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>The UK dropped to 500 million bags annually used from 7 billion after introduction of a 5 pence per bag charge.

Still totally insignificant. A small plastic product packaging, of the kind everything comes in, has more plastic than 200 bags.

https://goo.gl/images/cBp3zn

Like TSA "security theater", this is "environmental theater".




Sorry, but that's complete nonsense.

A plastic shopping bag weighs about 5 grams. Plastic product packaging does not weigh 1kg, not even close.

Second, the shape does matter. Bags are especially bad because they are large, thin and soft, they're easier to be carried away by wind or water, and easier for animals to get tangled in or mistaken for food.


Agreed they have to be reined in. But on the recycling side, they are spectacularly inefficient. They are bulky to recycle - they never lay down flat again. The entire semi trailer load at my recycle center probably weighs a couple hundred pounds of plastic, mostly air. They are very, very cheap to make and lots of trouble to recycle - its arguable the recycle cost is greater than the environmental cost of a new one.


>But on the recycling side, they are spectacularly inefficient

All the more reason to ban them outright isn't it?


Good thought. But the ecological (read: CO2) impact of paper bags and even cloth ones, are they clearly superior? I doubt it. Its just so dang cheap to make a WalMart bag.

I see 'ban the bag!' as eco-theatre.


> the ecological (read: CO2) impact

No, do not read CO2. That's not what banning plastic bags is about. It's about not having them all over the environment where all kinds of animals, from sea turtles to cows to elephants, eat them or get entangled in them

http://www.newsweek.com/plastic-pollution-bigger-threat-sea-...

http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2016/8/9/plasti...


I cannot imagine that the ecological impact of a canvas bag that gets reused hundreds of times is higher than hundreds of plastic bags that get used once.

CO2 production is also not the only impact. How much canvas is floating in the ocean and clogging up rivers?


There are studies on this topic. Here's an article: https://medium.com/stanford-magazine/paper-plastic-or-reusab...

I spent an hour or so researching the issue a long time ago and I seem to recall another study by a French supermarket chain. You need to reuse your cotton bags a lot -- hundreds of times is right -- for it to become worthwhile. Which is doable, of course.

And of course, the carbon footprint of both plastic bags as well as cotton bags varies wildly depending on the weight etc.


The polypropylene bags sold at many retailers (REI, Whole Foods, etc) only need to be used a few times to offset their increased cost of production.

“Nonwoven PP, on the other hand, is less costly than cotton. These bags need to be reused only 11 times to break even with the conventional plastic.”

Of course these are less durable that heavy cotton canvas. I doubt I could use one of these 200 times. I could definitely use a good canvas bag that many times.


How about I use a plastic bag twice? Now you have to use the canvas one 400 times.

Its just a losing gambit. You know how many shopping bags we have around the house? Supposed to save energy, but once you have 4 or 5 of them, you're up to a lifetime supply of plastic bags. And I'm sure we're not the only once.

This 'issue' is eco-theatre, in my view.


You don’t have to use the canvas one 200 times. It’s more like 130. And less if you use nylon or hemp or anything less energy costly than cotton. But yeah, if you want to reuse your throwaway bags, go ahead. It’s certainly a greener option than throwing them out.

It’s not “eco-theater” to want to reduce the ecological cost of bags, though. Not is it “eco-theater” to want to keep millions of plastic bags out of the oceans and rivers, or out of storm drains where they cause clogs, or out of bushes and trees where they are just ugly.


I don't think people tend to use plastic bags twice. Instead they double bag.

And as I alluded to above, not all bags of the same material are made equal. The original British source has a range of 80-250g for cotton bags. The ones I use weigh in at less than 50g.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/life-cycle-assess...


>A plastic shopping bag weighs about 5 grams. Plastic product packaging does not weigh 1kg, not even close.

No, but can easily weight 40 to 200 grams. And accumulated over your grocery purchases can easily be 1kg or more.


It's only theater if you measure by kilograms.

If you instead care about "items" or "visual cleanness of the river that all the plastic gets blown into", it's a very different matter.


I'd put the prettiness factor down pretty far in environmental concerns. That is part of the 'theatre' side of the equation in fact?


By that metric, what is the environment and why is it important to protect it? On an abstract enough scale, we and our plastic are simply evolutionary products and the fact that we are wiping out species and cataclysmically heating the planet is just a geological event that might be called The Great Human Extinction by some distant inteligent race.

As George Carlin used to say, the planet is just fine. It's the people who are f*ed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W33HRc1A6c


All irrelevant to the comment: how 'pretty' the creek is, is not an ecological metric of merit. Its all about Ph, CO2, erosion and a hundred other things.


Keeping the planet livable and diverse is no more objective than keeping it plastic free. Ecology is by definition a human value, the universe doesn't care about CO2, biodiversity or erosion anymore than it cares about plastic bags.

(But sure, subjectively, plastic bags are a lesser concern, because they merely inconvenience us and trigger our empathy when a critter chokes on them, without directly threatening our own survival).


Actually, it's pretty high up for me. The look of trash and the relaxing, beautiful look of nature are pretty much opposites for me.


Yes, and the cute furry animals get all the protection too. But its nonsense, if avoiding environmental meltdown is your goal. If its about feeling good about yourself when you throw that pop can in the recycle bin, that's theatre.


So wait, shouldn’t your argument be that the plastic bag bans don’t do enough and therefore we should ban/price other kinds of plastic too?


If you read more closely, you'll find out that this already is my argument.

But I'd take it even further because even that is BS theater: industrial production of tons of crap in general should slow down. The packaging is an insignificant part of it. It just makes for nice headlines because dolphins and co get caught in it.

http://www.monbiot.com/2012/12/10/the-gift-of-death/


Plastic bags end up in litter clogging the beaches and stormwater drains much more than other types of packaging.


But those can be recycled, can't they?


In theory, maybe. But it's super complicated

- Plastics really don't mix well. Even trace amount of a different polymer (those numbers in the bottom) will destroy the strength of a batch of plastic (there is research in this though) - Recycling is expensive and in an economic battle against new stock (carbon tax?).

Cleaving the bonds to make diesel or feedstock is another option to "recycle" polymers (I dunno why it's not done. energy intensive wrt to oil? Dirty?)

Plastics are amazing... but we really should stop using them altogether except for fringe no alternative cases.

P.S. turns out plastics are bio-degradable by some tough organisms. So there's hope.


Plastics being biodegradable might not be much of a net gain. It would help clean up some, but it also means all that carbon makes it’s way into the air. Mixed bag there.


Most plastics labelled "biodegradeable" aren't actually what they say. What they do is break down under ultraviolet light into very tiny particles you can't see but which are still plastic. These diffuse into the environment, but they never truly break down into more natural compounds.

It's the equivalent of sweeping all those bags under the rug. They're still out there, just permeating into everything instead of being visible.


I was referring to the fact that some microbes can actually metabolize certain plastics. But yeah, just breaking down into tiny pieces is definitely not great.


The clamshell type ones cannot.




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