giaguara's corner

Living in a city with a new plastic bag ban, month 1 – is it all just about brushing your city’s eco image?

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Because no one in the city marketing or advertising departments had a clue what 4 millimeters is like

From last year’s Chronicle, a local newspaper – a way to have *less* plastic bag waste was to require the plastic bags being sold to be at least 4 MILLIMETERS thick?

Austin joined the list of the cities with a plastic bag ban in the beginning of March this year.

The plastic bag ban means that you no more get plastic – or paper – bags at the grocery store checkouts, or when you order take out food.

This will supposedly make such a huge impact in not having any plastic bag waste around the landfills or on the sides of the highways and so on, according to the marketing speech.

At least the city is no longer demanding that the reusable plastic bags would have to be at least 4 milimeters thick.

So now that everyone brings their own  bags, problems listed are going to be solved, right?

When you buy produce at the grocery, you still get those extra flimsy bags for packing your napa cabbage or rutabagas or whatever jackfruit you buy. Those bags are extremely single use. Ever tried to use those for trash or anything else after they have served for their original purpose as a bag to carry your produce home? I wouldn’t trust any less than 5 layers of those bags for just innocent kitchen garbage in. For things like doggie bags… I wouldn’t even dare to think.

Oh, the doggie bags? They still tend to be plastic (at least I’ve never seem a non-plastic bag for scooping your dog’s poop in). So now instead of reusing a bag you had, you have to BUY plastic bags. For scooping poop in them and then throwing the poop bag away… how is that not ending in the landfill or on the sides of the roads (like they now do)? The last time I tried to dissolve or compost a “biodegradable” plastic bag got no “biodegration” after months in a compost pile.

You still have to buy the garbage or trash bags. The city doesn’t like it if your garbage is in paper bags – or, gasp, without any bags at all – in the refusal bins (that are so carefully set 5 feet apart of something, because that makes also such a huge impact in being an environmental city somehow). If you used all the bags you got from the grocery previously to bag your trash in, now you have to buy, guess what? More plastic bags. That you will use only once. And to just put trash in them and then throw them away. I’m sure that’s so much more environmental.

So apart of people selling you plastic bags for e.g. trash and doggie bags, there are other people too who benefit of the ban. Namely those who sell reusable bags (at least for a few months). And the city, since it’ll be seen as such an avant-garde location in everything environmental. Even though for the city image it seems to be like driving a Prius or shopping at Whole Foods. Just because you drive one or shop in one doesn’t make you automatically great for your environment. (Grow your own food and walk at least sometimes! It might be a bit better for the environment).

It’s at least some effort to make the city greener though. But there are better ways.

If we decided to ban something in the city, why exactly just the plastic bags (and only at the grocery checkout points and restaurants)? Why not for instance bottled water? There are water fountains everywhere, in nearly every public and commercial building. Bring you own damn bottles and reuse them. While the now banned plastic bags could be used for so many thing (more in a bit), what can you do with a plastic water bottle that has been used for its original purpose? Not much usually. Please do tell me how exactly the plastic single use water bottles are not a waste problem like the plastic bags were.

Or why not bag the phone books? I believe you still get the white pages but only if you have a landline. Even if you don’t, you still get the yellow pages. Every house and apartment gets it, every year. When was the last time you used one? For me it must have been in the early 1990s. Why not simplify the (white and) yellow pages, and make those an opt-in? Call if you want to get a copy. It just seems 99 % of the yellow pages (which don’t have an easy opt-out method) end up straight to the landfill, still wrapped in the plastic they came in.

I’m sure phone books can be reused for something else as well… if you’re tired of ideas involving mod podging them in every surface of everything, here’s an idea for your old phone book:

This dress used to be a phone book before Jolis Paons, an artist, got her hands on it…

Single use water bottles and phone books are just two small things, but they would save more waste from landfill than the plastic bag ban ever will. Or if the plastic bag is now suddenly an issue at the landfill, can we have some other options than plastic bags for the garbage in the first place? Why not make composting mandatory? Where I live there’s no composting, and there’s no sorting or recycling the waste either (because a housing complex or area of under or over 1000 apartments can do exactly what they please for the waste, recycling, composting or the lack of the last two. Which in the case of where we live is from the recycling perspective nada).

Meanwhile, if you have copious amounts of plastic bags saved, you could – if simply reusing the bag is not good enough for you – use it e.g. for making plarn for your craft projects or fuse the plastic to a durable fabric you can use in some project that needs durable and waterproof fabric.

Meanwhile… as I’ve lived as a kid in a country that charged for the flimsy bags at the grocery checkout, it’s not an issue to have my foldable bags with me when going shopping. But apparently it’s a major annoyance since I see and hear every day people complain about how horribly inconvenient it is to think ahead and bring your own bags when you go shopping.

Well, let’s see what effect the ban will have on the landfills in the next 5 years. For our household plastic use it will not reduce it but increase it as now we will have to buy all the bags we use for garbage. Including for everything that should really go in the compost pile.


Author: UnuhiNuiʻi

"Oh, I see" (not literally). Accessibility user and advocate.

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