uses for plastic bags, but whether you pay for them at the register or by the box, you’ll only buy as many as you need and not much more. “Doubled” sounds huge, but with free-of-charge plastic bags being handed out profusely, the original number of liners purchased was probably negligible.   It’s a bad idea to try to eliminate a necessity (a solid argument against plastic bag bans), but it’s sensible to charge for the consumption of a resource that’s not free to produce.
  • “We should strongly consider what NYC did this spring: promote recycling” - Recycling is definitely a good practice, but (at the high end) only about 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled – which pales in comparison to the >90% reduction in consumption spurred by Ireland’s PlasTax.  Plus, the prohibitive cost of processing and recycling plastic bags leads to all sorts unintended, negative consequences.

May 27, 2009

A new health threat: Eco-friendly bags

Chicago Tribune 5.27.09

Your eco-friendly shopping bag could be making you sick, a study says. But before you switch back to plastic, you might want to consider the source.

An overly alarming 15-page paper, published on the Web site for Canada's Environment and Plastics Industry Council, concluded that reusable grocery bags are "a breeding ground for bacteria and pose a public health risk" because of high counts of yeast, molds and bacteria. Download the study here.

Our Take:
  What a joke! The plastics industry just won't stop twisting science and sounding false-alarms to justify our plastic addiction. A great level-headed article from the Tribune that turns a critical eye towards this campaign of misinformation, which many journalists simply regurgitate (one of the inflammatory articles we saw on this industry-funded study was titled "Reusable Grocery Bags May Poison You" - no joke).
 
Common sense practices like washing your reusable bag and using plastic when worried about leakage can reduce contaminants. When you're choosing a reusable shopping bag, avoid the cheap ones and steer towards high quality, durable bags that withstand washing. In countries like Australia and Ireland, reusable bags have once again become a part of daily life and they haven't experienced any of these health concerns.

Link: A new health threat: Eco-friendly bags

May 21, 2009

OUR SCOOP: Seattle Bag Fee Vote Set for Aug 18 - We Need Your Help!

ReusableBags.com 5.28.09 GrBagBanner     

Two weeks ago, our founder got a call from Seattle mayor, Greg Nickels, asking for our help in supporting the Seattle bag fee. It's based on Ireland's successful PlasTax, which reduced plastic bag consumption by over 90% - the plastic bag industry is doing everything it can to defeat this measure.

Originally set to take effect Jan 1st of this year, the bag fee was stalled by the plastic bag industry – who’s spent more than $250,000 to preserve their interest in the mindless consumption of throwaway bags. They’ve been successful in stalling or diverting every major initiative proposed in recent years, from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The Seattle bag fee gets voted on August 18 and we’re doing everything we can to support it.
In the six years this company has been around, the Seattle bag fee is the most important piece of legislation we’ve seen. Seattle’s proposed fee is a pure model – taxing plastic and paper bags with a significant 20-cent fee. The initiative will set a trailblazing precedent for cities across the U.S. if it’s re-instated.

We realize you may not live in Seattle, but please consider making a contribution. After all, the opponent's money is coming from outside Seattle. Let's show them that it's not just big industry that's interested in this race, but environmentalists across the nation as well.

Want to get involved? Here’s how you can help:

  • Donate to the Seattle Green Bag Campaign
  • Purchase from our store – We’ve committed to donating 1% of sales to the campaign between now and the Aug 18th vote.
  • Spread the word: If you’re a reporter or blogger, cover the story. Forward this story on to friends.  Don’t let these guys win!

Our Take: We’ll do everything in our power to defeat plastic bag industry interests and push through this landmark bag fee. If successful, Seattle may prove to be the tipping point for cities across the nation – and the world.

Listen to the voicemail from the Seattle mayor here & watch a great video they produced about the history of the plastic bag:

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.

Chicago Bans Bottles with BPA Plastic

The New York Times 5.14.09   NYTimes

The City Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a measure making Chicago the nation’s first city to ban the sale of baby bottles and sippy cups manufactured with a chemical that some studies have linked to disease.

Passage was driven by what officials here call federal regulators’ failure to take action on a grave public health issue.

The chemical, bisphenol-A, or BPA, is commonly employed to harden plastics, among other uses. Over time, it can leach into the contents of a plastic container, particularly one that is used in a microwave oven or cleaned in a dishwasher.

