In 2002 Bangladesh banned the use of plastic bags after it became clear that they plug up the sewers. In Ireland people had to pay for them. Use dropped by 90 percent within a year. The Tanzanian government, Rwanda, Taiwan and Singapore have made it illegal to give plastic bags away for free. South African is demanding manufacturers make them more durable so that they can be reused. Denmark and Italy have imposed a stiff tax on them. Britain has launched a public information campaign urging the public to use them less frequently. In Israel? Millions of these bags are distributed new everyday and for free!
Plastic bags were first introduced as shopping bags 50 years ago in the United States. Since 1957 they have been considered as an effective and cheap item. In 2007, the damage they environmental damage from plastic bags convinced many countries to invest huge amounts of money to reduce the public’s use of them.
It will take 400 to 1,000 years for each bag to breakdown and on the way it will succeed in shortening the life of some 100,000 whales, birds, sea seals and water turtles every year. But even before it’s tossed out, the very production contributes to air pollution, needless use of energy and the release of gasses which contribute to global warming. And we haven’t even mentioned yet that the bag, like all plastic materials is a byproduct of oil.
It is estimated that Israeli consumers use seven million new plastic bags a day, some two billion a year. There is a small amount of hope pinned to legislation currently on the Knesset agenda for the autumn session which calls for a tax on every bag. The authors of the bill hope that Israelis will go over to polypropylene bags which are reusable, more durable and friendly to the planet. In the meantime, the environment is paying the price for the plastic bags the consumer gets for free.
So, what to do?
- Take a cloth shopping bag to the supermarket or a large basket. Don’t use the plastic bags available at the check out. Keep the bag or basket in the car or next to the door so that you won’t forget it.
- If you must use the nylon bags from the supermarket, pack your groceries wisely and use as few as possible.
- Don’t throw the plastic bags away. Use them as trash bags thus saving money on commercial garbage bags.
- Instead of using the one-time throw away nylon bags, buy the reusable re-sealable sandwich bags.
- Children's snacks should be packed in reusable plastic boxes. Schools are now encouraging this eradicating the teasing an environment friendly child may get from classmates.
- When shopping ask sales people not to put your purchases in a bag but carry it out in the purse or satchel you have brought from home.
- If the more upscale clothing and houseware shops seduce you into taking one of their designer plastic bags which are usually better quality, be sure to reuse it as much as possible.