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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/22/09

On Earth Day and Beyond: Say No to Plastic Bags

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I am writing this on April 22 -- Earth Day. And I am thinking about how many Americans still take home their groceries in plastic bags.

Every time I go to the grocery store and most other stores, I take along my reusable canvas shopping bags. They're easy to find, and they're inexpensive. Most grocery stores in my neighborhood sell them for about a dollar, and I see them reasonably priced in a lot of department stores, too. One supermarket chain here even gives customers a 4-cent discount on each shopping order when you bring your own bags. There, the sturdy canvas bags eventually pay for themselves.

And every time I go to the grocery store and most other stores, I see people walking out with 2, 4, 6, or more plastic bags containing their purchases. When they see me carrying my canvas totes into the store, some of them roll their eyes or call me a tree hugger. But I've been called worse.

What will these people do, I wonder, as (hopefully) more and more municipalities ban plastic shopping bags like San Francisco has done and Philadelphia has been trying to do?

I wonder whether these people are simply ignorant of the effects of plastic bags on our planet, or if they just don't care. Probably some of each, and some of both.

The website Natural-Environment.com highlights some of the evils of plastic bags:

" Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.

" The manufacture of plastic bags add tons of carbon emissions into the air annually.

" Between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year.

" Approximately 60 - 100 million barrels of oil are required to make the world's plastic bags each year.

" Most plastic bags take over 400 years to biodegrade. Some figures indicate that plastic bags could take over 1000 years to break down. (I guess nobody will live long enough to find out!). This means not one plastic bag has ever naturally biodegraded.

These bags are clogging up our environment and they are not going away. We don't need to add more bags to the problem.

So, on behalf of Earth Day, and on behalf of the future of this planet, please invest in some reusable shopping bags and forego the plastic.

And, while you're at it, this is also good opportunity to break the bottled water habit.

On behalf of Mother Earth, I thank you.
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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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