This was a research project in partnership between Engr308 Technology and the Environment and the City of Arcata, during Fall 2010, to explore the impacts of single use plastic bags in Arcata, Humboldt County, California. This research helps to educate arguments over the merits of a single use plastic bag ban. See Arcata plastic bags for more.

Teams[edit | edit source]

Review[edit | edit source]

Make sure not to plagiarize. Use the format of subsections (four = signs in this case) on various topics and references using footnotes.[1] Do not editorialize. Just paraphrase what you learn.

Click the edit tab for your section.

Existing programs in other locations - Lab 1[edit | edit source]

  • Places in the US
    • In California, Malibu, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Fairfax all ban single use, plastic bags. Just this year, lawmakers shot down a ban on single use plastic bags statewide. Elsewhere, Washington D.C. requires a charge to use grocery bags, while North Carolina banned single use and non-recyclable plastic bags in the Outer Banks.[2]
    • In January, bans take effect in Maui and Kauai, Hawaii, Brownsville, Texas, and February brings about a ban in American Samoa. Bans are already in place in Westport, Connecticut; Bethel, Alaska; and Edmonds, Washington. There are also campaigns to ban Plastic bags in half a dozen other California cities and counties, including San Jose and L.A.[3]
    • This link doesn't actually lead to the article. --Calebf 20:51, 10 November 2010 (UTC) However, in the last 2 years, 11 states have attempted to ban single use plastic bags, and none of them succeeded. Seattle,Washington attempted to pass a tax on each bag used, but was voted down when it was put to voters.[4]
  • Internationally
    • There has been multiple countries that have banned the use of plastic bags including China. "Under the new rules, businesses will be prohibited from manufacturing, selling or using bags less than 0.025 millimeters (0.00098 inches) thick, according to the order issued by the State Council, China's Cabinet."[5] With a population around 1.3 billion China uses 37 million barrels of oil a year on Plastic Bag Production.[6]
  • Taxing vs Banning
    • Although its not a total ban on plastic bags taxing each bag could be an efficient way to slowly diminish use of single use plastic bags. Many places have started programs that have had positive results. In Dublin, Ireland a tax of.33 cents per bag used at the register was passed.[7] Within weeks they saw a decrease of 94% in plastic bag use. The taxes have made over one million euros this year alone. [8]. A tax on plastic bags could also help out with our state and local government revenue.
    • Last year Seattle Washington tried to have a.20 cent tax on plastic bags but this was rejected because of the money that large companies put towards the campaign's opposition.
    • Washington D.C. has a plastic bag tax of.5 cents per bag. They estimate that this will generate 3.6 million dollars of revenue in the first year. This tax came into effect on Jan 1 2010.[9] The number of bags used in the DC area went from 22.5 million to 3 million in just one month after the tax was put on.[10]
  • This idea is still a work in progress but places like Texas, Massachusetts, and Virginia all have bills that are ready to be passed which would put a.05 cent tax on all plastic bags.[11]

Existing programs in other locations - Lab 2[edit | edit source]

"This issue is not going away. The future is in reusable bags." says Ronald Fong, CEO of the California Grocers Association.

Programs Within the U.S.[edit | edit source]

