Let's All Ban Plastic Bags

With reusable bags becoming so common and environmental issues always a hot topic and concern, we should be ashamed to use single-use shopping bags including biodegradable, plastic and paper bags.
With reusable bags becoming so common and environmental issues always a hot topic and concern, we should be ashamed to use single-use shopping bags including biodegradable, plastic and paper 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?

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Countries like Ireland are ahead of the game with the prominent use of reusable shopping bags. Brazil is even more ahead being one of the only countries that makes money from its recycling efforts.
Countries like Ireland are ahead of the game with the prominent use of reusable shopping bags. Brazil is even more ahead being one of the only countries that makes money from its recycling efforts.

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.

Waterloo high school science fair winner succeeds in speeding up plastic bag decomposition, finding the bag decomposed by 43%.
Waterloo high school science fair winner succeeds in speeding up plastic bag decomposition, finding the bag decomposed by 43%.

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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Comments 5 comments

American Romance profile image

American Romance 6 years ago from America

bunch of garbage, if we go back to paper the wacko enviro boys will be screaming save the trees! Plastic is stronger, and holds more than paper, It will be ok, calm down, if we can go to the moon, I'm sure the chemicals will break it down in landfills quicker then 400 years!


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

helpful hub, and it's known that plastic is made from byproducts of oil. they are not biodegradable and as they break down into tiny particles, they release harmful chemicals into the soil. I see more and more people bringing their own reusable grocery bags to the store. they kill wildlife, cause pollution, clog landfills and indirectly raise the price of food. I think we will see more cities trying to reduce their use. thumbs up.


DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 6 years ago Author

Thanks for reading American Romance, but it's not just about banning plastic bags, the bylaw also bans paper bags - it's still a single-use shopping bag. So, I'm not suggesting to go back to paper bags. I think we should use the reusable cloth bags. Again, after just 5 uses the reusable bag already has a smaller environmental footprint than a plastic bag.

Thanks for reading Rebekah. And, I too am glad to see more people bringing reusable bags to the grocery.


goldenpath profile image

goldenpath 6 years ago from Shenandoah, Iowa, USA

I appreciate your passion for going "green." However, in my opinion this strips the consumer of the freedom to choose. I am all for influencing public opinion. If you were to campaign for "green" initiatives and I become influenced that is the process of human conversion. This road is the better road to take rather than to mandate by law how groceries are bagged. People will be influenced according to their sensitivity and knowledge given them as well as the freedom given them to be happy. Lack of liberty will only cause harsh feelings and minor rebellion. We've lived this long with plastic. We can live a while longer until the public becomes "green" conscious and the world will be better for it.


DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 6 years ago Author

Hi goldenpath, thanks for reading. I think you have a great point about trying to make people actually green conscious rather than just being forced into it. But, possibly, people are often "forced" into things because people are unlikely to change even if it is for the better. I certainly still agree with you, though, about wanting people to actually want the change - it's the same with me when I want my daughter to obey me, to obey me not because she fears me but because she wants to (ie. because she trusts me as the parent, etc.) But, while yes we've lived with plastic for so long already, who knows how long the public will take to become green conscious. In the mean time, the (Earth's) population has grown exponentially and so has the garbage.

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