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19 posts from January 2008

January 31, 2008

Bag 'em up: Plastic Sacks Losing Appeal

Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune 01.22.08

Prompted by environmental and consumer concerns, some grocery stores are banning thin plastic bags this spring. The super-thin grocery bag, usually made out of polyethylene film, came along just 25 years ago to alleviate our burdens, and in that short time it has spread across the world like an urban tumbleweed.

The global use of plastic bags amounts to 100 billion a year, according to the Film and Bag Federation, an industry trade group. Others say it's much higher, approaching 100 billion in the United States alone. The website Reusablebags.com has a running ticker of U.S. bag consumption which, as of last night, topped 29 billion.

Link: Bag 'em up: Plastic Sacks Losing Appeal

Project Green: The Chemicals Within

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Project Green: The Chemicals Within

January 21, 2008

Whole Foods Chain to Stop Use of Plastic Bags

New York Times 01.23.08Whole_foods

The Whole Foods Market chain announced that it would stop offering plastic grocery bags, giving customers instead a choice between recycled paper or reusable bags. Test runs in San Francisco, Austin, TX, and Toronto went well enough that Whole Foods executives felt confident broadening the plastic bag ban to all its stores. It will take effect by April 22, Earth Day.

Our Take: Are bans the right incentive to reduce consumption of plastic bags? What do you think?

Link: Whole Foods Chain to Stop Use of Plastic Bags

January 16, 2008

Paper or Your Reusable Bag?

NPR Marketplace 01.10.08Npr

New York City is requiring new measures to increase the recyling of plastic shopping bags. China has announced it's banning them. Such measures are making reusable bags a big business. Host Tess Vigeland talks with Vincent Cobb, president of Reusablebags.com.

Link: Paper or Your Reusable Bag?

Mountain Equipment Pulls Water Bottles off Shelves

Globe and Mail 12.07.07Nalgene_bottles

Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canada's largest specialty outdoor-goods retailer, says it has pulled most food and beverage containers made of polycarbonate plastic from its shelves, citing concern over possible health risks. The Vancouver-based firm been one of the largest sellers of such products as polycarbonate Nalgene water bottles. The plastic in question is made mostly from bisphenol A, which mimics estrogen and is derived from petrochemicals.

Our Take: We've been promoting and offering safe reusable bottles for years. Mounting evidence of health risks and reactions like this reinforces the importance of avoiding cheap bottles and/or ones made from controversial materials like polycarbonate. Replace your polycarbonate bottle with a safe option today!

Link: Mountain Equipment Pulls Water Bottles off Shelves

New York City Council Passes Bill for Recycling of Plastic Bags

New York Times 01.10.08

The New York City Council overwhelmingly passed a bill (44 to 2) requiring large stores and retail chains to collect and recycle plastic bags they give to shoppers.

Under the new bill, which had surprising support from Progressive Bag Affiliates, a trade group that represents most American makers of plastic bags, stores that give the bags to customers must provide recycling bins for the bags in a prominent place in the store. They will also have to ensure that the bags they distribute have printed messages urging customers to return them to stores. The legislation applies to stores of 5,000 square feet or larger, as well as all branches of chains with more than five locations in the city.

Our Take: It's no surprise to us that the plastic bag industry supports the bill. It's too bad that New York City's bill misses the mark by focusing on recycling. While helpful it won't fix the problem. This initiative doesn't hit at the heart of the matter which is to significantly reduce consumption (and capture external costs associated with plastic bags). The heart of real reform focuses on implementing tactics such as Ireland's Plastax.

Link: New York Times

Meet Environmental Superhero... Bagman!

icWales.co.uk 01.12.08

A rubbish superhero is aiming to banish plastic bags. The character, Bagman, has been created by environmental charity Sustainable Wales as part of a drive to rid Porthcawl of unnecessary carrier bags. It is the first step of a campaign called Banish Bridgend’s Plastic Bags, which hopes to stop shops across the area from giving them out.

Our Take: Might be goofy, but stunts like this are helping to raise awareness.

Link: Meet Environmental Superhero... Bagman!

In Line for Hindmarch's Tote

ReusableBags.com 01.17.08

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

Link: In Line for Hindmarch's Tote

Recycling in Israel, Not Just Trash, but the Whole Dump

New York Times 10.24.07Israel_2

An arch made of plastic bottles sits atop Hiriya, a former Tel Aviv dump that is being converted to a recycling-themed park.

Link: Recycling in Israel, Not Just Trash, but the Whole Dump

Sack the Plastic Shopping Bag

The Boston Globe 11.10.07

Written by Brian A. Joyce, a Milton Democrat, represents the Norfolk, Bristol, and Plymouth District in the Massachusetts Senate. The Commonwealth has designated Wednesday as "Reusable Bag Day." Retailers across the state will encourage customers to consider bringing in their own bags or purchasing a reuseable bag. The event is modeled after Hong Kong's "No Plastic Bag Day" and Singapore's "Bring Your Own Bag Day," which resulted in drastic drops in the consumption of one-time bag use.

Link: Sack the Plastic Shopping Bag

Plastic Bags Join Endangered List

The Sydney Morning Herald 01.10.08Australia_2

The days of the plastic bag are numbered, with the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, likely to impose either a levy on each bag handed to shoppers, or to ban them outright within 12 months. Garrett has confirmed he will move to phase out bags "by the end of the year", after consulting state governments in March.

