Could Federal Bill Lead to Death of Plastic Bags?
By Laura Beans
According to Bag Monster, a bill is under consideration that would regulate single-use plastic bags in the U.S.
On Earth Day, the bill, Trash Reduction Act of 2013, was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would place a five-cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags in every retail location across the country.
“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American throws away about 4.4 pounds of trash each day. The results of this waste can be found in our oceans," said Rep. Moran (D-VA), who announced the introduction of the bill. "Small steps like replacing plastic bags with reusable ones yields large returns in reducing the amount of trash we create.”
The bill is modeled after Washington, D.C.’s disposable bag fee, which, since 2010, has reduced plastic bag usage from a monthly average of 22.5 million to 3 million bags. All revenue generated from the fee would be used to support the nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The U.S. International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion plastic bags were used in the U.S. in 2009. As plastic items break down, any toxic additives they contain—including flame retardants, antimicrobials and plasticizers—can be released into the environment. Many of these chemicals may disrupt the endocrine system—the delicately balanced set of hormones and glands that affect virtually every organ and cell in the bodies of humans and animals. In marine environments, excess estrogen has led to discoveries of male fish and seagulls with female sex organs.
Plastic bags never biodegrade, and according to the Central Coast Sanctuary Alliance, the plastic bags that do get recycled can clog and slow sorting machines, making them a costly and inconvenient setback for recycling centers.
Stiv J. Wilson, of the 5 Gyres Institute, underscores the enduring damage perpetuated by our ravenous use of plastic bags in his introduction to a new video, Plastic Bags Are Forever:
One of the major barriers to implementing common sense plastic bag policies is that the plastic bag industry will often cite Life Cycle Analysis (LCAs) studies that only use carbon output as a measure of pollution, comparing paper and plastic. There is no attention given to the affect on marine life, nor the implications for human health as the apex predator of a marine food system (we eat fish that eat plastic that absorbs toxins). There is also no attention given to the fact that plastic bags do not biodegrade in the marine environment.
It's clear that the issue is much more complicated than the plastic bag industry will lead us to believe as evidenced by the footage used to make the following public service announcement. But even the argument stating plastic is less carbon emission intensive than paper falls apart when we look at what's isn't included in the existing LCAs. For example, the feedstock for plastic bags is ethylene, a byproduct obtained from natural gas refining.
The carbon footprint of obtaining the natural gas isn't considered in the LCAs either. Fracking, which emits methane, an incredibly potent greenhouse gas, accounts for 35 percent of the natural gas obtained in the U.S. With worldwide recycling of plastic bags decreasing and consumption increasing, more and more plastic bags are accumulating in the world's rivers, watersheds and oceans.
Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.
SIGN THIS PETITION TODAY:
To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.
A new EarthxTV film special calls for the protection of the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous people that call it home. EarthxTV.org
- Meet the 'Women Warriors' Protecting the Amazon Forest - EcoWatch ›
- Indigenous Tribes Are Using Drones to Protect the Amazon ... ›
- Amazon Rainforest Will Collapse by 2064, New Study Predicts ... ›
- Deforestation in Amazon Skyrockets to 12-Year High Under Bolsonaro ›
- Amazon Rainforest on the Brink of Turning Into a Net Carbon Emitter ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Anke Rasper
"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.
- World Leaders Fall Short of Meeting Paris Agreement Goal - EcoWatch ›
- UN Climate Change Conference COP26 Delayed to November ... ›
- 5 Years After Paris: How Countries' Climate Policies Match up to ... ›
- Biden Win Puts World 'Within Striking Distance' of 1.5 C Paris Goal ... ›
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?
- This Indian Startup Turns Polluted Air Into Climate-Friendly Tiles ... ›
- How to Win the Fight Against Plastic - EcoWatch ›
In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
- Appalachian Fracking Boom Was a Jobs Bust, Finds New Report ... ›
- Long-Awaited EPA Study Says Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water ... ›
- Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Much Higher Than ... ›
Colombia is one of the world's largest producers of coffee, and yet also one of the most economically disadvantaged. According to research by the national statistic center DANE, 35% of the population in Columbia lives in monetary poverty, compared to an estimated 11% in the U.S., according to census data. This has led to a housing insecurity issue throughout the country, one which construction company Woodpecker is working hard to solve.
- Kenyan Engineer Recycles Plastic Into Bricks Stronger Than ... ›
- Could IKEA's New Tiny House Help Fight the Climate Crisis ... ›