116 posts categorized "Region-United States"

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

Republicans Scrap 'Compostable' Utensils in House Cafeterias

Los Angeles Times 3.25.11

60390430 After gaining control of the House, Republicans are piling their plates with a controversial issue that's separating lawmakers significantly along party lines.

According to Republicans, the use of "compostable" cups and utensils was "neither cost-effective nor energy-efficient," as reported by the L.A. Times. Notorious plastic utensils and flimsy polystyrene cups are back, and Democrats have a mouthful to say about it. Modifying utensils in the cafeteria, which serves approximately 230,000 meals a month, was an essential part of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Green the Capitol initiative.  Some lawmakers are advocating the wisdom of reusables by bringing mugs from home and suggesting metal spoons and forks as a solution to the issue.
 
Take a look at our disposable lunch item facts for information regarding cutlery and lunch waste.

Read the full article here.

Image: Jim Young / Reuters

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 15, 2011

TED talk: Using Nature's Genius in Architecture

TED.com 02.11

How can architects fuel sustainable architecture and eliminate raw materials? Peering into the beautiful, organic world of molecular plant structures and insect biology, developers are looking at nature for answers. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn illustrates how biomimicry could potentially revolutionize the way humans develop and sustain resources.

This extraordinary science and art of emulating nature's complex biological systems to solve human issues involves three habits of nature: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun. Take a look at why Pawlyn suggests that adopting these habits is not only possible, but critical if we are to encourage sustainable design.

 

New Trade Organization for Sustainable Packaging

TreeHugger.com 3.10.11

Cola Packaging In order to facilitate sustainable packaging, prominent companies such as Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Kellogg's and others have formed a trade organization that will help the packaging industry maximize initiatives through relevant research and data collection. The Michigan-based institution, American Institution for Packaging and the Environment (Ameripen), will advocate science-based decision making by partnering with academic institutions, trade associations, non-profits and government agencies, according to Environmental Leader.

Earth911.com reports that packaging and containers contribute to approximately 56 percent of all plastic waste and about 75 percent of waste from residential households. As some of the most ubiquitously used product lines adopt more eco-friendly practices, we are one step closer to becoming a more sustainable economy.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: Treehugger.com

Plastic bag manufacturers sue Marin County over plastic bag ban

Plasticbaglaws.org 2.26.11

S-PLASTIC-BAG-BAN-REJECTED-large Following California's attempts to implement a statewide legislation to reduce consumption and distribution of plastic bags, Marin County and others continue to battle over effective methods of local regulation. Meanwhile, opposition groups like the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition pose a challenge.

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition (a plastics industry front group) filed suit against Marin County Feb. 24 over the plastic bag ordinance that the county's Board of Supervisors adopted in January, according to Plasticbaglaws.org. However, Marin County isn't the only one being targeted. The STPB has threatened and/or sued every California city that adopted a plastic bag ordinance after statewide legislation failed, leaving counties to consider their own bag fees and bans.

To read the full article, click here

Check out our stance on fees vs. bans here.

March 04, 2011

Hawaii County Council advances plastic bag ban bill

Hawaii Tribune-Herald 2.17.11

HawaiiCouncil-250x159 The Hawaii County Council advanced a bill that would make the island of Hawaii the third island to prohibit retailers from distributing plastic bags to consumers for free. However, the bill has been met with controversy as councilmen and retail merchants battle over penalty provisions and enforcements. In Kauai County, its council is already revising its bag ban less than a month after it went into effect in order to address complications that surfaced.

Despite controversy, Maui and Kauai implemented plastic bag bans January, 11, 2011, which have been praised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for reducing waste and preventing plastic from accumulating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, potentially harming turtles and other marine life.

Read more about out stance on fees vs. bans here.

Read the full article from Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Image:Change.org

 

September 21, 2010

American Samoa Bans the Bag

USA Today 9.2.10

U.S. territory American Samoa has signed a law banning stores from handing out plastic shopping bags.

The law will take effect Feb. 23, and excludes biodegradable shopping bags and compostable plastic bags.

