The Global Menace of Urban Tumbleweed

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There’s only one thing worse than standing at the checkout holding one item, and being asked if you’d “like assistance with packing your bags”. It’s looking down at the sea of half-opened supermarket bags ripped off a filmy wedge of thousands, and realising”¦..most of them are only going to be used once.

Plastic bags are an unforgivable menace. They’re in the 12 most frequent items of human-made debris to appear along world coastlines. They’ve been labeled urban tumbleweed. They photo-degrade – that is, they separate into their toxic components that are more easily absorbed by the biosphere. Each one is a hazard made from an ever-more-scarce resource. Britain has 17 billion of them.

Who doesn’t have access to some kind of bag? It’s hard to come up with another piece of modern toxic waste that is so utterly avoidable. Meanwhile, major retailers try to greenwash their way out of a corner.

Take British supermarket chain Tesco’s announcement in 2006 of a financial reward for returned plastic bags, and the introduction of degradable bags. All very well – except they still continued to churn out new bags, and the new degradable bags were still made from oil. And let’s consider how, back in September last year, an independent survey discovered two other major British supermarket chains were using more bags than ever to deliver home grocieries, despite promising to green up their act. Actions speak louder, guys.

These companies would do well to look across the Pond to San Francisco, which on March 27th, 2007 banned plastic supermarket checkout bags altogether.

Image: Wokka

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DISCUSSION

5 thoughts on “The Global Menace of Urban Tumbleweed

  1. Pingback: How to Give Up Bottled Water | EcoSalon | Conscious Culture and Fashion

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  3. I live in Toronto (in Canada) and my province recently made a law that all retailers have to charge 5 cents per bag–as of this June 1st. I was surprised how much people complained about it. When going to university the local supermarket actually had NO plastic bags whatsoever. Which really forced people to make a full lifestyle change. They sold plenty of reusable bags for a minimal price but this grocery store was of its kind — with banner’s proudly proclaiming “the 1st plastic bag free in Canada”. I think ultimately all stores should be plastic bag free, but for now I’m glad the government intervened to stop the needless over-use of plastic bags.

  4. I would be overjoyed if they could get around to banning plastic bags here in Houston.
    It shocks me to realize how apathetic people are on the subject of use-once-and-toss, horrible, toxic plastic bags.
    So much of modern life seems to involve an ever-increasing amount of waste and a bad attitude towards it… I think the first step, the biggest shock, would be to ban those horrid bags.

  5. ~I AGREE! “BANNED PLASTIC SUPERMARKET BAGS ALTOGETHER.” NOT ONLY FROM SUPERMARKETS,BUT FROM STORES LIKE MARSHALLS, DILLARDS, HOBBY LOBBY AND THE LIST GOES ON. I THINK THAT A GOOD WAY TO START THIS PROCESS IS BY CHARGING THE CUSTOMER .25¢ PER BAG. CUSTOMERS’LL CRY & COMPLAIN, BUT I ASSURE YOU, THAT IT WILL ONLY TAKE A COUPLE OF TIMES ONLY, BEFORE THEY START “REMEMBERING” TO BRING THEIR OWN “GREEN BAGS” TO THE STORES.

 

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