Politics Resources

Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Written by Sven Eberlein

I don’t know if this has received much attention, but seeing that plastic bags are made from petrochemicals, I thought this is actually a quite timely bit of news:

The California Assembly voted 41 to 27 to ban single-use plastic grocery bags, and the bill is expected to pass the senate and get signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Should it pass, you’ll have to bring reusable bags to the store or pay at least 5 cents apiece for recycled paper bags when getting your goods bagged.

Sorry, I won’t shed a tear, and neither will the Pacific Ocean and its many glorious residents:

I know they’re convenient and what are you going to pick up your dog’s poop with, but come on, this is long overdue, and I promise, we will survive. (Actually, our chances of surviving just went up)

From the NY Times:

“They’re not only on beaches,” said Ms. Brownley, a Democrat from Santa Monica who sponsored the measure, which squeaked through the Assembly with just the 41 votes needed. “You look in trees and there they are. You look in fences and they’re stuck in there. In storm drains after a big rain you see plastic bag goop, is what you see.”

Yup, they’re everywhere and it is actually still hard to believe that this measure passed outside of San Francisco, considering how much these little buggers have become part of our daily lives. But it actually hasn’t been that long since our lives were fully functional without a closet full of crinkled bags.

The goal is to prompt 21st-century shoppers in California to do what 20th-century shoppers in Moscow did routinely — keep an avoska, or reusable sack, at the ready. China and Bangladesh already have plastic bag bans in place, and the United Nations has called for the bans to go global.

Plastic bags have been a major pet peeve of mine since I first moved to the US from Germany 23 years ago. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love this country in so many ways, but the friggin’ bags everywhere have been a major source of headaches. I’ve basically been on defense for 23 years, trying to anticipate gratuitous plastic bag dispersal wherever I go. Keep your eye off the drug store clerk for just one second and the pen you’re buying (that’s already packed in plastic) is tossed all by its lonely self in the plastic baggie. And I don’t even blame the clerk, the dude (dudette)’s just on autopilot and would probably get cussed out by his/her manager for being rude. But you know what spells total and utter defeat for me? When he/she then takes my pen out of the bag and proceeds to throw the bag in the trash bin under the counter. I mean, how do you spell E P I C F A I L! And don’t even get me started on doublebagging, it’s as annoying as teabagging.

You know you’ve got unstoppable momentum that is going to spread from California far and wide across the country when the director of the American Chemistry Council’s best argument against the ban is that it’s going to hurt the plastic bag recycling industry: Why is California attacking recycling? sounds either like a scary horror movie or sour grapes to me. You just can’t make this stuff up, it’s like saying we’ve got to keep people in prison so the guards have job security. Oh wait, we do say that, don’t we? Never mind.

So anyway, tonight I raise my GLASS to a sweet victory, to the oil that will be conserved, to the birds and turtles that won’t be choked to death, to the new habits of bringing reusable bags to the store that will be acquired, and last but definitely least, to the nerves and time I will be spared in wild bagbuster chases throughout the stores of the great State of California! Thank you for passing AB1998.

If you haven’t seen Werner Herzog narrating the sad journey of the plastic bag, I highly recommend it:


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Sven Eberlein

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