  • District of Columbia[12]
    • On the first of January 2010 the District of Columbia implemented a plastic bag ban along with the ban an additional tax was created for disposable bags. This tax supports the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Fund whose responsibility is to "restore and protect the Anacostia River including wetlands restoration, trash traps, storm drain screens, etc.."[13]
  • City of Westport, CT[14]
    • Effective March 19, 2009 a plastic bag ban is implemented on the city of Westport, CT. A unique feature of this ordinance is that recyclable paper bags have a specification of no old growth fibers.
  • County of Maui, HI[15]
    • Starting Jan 11th 2011 the county of Maui is enacting a plastic bag ban. Siting unsightly litter, additional burden on landfills as well as the potential death of marine animals for reasons to enact a plastic bag ban. Currently a voluntary plastic ban reduction program is being followed by some locals.
  • City of Malibu, CA
    • This Banning of single use plastic bags was put forward by presentations by local students and representatives from environmental groups on Monday, May, 12, 2008. This was followed by unanimously approval from the City Council.[16] Ordinance 323 was adopted May 27, 2008 and effective December 27, 2008. On the latter day Grocery Stores, Food Vendors, Restaurants, Pharmacies, and City facilities were mandated to comply. The rest of the remaining Retail and Commercial businesses were required to comply on June, 27, 2009.[17]
  • City of Baltimore, MD[18]
    • A bag reduction program was enacted enforcing the reduction of plastic bags on the 22nd of March 2010. Enforcing reusable bag standards such as a minimum bag thickness of 2.25 millimeters. The city is also providing signs to remind the customer "Don't forget your reusable bags."
  • City of Chicago, IL[19]
    • A plastic bag recycling ordinance was created July 19, 2010 to encourage waste diversion by recycling single use bags at stores. Enforcement is controlled by annual reports to the Department of Environment "providing the weight, location and cost for recycling the plastic bags."
  • San Fransisco, CA
    • A single use plastic bag ban was enacted by the City of San Fransisco in March of 2007[20] on all grocery stores and pharmacies saving on average 5 million plastic bags a month.[21] Leading the way for many other bay area cities such as Palo Alto, South San Francisco,[22] Fairfax and Oakland to propose similar bans.
  • City of San Jose, CA
    • A single use plastic bag restriction is being considered. Still allowing the use of 40% recycled plastic bags. Currently you can purchase a bag for 10 cents, but expect an increase to 25 cents in two years 2012-2013.[23]
  • City of Brownsville, TX[24]
    • A voluntary bag ban is encouraged until the date of January 1, 2011 when a plastic bag ban will be enforced. Realizing the City of Brownsville has "a duty to protect the environment, the economy and the health of its citizens" this plastic bag ban was enacted. The ordinance also widens city ordinances to include litter, the start of cleaning up a town.
  • City of Fairfax, CA[25]
    • A ban on plastic bags was adopted by the Fairfax Town Council in August 2007. Though at first the ban was only mandatory following threats of lawsuit from two plastic bag manufacturers, in November 2008 Fairfax voters adopted a plastic bag ban by initiative.
  • County of Los Angeles, CA[26]
    • An ordinance aiming to cut countywide plastic bag consumption in half by 2013 was adopted. Large retail stores and supermarkets are banned from issuing plastic bags in the unincorporated cities of the county, with incorporated cities also being encouraged to initiate similar ordinances. Shoppers are encouraged to bring reusable bags or pay a fee for paper bags.
  • City of Palo Alto, CA[27]
    • As of September 18, 2009, supermarkets in Palo Alto are banned from offering single-use plastic bags to customers (although plastic bags can still be used within the produce and meat departments of the stores). The city is also considering expanding the ban to include other smaller stores in the area, as well as initiatives to place fees on paper bags.
  • Villages of Alaska
    • Places like Bethel,[28] Galena[29] and other rural communities in Alaska have taken action against pollution in their beautiful state. Creating local plastic bag bans litter is diminishing while the public and wildlife are reaping the benefits. "You used to find plastic bags all over the place, up in the trees... But you don't see that now."said Peter Captain Sr., chief of the tribal council in Galena.

Programs Outside of the U.S.[edit | edit source]

  • China
    • On January 8, 2008 China's State Council placed a ban on plastic bag use in all stores that was to take affect on June 1, 2008.[30] "Under the new rules, businesses will be prohibited from manufacturing, selling, or using bags less than 0.025 millimeters (0.00098 inches) thick..."[31]
  • The cities of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Delhi, and Mumbai, India
    • Bans of plastic bags in these cities were put in place mainly for the purpose of avoiding clogs in storm drains during the monsoon season, which is thought to contribute to flooding.[32] Delhi was the most recent to ban these bags in January 2009, and bans the bags which are most likely to become stuck in storm drains, which are less than 0.04 millimeters thick.[33]
  • Mexico City
    • In August of 2009, businesses were outlawed from giving out non-biodegradable thin plastic bags.[34] However, they gave a "one-year grace period before authorities start to impose sanctions" for the purpose of providing time for merchants and plastic bag producers to adjust to the new policy.[35]
  • South Africa
    • Plastic bags that are less than 0.03 millimeters thick were banned in 2003, and retailers that are caught distributing them could face 10 years in jail, or a fine equivalent to $13,800.[36]
  • Tanzania
    • As of November 2006, any person who is caught selling or importing plastic bags that are less than 0.03 millimeters thick could face 6 months in jail or a fine of $2,000.[37]
  • Rwanda
    • A plastic bag ban has been enacted in Rwanda prohibiting shops form distributing the bags to their customers, and "police are reportedly stopping plastic-bag users in the street."[38]

