There's been a flurry of news about plastic bag bans this week, including news that China will ban some bags (I imagine that will be a very difficult law to enforce), and Australia may do the same. On top of that, today the New York City Council voted not to ban bags, but to require many retailers to recycle them. (Check out the flurry of comments at that link, a couple of dozen in just a few hours!) The New York Times weighs in on the issue here, with a quick opinion piece encouraging readers not to use plastic bags at all:
Plastic bags now represent an estimated three percent of the waste stream — and that percentage is rising. It can, however, be reduced through effective recycling. Some municipalities already have such programs, but none is as sweeping as the measure passed today by the New York City Council. It would require plastic bag recycling for stores of at least 5,000 square feet or stores belonging to chains with more than five locations in the city. Considering the size of the New York market, where about one billion plastic bags are used every year, the mandate is enormous. The law could go into effect by early summer. What will become of these bags? They can find new life pressed into durable composite lumber, like that used in decks and boardwalks. Or they could be made into more plastic bags, and presumably re-recycled indefinitely. Better still, the new law might just encourage people to forego the plastic and carry their own reusable bag for shopping and chores. After all, from an environmental perspective, the best answer to the ubiquitous question “Paper or plastic?” is “Neither.”The Associated Press has a fairly good laundry list of bag bans, taxes and other laws around the globe, although this seems to be a list that changes almost daily. How is the plastics industry reacting? In the United States, the big news is that the Progressive Bag Alliance has been replaced by the Progressive Bag Affiliates, part of the American Chemistry Council, which will take on a larger role in dealing with bag issues.