Let's All Ban Plastic Bags
Prohibition of Single-Use Shopping Bags
Single-use shopping bags are biodegradable bags, paper bags, or plastic bags that are used for transporting goods from retail outlets; not including reusable bags or cloth grocery bags.
Our city is making an effort to reduce waste prohibiting the use of single-use shopping bags by establishments (except for pharmacies, take-out/drive-through restaurants including mobile caterers, and liquor stores. I am impressed with the bylaw; we'll have to see how well it is implemented and the actual results in a few years.
Reusable Bags are Great
The purpose of the bylaw is to eliminate the distribution of single-use shopping bags. The expected positive consequence is the reduction of the negative effects of plastic and paper bags on the environment by reducing the waste going to the landfill. To make it easier for citizens, the municipality distributed free reusable bags during events and continue to do so. Retail stores in the city sell reusable bags in case you forget to bring them.
Reusable bags are useful and convenient. They are durable and can be machine-washed or hand-washed. To keep it further sanitary and safe, each bag can be labeled for specific food items (ie. meat products only, produce only, etc.) Being sturdy and strong, reusable bags can last for years. And, most importantly, each bag only needs to be used five times to have a lower environmental impact than one single-use shopping bag.
Why Even Continue to Use Plastic Bags?
Why would we want to reduce the amount of single-use shopping bags being used besides decreasing the amounts of waste going to the landfills? Well, it's important to know that each piece of plastic ever made still exists today. Plastic bags were introduced 50 years ago and because each takes more than 400 years to break down, each plastic bag still exists as well. Micro-organisms in landfills break down bio degradables like paper in five months or so and produce like fruit in a few days. But, since plastic bags are made from polyethylene, many micro-organisms are not as efficient in breaking it down, thus the length of time (400 years) it takes to break it down. Each year, between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are used around the world and is often found in coastal cleanups. It is also known to kill wildlife due to strangulation and consumption. Finally, plastic bags manufacturing releases tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, increasing the effects of green house gases.
What About Your City
Does Your City Have a Single-Use Shopping Bag Bylaw?See results without voting
Whole countries, like Ireland, have such bylaws implemented for 5 or 6 years already. I would encourage all Canadian cities to implement this bylaw and make it easy for its citizens to become accustomed to it. Many are starting to use and have been using reusable bags since their introduction, and so I am certain it will be welcomed. Informing people about the usefulness of such a bylaw would certainly draw little opposition.
Daniel Burd Plastic Bag Breakdown Experiment
Another encouraging thing regarding the use of plastic bags is the experiment of a young high school science student from Waterloo, Ontario. His winning science fair experiment in 2008 drew the attention of many scientists. He came up with a way to use bacteria to speed up the decomposition of a plastic bag in a soil solution (you can read the article from CBC).
Daniel Burd found that two bacteria, Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas, were the micro-organisms most effective at breaking down plastic. He isolated these bacteria and increased the temperature. The result was that the bacteria broke down the plastic bag by 43%.
I salute Daniel Burd for such an amazing experiment and thing that he should get far more than the $10,000 he won at the science fair once scientists are able to use his findings for the degradation of plastics.
Excellent work Mr. Burd and keep it up Wood Buffalo!
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