Existing research in plastic bags - Lab 1[edit | edit source]

  • Lots of data regarding carbon, water and other values one would find in an LCA.

Environmental Impacts[edit | edit source]

Producing 1 kg of polyethylene (PET or LDPE), requires the equivalent of 2 kg of oil for energy and raw material. Polyethylene (PE) is the most commonly used plastic for plastic bags. Burning 1 kg of oil creates about 3 kg of carbon dioxide. In other words: Per kg of plastic, about 6 kg carbon dioxide is created during production and incineration".[39]

  • Per two plastic bags manufactured the following energy is used. Additional energy is used when acquiring oil and electricity, which comes from coal fired power plants[40]
Energy used by Resource percentages
990KJ of natural gas 71%
240KJ of petroleum 17%
160KJ of Coal 12%
1390KJ total 100% total

B.O.E calculations:

Energy used to manufacture 2 plastic bags (Kwhr):


Energy used for one plastic bag:

  1. 386kwhr/2=.193kwhr

U.S. combined energy use from Coal petroleum, and Natural gas per year:

  1. 193kwhr*500 bags*300 x 106people=29 x 109Kwhrs of energy per year
  • assumption from website: U.S. per capita of plastic bags used is about 500[41]

Studies have been done in major cities across the globe to determine the impacts of one-time use plastic carryout bags on the environment. Here is the data from one such study completed in Los Angeles County in 2009.[42]

Data is provided by Ecobilan, which is "a department of PricewaterhouseCoopers that provides analysis of the environmental performance of products and services prepared a comprehensive LCA in 2004 that shows the impacts of paper carryout bags, reusable low-density polyethylene plastic bags, and plastic carryout bags made of high-density polyethylene upon the emission of various air pollutants such as VOCs, NOx, CO, SOx."[42][43]

In this section, emissions related to plastic carry-out bags are compared to those of paper carry-out bags

Emissions Sources

Air Pollutant Emissions (Pounds/Day)

VOCs NOx CO SOx Particulates
Emissions attributed to the 67 stores

in the unincorporated territory of Los Angeles County (assuming 10,000 plastic carryout bags used per day per store)

87 62 111 54 44
Emissions attributed to the 462 stores

in the incorporated cities of Los Angeles County (assuming 10,000 plastic carryout bags used per day per store)

601 429 764 371 304
Total emissions 688 492 874 425 348
Emissions Sources

Air Pollutant Emissions (Pounds/Day)

VOCs NOx CO SOx Particulates
Emissions attributed to the 67 stores

in the unincorporated territory of Los Angeles County (assuming 6,836 paper carryout bags used per day per store)2

450 1,150 148 414 75
Emissions attributed to the 462 stores

in the incorporated cities of Los Angeles County (assuming 6,836 paper carryout bags used per day per store)2

601 429 764 371 304
Total emissions 515 1,317 169 473 86

The following table is a summary of key indicators from a LCA study in the Handbook of Biodegradable Polymers[44]


LDPE - Low density polyethylene

PET - Polyethylene terephthalate

PCL - Polycaprolactone

PLA - Polylactide

PHA - Polyhydroxyalkanoates

Type of plastic Cradle to grave

non-renewable energy use (MJ per Kg)

Type of wast treatment Green House Gas emissions

(kg CO2 per kg)

LDPE 80.6 Incineration 5.04
PET (bottle) 77 Incineration 4.93
PCL 83 Incineration 3.1
Mater-Bitm starch film grade 53.5 Incineration 1.21
PLA 57 Incineration 3.84
PHA 81 Incineration Not Available

Existing research in plastic bags - Lab 2[edit | edit source]