Link: Chicago Bans Bottles with BPA Plastic

Our Take: Huge news! Our very own Chicago takes the lead as America’s first city to ban BPA. We’ve been opposed to BPA in plastic, especially water bottles, for years. Let’s hope that Chicago will be a role model for cities across the nation and the world, limiting the use of this harmful chemical.

A Cautionary Video About America's 'Stuff'

Storyofstuff The New York Times 5.10.2009

The thick-lined drawings of the Earth, a factory and a house, meant to convey the cycle of human consumption, are straightforward and child-friendly. So are the pictures of dark puffs of factory smoke and an outlined skull and crossbones, representing polluting chemicals floating in the air.

Which is one reason “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption, has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation.


Our Take: Another great production from Free Range Studios – we endorse it as a wake-up call about how much we waste in our daily lives. The 20-minute video is quick and easy to digest & fills in the gap in environmental science left by outdated textbooks. We highly recommend watching it.

Link: A Cautionary Video About America’s ‘Stuff’

Watch the video here: www.storyofstuff.com

OUR SCOOP: Join the EWG Water Label Scavenger Hunt

ReusableBags.com 5.08.09 

By now, most of us know that plastic water bottles are bad for us and bad for the environment. But have you ever wondered about the quality of the water itself? Many studies show that bottled water is often no different than tap water.

One of our favorite non-profits, The Environmental Working Group, is running a special Bottled Water Label Scavenger Hunt to help discover what’s in our bottled water. Until June 15, simply collect and send labels, and you’ll be helping the group collect samples to test. Plus, you’ll be entered to win a free reusable bottle and reusable bag.

Here are the details:
- Collect labels from any non-sparkling, unflavored bottled water.
- Write down the name & location of the store you bought it from, date of purchase, and your name, email and mailing address.
- Mail to:
Environmental Working Group
Attn: Nneka Leiba
1436 U St. NW, Suite 100
Washington D.C. 20009

For more information, visit: http://www.ewg.org

Our Take:  Bottled water is a waste – consuming tremendous resources to produce, then sitting in landfills or littering our streets – and all for something we can basically get for free. Adopting a high quality reusable water bottle is one of the simplest changes we all can make. Learn more about the problems with plastic bottles here.

That plastic bag could soon cost you in Phila.

Philly.com 5.07.09 Philadelphia

Plastic retail bags may soon be a thing of the past - or at least, a costly luxury - in Philadelphia.

Under a contentious measure being brought before City Council today, shoppers would be charged 25 cents for every plastic bag they receive at any store. Businesses with more than $1 million in annual sales would give 75 percent of the fees to the city; smaller stores could keep the fees.

Our Take: Unfortunately, the Philadelphia bag initiative failed to pass through the Philadelphia City Council on May 14. Industry interests once again derailed a promising effort to reduce consumption. Like Seattle, Philadelphia’s initiative would have imposed a 25-cent fee on plastic bags, significant enough to curb consumption. Read more about Seattle’s upcoming bag fee vote here.

Link: That plastic bag could soon cost you in Phila.

Fairfax plastic bag ban brings change for businesses, residents

Fairfax Marin Independent Journal 5.04.09

The Fairfax Farmers Market isn't covered by a new town ban on plastic bags, but that won't stop it from doing away with plastic when it opens for the season Wednesday.

 

"We're a place that is designed to support a healthy and viable local food system, and the hard realities of plastic are very much opposite that," market manager Amelia Spilger said.

 

On Monday, Fairfax became the first municipality in Marin to ban the use of plastic bags at restaurants and retail stores, a move approved by voters in November.

Our Take: Fairfax passes a plastic bag ban - it's a step in the right direction, but we believe bag fees do more to change consumption behavior than bag bans. Click here to learn more.

Link: Fairfax plastic bag ban brings change for businesses, residents

May 04, 2009

OUR SCOOP: Kroger's "Design A Reusable Bag" Contest Is Green-Washing At Its Finest

ReusableBags.com  5.04.09Kroger

National supermarket chain Kroger is running a "Design Your Own Reusable Bag" contest at locations across the country. The winner gets $1000 gift card and may see his or her design on one of the 99-cent reusable bags sold in Kroger stores. As the second largest retailer in the country, Kroger is positioned to make a real difference in plastic (and paper) bag over-consumption.

