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13 posts from September 2008

September 29, 2008

An Inconvenient Bag

The Wall Street Journal  09.26.08Cheapobags_6

It’s manufactured in China, shipped thousands of miles overseas, made with plastic and could take years to decompose. It’s also the hot “green” giveaway of the moment: the reusable shopping bag…

But well-meaning companies and consumers are finding that shopping bags, like biofuels, are another area where it’s complicated to go green. “If you don’t reuse them, you’re actually worse off by taking one of them,” says Bob Lilenfeld, author of the Use Les Stuff Report, an online newsletter about waste prevention.

Our Take:  This article starts out good enough -- detailing how retailers are jumping on the ultra-trendy green bandwagon, often without questioning the sustainability of these cheap reusable bags. (Ironically, cheap or free reusable shopping bags do nothing but fuel mindless over-consumption, which is at the heart of the plastic bag problem...)

But then things go south.

Unfortunately, the article makes it sound as if people are incapable of changing habits & remembering to bring their bags with them (quoting a very low number from a PB industry person, no less!). Bringing reusable shopping bags is no harder that doing simple things like remembering to turn off the lights when you leave your house (or water when you're brushing your teeth) – comparing it to taking 30 sec showers is extreme. The closing quote, from a woman buying a silly $45 bag from London, reinforces the stereotype that all reusable bags are trendy and impractical, and further clouds the waters.

To date, we've awakened millions and empowered 160,000 customers – all with simple practical products and tips to reduce plastic and paper bags – the flood of testimonials we get gives us solid evidence they're experiencing powerful transformative results. Reusable bags don't have to put fashion before function or be festooned with a cheesy "I'm so green" eco-slogan. There are basic, practical choices available that are being used day in and day out that do indeed make a difference. Trendy options at both ends of the spectrum are not the solution – and thankfully, far from the only choice.

Link: An Inconvenient Bag

Link: Slideshow

Toronto considering ban on paper coffee cups

Coffeecup_4 CBC News 09.15.08

The City of Toronto is considering everything from a tax to an outright ban on objects like paper coffee cups, fast-food containers and plastic bags that clog the recycling system.

By 2010, Toronto wants to send only 30 percent of its garbage to landfill sites. But to achieve that goal, the city says, it needs to limit the garbage that takes up a lot of space—and that means reducing Styrofoam cartons, plastic bags and the ubiquitous paper coffee cup.

Our Take:  Part of a growing trend of legislation (still outside the U.S. mainly), taking aim at use-and-toss items often perceived as free. We anticipate more cities will continue targeting the wasteful over-consumption of food containers and paper cups.

Link: Toronto considering ban on paper coffee cups

$180,625 to fight 20-cent bag fee

Seattle Post-Intelligencer  09.11.08Seattlepostintelligencer_6

The American Chemistry Council has reported spending $180,625 in August to fight a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic bags that was approved by the Seattle City Council in July.

Most of the money was likely used for signature gathering in an effort to put the issue on a future citywide ballot. The Coalition to Stop the Seattle bag Tax has turned in about 22,000 signatures. That averages out to about $8 per signature.

Our Take: $180,000 is just the start – small potatoes compared to the total amount industry likely will spend in an attempt to defeat this legislation. If done right, Seattle’s bag fee is poised to knock down plastic bag production by 90% (see Ireland’s PlasTax), posing a huge threat to industry.

Think about it...for the $8 spent per signature, the ACC could have bought every person who signed the petition a high quality reusable bag (like ours ).

Link: $180,625 to fight 20-cent bag fee

September 17, 2008

Common chemical BPA under scrutiny as study links it to diabetes, cardiovascular disease

Bpatribune Chicago Tribune  09.17.08

Industry representatives and health advocates gave federal officials vastly different assessments Tuesday of the effects of exposure to a chemical so prevalent that it can be found in the system of almost every American.

Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is used extensively in the linings of food and drink containers, plus countless consumer products, including baby bottles and sippy cups. The chemical also has been found in drinking water, dental sealants and even household dust.