Embodied Energy Analysis[edit | edit source]

The following table comes from the Boustead report, a life cycle analysis of paper and plastic bags conducted in 2007. The report was prepared for the Progressive Bag Alliance, and was conducted by Boustead Consulting and Associates. The report was reviewed by a professor of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University.[45]



Plastic Bags Paper bags

with 30% recycled content

Total energy used in megajoules 763 2622
Fossil fuel use in kilograms 14.9 23.2
Municipal solid waste in kilograms 7.0 33.9
Greenhouse gas emissions in C02 equiv. tons 0.04 0.08
Fresh water usage in gallons 58 1004
The following numbers come from a life cycle analysis conducted by Franklin and Associates in 1990.[46]
Two plastic bags use 160 kJ of coal 990 kJ of natural gas 240 kJ of petroleum

Environmental impacts[edit | edit source]

  • According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services it takes 10-20 years for a plastic bag to decompose in the environment.[47]

California's waste stream[edit | edit source]

  • Detailed sorting of plastic carryout bags to determine sources (related to a statewide plastic bag recycling program) showed that 44 percent of bags disposed are from grocery stores.[48]
  • The California 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study determined that of the overall composition of California's disposed waste, "plastic grocery and other merchandise bags" account for 0.3% of overall waste which equates to 123,405 tons.[48]

Back of the envelope calculations[edit | edit source]

  • According to Californians Against Waste, almost all of the 400 plastic bags used in California per second are discarded and ultimately few are recycled. Assuming this to be true as wells as the following we can calculate how many bags are discarded into landfills each year.[49]

Assumptions: 400 plastic bags discarded/second 60 sec/min 60 min/hr 24 hr/day 365 day/yr (400 bags/sec)*(60 sec/min)*(60 min/hr)*(24 hr/day)*(365 day/yr) = 1.3 x 1010 plastic bags discarded/year

Unsorted and Misc.[edit | edit source]

About 40 billion grocery bags are used each year in the United States: 30 billion are plastic, 10 billion paper. According to the Food Marketing Institute, the average American makes 2.3 trips to the grocery store each week and walks away with five to 10 bags each time. This comes to an approximate total of 600 to 1,200 bags per shopper each year. 2,000 plastic bags weigh only 30 pounds, while 2,000 paper bags weigh 280 pounds and take up considerably more room. A stack of 2,000 paper bags stands about seven feet high; a stack of 2,000 plastic bags measures 7 1/4 inches. One truck load will hold about 1 million plastic bags.[50]

Efficacy of other programs and campaigns - Lab 1[edit | edit source]

Domestic Bag Bans[edit | edit source]

State of California Proposed Bag Ban[edit | edit source]
  • Description

The 2010 California State wide plastic bag ban failed to pass earlier this October. Legislature thought the bill was going to far in trying to regulate personal choice.[51] California attempted the state wide ban since around 19 billion plastic bags are used yearly throughout California,[52] while less then 5% are recycled.[53] Almost all plastic bags at one point will become litter which is[54] devastating our land, oceans, and wildlife"[55]

  • Pros
    • Plastic bags cost Californians $25 million a year in cleanup fees[56]
    • Bags made of virgin paper would also be banned meaning they could only use material that is at least 40 percent post-consumer content[57]
    • [58]
  • Cons
    • 1 Plastic bag ban would cost $1.7 million to implement in a state with a $18 billion budget deficit.[59]
    • 2 Republican Senator Mimi Walters believes "If we pass this piece of legislation, we will be sending a message to the people of California that we care more about banning plastic bags than helping them put food on their table."[60]
San Francisco Bag Ban[edit | edit source]

In 2007, San Francisco passed a city ordinance to ban plastic bag use in supermarkets and pharmacies that make more then 2 million dollars a year..[61]