Unfortunately, digging a little deeper reveals that the super-chain's efforts are another disappointing example of green-washing. Kroger continues to use plastic bags at thousands of stores nationwide. And the cheap reusable bags they sell do little to solve the problems plastic and paper bags. If the conglomerate was serious about cutting mindless consumption, they would follow in the steps of Ikea or Whole Foods - two corporations doing the hard work to kick our dependence on plastic bags, instead of using the now-trendy reusables movement as a PR opportunity.

Our Take:  In a sea of green-washing, our advice remains what it's been for 6 years - buy a handful of high quality reusable bags you will use for years from a company you trust. Read more about the trouble with cheap reusable bags flooding the market here.

April 30, 2009

OUR SCOOP: The Bay vs. The Bag

ReusableBags.com 4.30.09

A must-see video from San Francisco-based Save the Bay and Free Range Studios shows the tidal wave of plastic bags that threaten our environment, waterways and shorelines.

The group is mobilizing thousands –fighting for legislation to ban or tax all single-use bags in the Bay Area and throughout California. Haunting visuals and powerful statistics combine to inspire us all to kick the disposable bag habit.

Our Take:  The best video we’ve seen yet that wakes people up to plastic bag waste. We’ve been an active supporter of Free Range Studios and their powerful, cause-related videos designed to effect change.

Go Green, Save Money

IMG_5649-1 - resized The Oprah Winfrey Show 4.22.09

Our plastic bag counter was featured on Oprah’s Earth Day Show, “Go Green Save Money,” as a reminder of the thousands of plastic bags consumed every second around the world.

We were also listed in the “Going Green Resources” page at Oprah.com – for our hand-picked selection of 700+ reusables. Many were featured in the Earth Day Lunch Challenge, which shows Oprah encouraging people to switch from disposable lunch options to reusable ones. 

See the Green Resources Directory here and our Plastic Bag Counter here.

Palo Alto sued over plastic-bag ban

Palo Alto Online 4.21.09  Saveplasticbag

Palo Alto's crusade against plastic bags faced its first legal challenge Tuesday, when a coalition of groups filed a lawsuit claiming that the city acted too rashly when it banned plastic bags from local grocery stores last month.

Our Take:  The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition strikes again…first Los Angeles, then Santa Monica, now Palo Alto – the lawsuit-happy group may be stalling city initiatives to reduce consumption of bags, but all eyes are on efforts across the country to adopt reusable bags.  

Link: Palo Alto sued over plastic-bag ban

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

Plastic Bags Blow...and Illuminate!

Finndustry 4.05.09 Plasticbagsblow

My malevolence for the plastic bag was temporarily immobilized today while being delighted by the art group Luzinterruptus' celebration of  the vessel, with an "impromptu garden of light," installed near The Prado Museum. The installation, called “A Cloud of Bags Visit the Prado” was illuminated for a period of about 4 hours and included roughly 80 recycled baggies, which were inflated with the aid of the wind.

Our Take:  Who knew plastic bags could be something beautiful? We’re seeing a growing number of artists using the object of our ugly addiction to raise awareness about over-consumption.

Link: Plastic Bags Blow...and Illuminate!

April 01, 2009

OUR SCOOP: Plastic bag climbs remote mountain

Maunakea ReusableBags.com 4.02.09

Our founder, Vincent Cobb, films a plastic bag as it climbs a remote location in Hawaii: the summit of Mauna Kea, elevation 13,803 ft.

Another sign that even in paradise, plastic bags are simply everywhere. Watch here and here... 

"Green" plastic bag fee to go before Seattle voters

Seattle Post Intelligencer 3.30.09 SeattlePostIntelligencer

Seattleites will get to decide whether they're willing to pay a 20-cent-per-plastic bag "green" fee to help the environment.

The City Council on Monday moved to put the question before voters on the Aug. 18 ballot.

Our Take: After a lot of feet-dragging, Seattle residents will finally vote on the bag fee, originally set to take effect Jan 1 of this year. The plastics industry was successful in stalling it, but we hope they won't ultimately derail it. At 20-cents, this bag fee targeting both paper and plastic is a model for cities everywhere to reduce consumption.

Link: “Green” plastic bag fee to go before Seattle voters