This ban was signed only a few days after California rejected a very similar law, although a growing number of California cities have taken steps to ban bags at a local level. Some of these cities include San Francisco, Palo Alto, Malibu, and others.

Read the full article here.

Our Take: We like their commitment to reducing consumption, however it's fees - not bans - that are the best way to go. Ireland's PlasTax reduced plastic bag consumption by 90% in its first year alone.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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

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

Wash. bill to ban BPA in baby bottles appears dead

Seattle Post Intelligencer 3.30.09  SeattlePostIntelligencer

Washington won't be the first state in the nation to ban a controversial chemical from baby bottles and other food and drink containers for children 3 and younger.

Our Take: We applaud Washington for its leadership in trying to ban BPA at the state level. Too bad the bill won't make it through the legislature. We hope the FDA will make it federal law to ban BPA when it gives the data a second look this year. (We aren't holding our breath. Until then, our advice remains the same - avoid the stuff.)

Link: Wash. bill to ban BPA in baby bottles appears dead

Plastic? Time to Bag It.

DCbagfee The Washington Post 3.27.09

ELEVEN OF the 13 members of the D.C. Council are endorsing legislation that would place the District in the forefront of national efforts to reduce local pollution…

In truth, there really is no such thing as a free bag. The cost of bags is built into the prices consumers pay for food. And they pay again -- to the tune of $50 million a year in the District -- to pick up litter and trash, including a lot of plastic bags.

Our Take: As this editorial says, there is no such thing as a “free bag.” Bag fees reveal the invisible cost of paper and plastic bags, normally built into products in the form of higher prices, and give us all the choice to just say ‘no.’ Unfortunately, the 5-cent fee is way too low to change consumption behavior.

Link: Plastic? Time to Bag It.

Palo Alto passes shopping bag ban; lawsuit looms

San Jose Mercury News 3.17.09

"Paper or reusable?" is the question Palo Alto shoppers will face at grocery checkout counters beginning in September.

The city council Monday night voted 7-1 to ban plastic bags at supermarkets in hopes of reducing the stream of harmful litter in local creeks and the San Francisco Bay.

Our Take: Following in San Francisco's footsteps, Palo Alto bans plastic bags at supermarkets, effective Sep. 18. We like their commitment to reducing consumption, however it's fees - not bans - that are the best way to go. Ireland's PlasTax reduced plastic bag consumption by 90% in its first year alone.

Link: Palo Alto passes plastic shopping bag ban; lawsuit looms

No BPA For Baby Bottles In U.S.

The Washington Post 3.06.09  WashingtonPost

The six largest manufacturers of baby bottles will stop selling bottles in the United States made with bisphenol A, a controversial chemical widely used in plastics but increasingly linked to a range of health effects.

The manufacturers declared their intentions after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, joined by the attorneys general in Connecticut and New Jersey, wrote to the bottle makers and asked them to voluntarily stop using the chemical.

Our Take: It's about time bottle manufacturers respond to pressure to stop using BPA in their products. Congrats to the Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey Attorney Generals for demanding regulation of this harmful chemical - if the FDA's not going to do it, someone has to.

Link: No BPA For Baby Bottles In U.S.

February 19, 2009

Senate committee backs ban on plastic bags

Msnbc MSNBC 2.12.09

A proposal in Colorado to ban plastic bags at supermarkets and other large stores by 2012 passed its first test at the state Capitol on Wednesday…

The proposed ban is opposed by supermarkets, big box stores and department stores. The bill would not apply to smaller stores and franchise operations.

Our Take:  Kudos to Colorado for standing strong amid the plastic bag industry’s significant efforts, which have squashed many other city and state bag initiatives. And while we still believe fees are the best way to change consumption behavior, it’s exciting to see this legislation move through the state Senate.

Link: Senate committee backs ban on plastic bags

New Safety Law Doesn't Mean All's Well in Toyland

NPR 2.12.09  Npr

A new federal law took effect this week banning chemicals called phthalates in children's toys and other kids' products. While the ban was hailed as a victory for children's health, it's no guarantee that the products are safe.