  • Pros
    • A 50 percent drop in plastic bag litter since the ban took effect[62]
    • 5 million less plastic shopping bags a month[63]
  • Cons
    • The ban only applies to grocery stores grossing two million dollars or more a year, when it needs to applied to all stores[64]
    • Paper bags are as environmentaly damaging as plastic bags[64]
    • Street Litter Audits commissioned by the city in 2008 found there had actually been a slight rise in the number of plastic bags picked up off the city's streets since the ban. While hundreds of millions bags are still being used.[64]
  • Lessons learned
    • District 5 supervisor Ross Mirkarimi believes a bag fee is the only reasonable way to reduce the usage is plastic bags. Mirkarimi's ultimate goal from the beginning has been for consumers to bring their own bags. He is know to carry up to five canvas bags on him at all times..[64]
    • Too early to see actual effects.
Los Angeles Bag Ban[edit | edit source]
  • The Los Angeles bag ban has passed but will only go into effect if the state wide ban to implement a fee on shoppers who request plastic bags fails to go into effect.[65]
  • Hopeful outcomes.
    • Los Angeles city council member hope the ban will cause consumers to carry their own reusable bags which will reduce the amount of plastic washing into the city's storm drains and into the Pacific Ocean.[66]
Washington D.C. Bag Tax[edit | edit source]
  • The District of Columbia is the only jurisdiction in the Untied States to pass a bag fee law.[67]

The January of 2010 tax on bags is a success story in many aspects

  • Pros
    • The city reduced the amount of single bag use from 22 million to 3 million each month by charging a nickel for each bag.[68]
    • The tax generated funds to help with the Anacostia River clean up.
    • People seem to be adapting to the tax well.
    • Through working with stakeholders, and communicating with shopkeepers, an agreement was mad to tax both paper and plastic bags
  • Cons
    • There have been no problems enforcing the tax[69]
Westport, CT Plastic Bag Ban[edit | edit source]
  • This is the first town in Connecticut to put a plastic bag ban into effect. The "Retail Checkout Bags Ordinance"ordinance was approved on September 2, 2008 and became operative on March 19, 2009. The six month interim allowed retail establishments to use their inventory of plastic checkout bags.[70] The ordinance says that retailers must provide only recyclable paper bags, reusable durable plastic bags that meet certain requirements, or reusable cloth or fabric bags. Retailers who continue to provide plastic bags will be ordered to stop or face a $ 150 fine.[71]
  • Pros
    • Residents say that the ban was not only successful in reducing the amount of plastic bags used, but also has also inspired a greater awareness of environmental issues.
    • The number of people bringing in their own reusable bags has increased by 70 percent.
    • It is estimated that 600,000 fewer plastic bags have been used since the ban started.[72]
  • Cons
    • Because the ban is only on plastic bags, many fear that people will just switch to using paper bags instead.[72]

International Bans on Plastic Bags[edit | edit source]

Ireland Bag Ban[edit | edit source]
  • One of the more successful bag bans in the world, hailing a 90% reduction rate.[73] A 15 cent(euro) tax was implented, except the tax was not on the business but the consumer. That is believed to be a large part of the success is the consumers directly saw the new tax.[74]
  • Pros
    • 90% reduction of plastic Bags
    • Consumers directly felt the tax and how it effects them
  • Cons
    • 15 cent euro tax
    • cost if implementing the program
  • Lessons Learned
    • Ireland is a great example because they did not ban the bags all together as many cities/countries are trying to do, instead the focus is on the consumer to bring their own bag. The companies are not the ones forced to find alternatives and change their business plan like the San Fransisco Ban.
Chinese Bag Ban[edit | edit source]
  • A complete ban on plastic bags except for a small amount of sectors for the catering industry.[75] The ban has been effective in reduction although the small markets and many times enforcement is hard in remote areas.
  • Pros
    • Large reduction of plastic waste
    • Plastic bags made of petroleum which was been reduced by 1.6 million tonnes[76]
  • Cons
    • Hard for smaller markets in remote areas
    • Paper vs. Plastic which is really better?
Mexico City Bag Ban[edit | edit source]
  • In August of 2009, Mexico City became the second largest city in North America to ban plastic bags. All stores within the city limits will be affected by the law.[77]
  • Pros
    • Hefty fines of up to $90,000 and a 36-hour jail term is a pretty good reason not to use plastic bags.[78]
  • Cons
    • This law only prevents retailers from giving away free single-use plastic bags that are deemed non-biodegradable. There is still some confusion about if selling single-use plastic bags is allowed under the law.[79]
Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, Canada Bag Ban[edit | edit source]
  • This small town of 500 people claims to be the first to ban plastic bags in North America. A company call InStore Products was a major contributor to the bag ban. They distributed 5,000 free "Bring Your Own Bags" to local residents.
  • Pros
    • In May of 2006, the town imposed a 3 cents levy on single-use bags, which was replaced by a ban the following April. It is said that because people had already switched to reusable bags, the ban went relatively unnoticed.[80]
    • Many retailers in the town like the bylaw because they don't have to buy bags to give away. They can sell reusable bags and can make some money or at least break even.[81]