Link: Plastic Bags Join Endangered List

Human Behavior, Global Warming, and the Ubiquitous Plastic Bag

New York Times 09.30.07

Once upon a time, the question was plastic or paper, which had its own somewhat uncertain calculus of virtue and waste. Now, it has begun to dawn on people that you don’t need either. Plastic bags are not the biggest single issue out there, and no expert on global warming would suggest solutions rest wholly with decisions made by individual consumers. On the other hand, it is estimated that the United States goes through 100 billion plastic bags a year, which take an estimated 12 million barrels of oil to produce and last almost forever. And if individual decisions can’t solve the problem, the wrong ones can certainly compound it.

Link: Human Behavior, Global Warming, and the Ubiquitous Plastic Bag

Citywide plastic-bag bans are gaining momentum. But will companies be the ones that force us to change?

Fast Company 11.2007

After the plastic water bottle, you couldn't do much better than the plastic shopping bag as a symbol of American consumerism run amok. We go through 380 billion a year. An estimated 5.2% get recycled; in landfills, they could last 1,000 years. Bags are made from oil, and our bag habit costs us 1.6 billion gallons each year. That last statistic, and its link to global warming, is starting to drive change.

See how four high-profile programs rate: Walmart, Target, Whole Foods and Ikea.

Link: Citywide plastic-bag bans are gaining momentum. But will companies be the ones that force us to change?

Africa Wages War on Scourge of Plastic Bags

Reuters 08.20.07Africa

Discarded plastic bags -- in the billions -- flutter from thorn-bushes across the continent, and clog up cities from Cape Town to Casablanca. Now UNEP and other concerned bodies are spearheading a fast-growing campaign to contain the menace. Their emphasis is not just on curbing production, but also promoting re-use of bags, and recycling of plastic waste.

Link: Africa Wages War on Scourge of Plastic Bags

New Year Brings Bottled Water Tax

Chicago Tribune 01.16.08

Chicago is set to impose a 5-cent tax on bottled water on Jan. 1, becoming the first major U.S. city to demand such a surcharge. The move -- which officials predict will secure an extra $10.5 million annually -- will help the city plug a budget hole by building on the growing disdain for environmentally suspect bottles.

Link: New Year Brings Bottled Water Tax

ReusableBags.com Wins Co-op America's People's Choice Award for 2007 Green Business of the Year

EarthTimes 11.20.07

Chicago-based ReusableBags.com is the People's Choice for Green Business of the Year from Co-op America.  The Award was announced this month at the San Francisco Green Festival.  ReusableBags.com estimates that it has helped 70,000 customers to reduce their consumption of use-and-toss items (such as petroleum-based plastic shopping bags) by 190 million units.

ReusableBags.com Founder Vincent Cobb said:  "Our ongoing mission since day one has been to change the status quo of society's use-and-toss mentality by providing sound, practical ideas and products.   We were honored to be nominated the past two years for this Award.  And it is a thrill to be the winner of this attention in 2007."

Link: ReusableBags.com Wins Co-op America's People's Choice Award for 2007 Green Business of the Year

11 Ways to Be an Earth-Friendly Couple

MSN.com 11.12.07

ReusableBags.com made MSN's recent list. According to MSN.com, you can be proud of yourselves, even if you can only make one or two of these green changes. Check out Strategy 6: Reuse plastic bags. "Instead of chucking 100 billion plastic sacks a year (wow!), try and get a second, third, or tenth use out of them. Tote your lunch to work or your groceries home, or at least use them as garbage bags. Better yet, next time you shop, try a reusable bag. Learn how at ReusableBags.com."

Link: 11 Ways to Be an Earth-Friendly Couple

Business is Booming for Makers of Reusable Grocery Bags

San Francisco Chronicle 12.21.07

In the wake of San Francisco's recent ban on plastic grocery bags, other jurisdictions from Los Angeles to New Jersey are considering restrictions on the use of plastic bags. And since last summer, California law has required all large supermarkets to offer reusable bags for sale. Meanwhile, worries about climate change and marine pollution are leading more individual consumers throughout the country to answer "none of the above" when faced with the cliched choice of "Paper or plastic?" "The market has absolutely exploded," said Vincent Cobb, founder of ReusableBags.com, an online store that has sold a wide selection of grocery totes since 2002. "If you asked me two years ago, there were dozens of reusable bags. Now there are a hundred or more."

Link: Business is Booming for Makers of Reusable Grocery Bags

January 10, 2008

Shoppers: It's BYO Bag in China

USA Today 01.11.08China_ban

China is banning free plastic shopping bags and calling for a return to the cloth bags of old. The ban takes effect June 1 and eliminates the flimsiest bags and forces stores to charge for others, making China the latest nation to target plastic bags in a bid to cut waste and conserve resources.

Businesses will be prohibited from manufacturing, selling or using bags less than 0.025 mm thick, though more durable plastic bags will still be permitted for sale.

The order continues a years-old campaign against plastic waste, or "white pollution," that initially targeted the plastic foam lunch boxes whose decaying shells were once ubiquitous in China.

Our Take: Our congrats to China for really targeting consumption and aiming to reduce plastic bag waste by encouraging reusable shopping bags and charging for plastic bags.

Link: Shoppers: It's BYO Bag in China