That's because companies currently aren't required to publicly disclose the chemicals they use in place of phthalates — and little is known about the health effects of one of the most widely used alternatives.

Our Take:  We’re glad to hear that phthalates have finally been banned from children’s toys (it’s about time!). However, as the article cautions, it’s tough to know whether toys contain the harmful chemical in the first place – making it difficult to regulate. Not to mention, the 80,000 phthalate substitutes being used in its place, whose toxicity isn’t known. We suggest steering clear of any plastics that aren’t thoroughly tested and from a trusted source.

Listen here

Link: New Safety Law Doesn’t Mean All’s Well in Toyland


Taxing Plastic Bags, From Pennies Here to Millions There

The New York Times 2.02.09  Nytimesarticle

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed a 5-cent fee on new plastic bags at the store register last week… The projected revenue for this “user fee” was $84 million — a sharp increase from the last figure floated, just $16 million.

That breaks down to one bag for every man, woman and child in New York City every single day of the year. The site Reusablebags.com estimates that 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed annually around the globe.

Our Take:  We’re glad to hear the NYC bag fee has been expanded beyond grocery stores to include restaurants and other retailers – but we still think 5-cents just isn’t enough to change behavior. While the city may be looking forward to its potential millions in revenue, changing consumption habits is the true goal of a bag fee. Ireland’s heftier PlasTax cut plastic bag use by 90% in the first year alone! 

Link: Taxing Plastic Bags, From Pennies Here to Millions There

February 18, 2009

Santa Monica: City Council delays ban on single-use plastic bags

Argonaut The Argonaut 1.29.09

The Santa Monica City Council was set to adopt an ordinance earlier this month banning single-use plastic bags from all retail establishments in the city, but postponed taking action…

A day before the meeting, the city received a 17-page letter from Stephen Joseph, an attorney representing SaveThePlasticBag.com, which is an association of plastic bag manufacturers and related businesses, stating its intent to file a lawsuit against the city after the ban is passed…

Link: Santa Monica: City Council delays ban on single-use plastic bags

January 19, 2009

Price meltdown takes the green out of recycling

Recyclingpile MLive.com - The Grand Rapids Press  1.04.09

Recycling isn't generating the right kind of green these days...

Just months after riding an incredible high, the recycling market has tanked almost in lockstep with the global economic meltdown.

As consumer demand for autos, appliances and new homes dropped, so did the steel and pulp mills' demand for scrap, paper and other recycled materials used to manufacture new products.

Recyclers across the country are finding it more difficult to find buyers. Some are describing the downturn as the worst and most rapid ever.

Link: Price meltdown takes the green out of recycling

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

FDA to Reconsider Plastic Bottle Risk

Nytimesbottle The New York Times 12.24.08

Weeks after its own advisory board accused the Food and Drug Administration of failing to adequately consider research about the dangers of bisphenol-A, found in many plastic baby bottles, plastic food containers and metal can linings, the agency has agreed to reconsider the issue.

Our Take:  Finally, the FDA is admitting that BPA may pose a risk to human health. Based on the overwhelming evidence, we expect this “second look” at the data will confirm 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 – more than 2 billion pounds of which is produced a year, according to this article.

Link: FDA to Reconsider Plastic Bottle Risk 

November 13, 2008

In Mayor's Plan, the Plastic Bag Will Carry A Fee

Bagfee The New York Times 11.07.08

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has called for charging shoppers 6 cents for every plastic bag needed at the register.

 If the proposal passes, New York City would follow the lead of many European countries and become one of the first places in the United States to assess a so-called plastic bag tax.

Our Take:  While we applaud a consumption-based fee of any kind, 6 cents just isn't enough to change behavior. The main objective of Ireland's hugely successful PlasTax was to cut consumption. This seems designed to create an ongoing revenue stream for a struggling municipality, while reducing consumption a little. We doubt anything less than 25 cents will work.