Our Take: Like a seesaw, BPA is declared safe one month and unsafe the next -- we’ve got to wonder whether our government agencies are giving us the straight story. While there might be confusion on their part, as consumers, our advice is to err on the side of caution -- just avoid the stuff.

Link: Common chemical BPA under scrutiny as study links it to diabetes, cardiovascular disease

Link: Video - Study questions health safety of common chemical

France to impose a 'picnic tax' on plastic in waste war

The Daily Telegraph  09.16.08Francepicnictelegraph_2

To general incredulity, the French environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, confirmed the so-called "taxe pique-nique" on Monday. "We're doing it," he declared...

The tax will affect plastic goblets, knives and forks, and non-biodegradable paper plates and napkins.

Our Take: France takes a big step -- another example (like plastic bag fees) of government applying pressure and targeting use-and-toss items in order to change consumption habits. Whether the initiative succeeds or fails, it raises awareness about the hidden costs of disposable items and their massive over-consumption.

Link: France to impose a 'picnic tax' on plastic in waste war 

'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 16, 2008

Junk Raft Cruises from Long Beach to Honolulu

Junkraftthelog TheLog.com  09.04.08

Three months after a raft built of marine refuse, named Junk, left the docks at Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific, the crew waved hello to a crowd gathered at Ala Wai Harbor, where the boat was welcomed at the end of its “consciousness-raising” voyage on Aug. 27. Pulling into the docks, the sailors may have appeared a little worn-out from the three-month trip, but the plastic bottles that formed the boat’s hull did not display any sign of wear or tear. That fact demonstrated exactly how durable plastic items are as waterborne debris at sea, a point the crew hopes to get across to others.

Link: Junk Raft Cruises from Long Beach to Honolulu

September 11, 2008

Chemical in Plastic Is Connected to Health Problems in Monkeys

Wpost Washington Post  09.04.08

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have linked a chemical found in everyday plastics to problems with brain function and mood disorders in monkeys -- the first time the chemical has been connected to health problems in primates. "Our findings suggest that exposure to low-dose BPA may have widespread effects on brain structure and function," the authors wrote. In contrast to earlier research on rodents, the Yale researchers studied monkeys to better approximate the way BPA might affect humans.

Link: Chemical in Plastic Is Connected to Health Problems in Monkeys

September 10, 2008

Government questions plastic bottles' safety

Babybottle MSNBC.com  09.03.08

Government toxicologists have reiterated safety concerns about a chemical used in baby bottles and food containers, just weeks after the Food and Drug Administration declared the substance safe.

Link: Government questions plastic bottles' safety

Link: Video – Report questions plastic bottle safety

Concerns Linger over Safety of Chemical Used in Baby Bottles

Wsj_2 Wall Street Journal  09.03.08

Government experts on Wednesday released a final report on the safety of a chemical used in plastic baby bottles, saying they have "some concern" the chemical is linked to health and developmental problems. The FDA is holding a hearing on Sept. 16 to discuss BPA.

Link: Concerns linger over safety of che mical used in baby bottles

4 ways to green your kids' lunch boxes

Msngreenbox_2 MSN/Thedailygreen.com  09.03.08

If lunch sacks made from organic cotton or recycled plastic soda bottles are more your children's bag, reusablebags.com offers a cool selection too — some even come with nontoxic reusable freezer packs.

Link: 4 ways to green your kids' lunch boxes

Savetheplasticbag.com - Dumbed-down site of disinformation

Savetheplasticbag Los Angeles Times, Op-Ed  08.26.08

Plastic bags are a small percentage of total litter, so eliminating them won't save taxpayers a penny because other litter will still need to be cleared from the same locations. Plastic bags do indeed fly off trash trucks, but whose fault is that? The Board of Supervisors should address this problem instead of placing the blame for it on law-abiding consumers and the plastic-bag industry…

Our Take: Savetheplasticbag.com?! At first we thought this was a farce. The site is designed to mislead people by creating a case that there’s nothing wrong with plastic bags.  Paper vs. plastic is not the issue – drastically reducing consumption and the adoption of reusable bags is. Sure seems like a plastics industry-backed campaign...

Link: Los Angeles Times Op-Ed piece

Link: Savetheplasticbag.com

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