Link: In Mayor's Plan, the Plastic Bag Will Carry A Fee

October 22, 2008

Dallas council refuses to tax or ban plastic shopping bags

The Dallas Morning News 10.14.08Dallas_news_2

The City Council appears unlikely to tax and ultimately ban plastic shopping bags, despite a recommendation from staffers that Dallas do away with them for environmental reasons...


The plan [Eric Griffin, interim director of the city’s Office of Environmental Quality] suggested involved seeking state authority to levy a fee of 5 cents per bag on consumers in Dallas to initiate a ban in three to five years if the fee did not substantially reduce the number of bags used.

Our Take:

Dallas would have joined the likes of Ireland in passing a bag fee – the most successful government initiative to overconsumption of plastic and paper bags. As in Seattle, industry interests are effectively squashing the issue with misinformation and money, and legislators aren’t fighting back – whether because of a lack of resources or simply feeling overpowered.


They’re missing out: Ireland's PlasTax cut plastic bag consumption by 90% and generated $9.6 million in its first year alone, earmarked to improve the environment. Talk about a win-win (or in this case, a lose-lose).

Link: Dallas council refuses to tax or ban plastic shopping bags

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

September 10, 2008

Seattle voters may end up with last word on bag fee

Seattle_times_logo1 The Seattle Times 08.29.08

Seattle voters moved a step closer Thursday to getting a chance to repeal the 20-cent bag fee the city wants all grocery, convenience and drugstores to charge for paper and plastic bags. A coalition of plastic and grocery industries submitted 22,252 signatures to the city this week to allow voters to decide whether they favor the fee — 14,374 of them must be verified to put the issue on the ballot. The deadline was Thursday to submit the signatures.

Our Take: As expected, industry interests are fighting tooth and nail to kill Seattle’s bag fee, modeled after Ireleand’s hugely successful Plastax. Set to take effect Jan 1, the initiative would have set a sea-change precedent for cities across the nation. 

Link: Seattle voters may end up with last word on bag fee 

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.

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 18, 2008

Trendy grocery totes tout eco-chic style

The Seattle Times, 07.03.08   Trendy_grocery_totes_seattle_times

"There's an enormous amount of trendiness around the reusable-shopping-bag phenomenon," said Vincent Cobb, CEO and founder of www.reusablebags.com, a Web site dedicated to reducing overconsumption of plastic shopping bags. "It's one of those easy feel-good things. It's like, 'I can't do those big things like buy a hybrid car, but I can do these sorts of little green things.' "

Link: Trendy grocery totes tout eco-chic style 

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 

June 24, 2008

A little more junk in the water

National Post, 06.02.08 Junk_raft

In a unique take on raising awareness of the dramatic rise of plastics in our oceans, Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal are in the midst of an intense sailing expedition. Their vessel? A raft made from 15,000 plastic bottles, 5,000 plastic bags and a cockpit from an old Cessna airplane. The Algalita Marine Research Foundation hopes the “Junk Raft" will get people to pay attention to the tragedy of the increasing amount of discarded plastic in our oceans; plastic like toothbrushes and cigarette lighters that are choked on by sea birds and microscopic particles that are consumed by fish.

Link: A little more junk in the water 

Check out the blog: Junk Raft Blog

Baby bottles safe, FDA official says

Baltimore Sun, 06.11.08

In a response to the BPA controversy, the FDA announced recently that parents should not be concerned about safety in regards to the use of the chemical bisphenol-A in their children’s baby bottles. Claiming the concerns raised recently were based on uncorroborated evidence, conflicting results and research done on rats, the officials defended the use of BPA and phthalates.

Our Take: Yikes. In this shockingly irresponsible (and much delayed) response, the FDA continues to erode its “brand” and public trust. Sounds like ass-covering and siding with industry. The old US standard of having to prove a substance is unsafe before it is pulled from the market is alive and well. As much as the government may wish, we have a feeling this isn’t over. What do you think?

Link: Baby bottles safe, FDA official says