Efficacy of other programs and campaigns - Lab 2[edit | edit source]

United States[edit | edit source]

Washington D.C. (The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act)[edit | edit source]

The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009(Bill 18-150)passed June 16, 2009 The policy enacted a 5-cent tax on paper and plastic bags. from every 5 cents a penny goes to the business, and the other four cents would go into a fund to clean up the Anacostia River and it's tributaries.

  • Efficacy
  • The tax has raised $150,000 which will transfer into $10 million over the next four years[82]
  • Prior to the passing of the law an estimated 22.5 million plastic bags per month
  • After a survey of area businesses, many are reporting a 50-60% reduction in bag usage at their stores
  • One business within the district a 70% reduction within the first year
  • The Anacostia Restoration Fund has collected approximately $1.3 million through September 2010
  • Local non-profits groups have reported a 60% reduction in the plastic bags present at watershed wide clean-ups[83]
San Francisco Plastic Bag Tax (2004)[edit | edit source]
  • Overview - An ordinance requiring a 17¢ fee on each bag provided at supermarket checkout counters.
  • Pros
    • 1) Reduction in Litter.[84]
    • 2) Reduced threats to marine life.[84]
    • 3) Reduced 'batch contamination' that costs the city $649,000 per year.[84]
    • 4) Climate benefits.[84]
  • Cons
    • 1) Industry opposition from the California Grocers Association and the American Plastics Council.[84]
    • 2) Costs are passed on to the consumer.[84]
    • 3) Incompatibility with existing recycling programs.[84]
    • 4) Potential effects on customer convenience.[84]
    • 5) Possibility of transferring business to surrounding communities.[84]
  • Lessons learned / hopeful outcomes
    • Nullified with the passage of California Assembly Bill AB 2449 - which requires all CA grocery stores to take back and recycle plastic grocery bags. The bill also requires retailers to provide consumers with a bag reuse opportunity. Retailers and manufactures will be required to implement a public education program, and all bags must be labeled 'Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling.'[85]
San Francisco Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance (2007)[edit | edit source]
  • As of March 2010, no comprehensive studies have been conducted to determine the ban's efficacy.[86]
  • Pros
    • 1) The City of San Francisco held a well-attended public hearing, where a significant amount of public comment was given, before the ordinance was approved 10-1 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and signed into law by Mayor Newsom.[87]
    • 2) Example of how locally initiated action can evolve into a much larger movement - on an international scale - without being requested to wait for a conducive state or national political climate.[87]
    • 3) Protects Marine Environment[84]
    • 4) The gradual implementation of the Ordinance. First applying to the largest generators (most capable of absorbing the increased cost) then amended to gradually include smaller types of retail stores.[87]
  • Cons
    • 1) While most retailers have complied with the Ordinance, most have merely switched to offering paper bags or HDPE plastic bags marked "REUSABLE."[87]
    • 2) The number of consumers bringing in their own bags has not seen a significant increase.[87]
    • 3) Plastic bag recycling bins have been removed from retailers.[87]
    • 4) Excessive paper used in retail stores since the Ordinance has been passed.[87]
    • 5) No compostable plastic bags found in retail stores.[87]
    • 6) Some initial objections from industry regarding:[87]
      • The merit of compostable plastic bags.
      • The harms caused by increased use of alternatives to plastic bags.
      • The difficulty in distinguishing between compostable and traditional plastic bags.
  • Lessons learned / hopeful outcomes
    • 1) If reducing environmental impact is the objective of the Ordinance, results to date do not indicate it will be successful. First, little use of reusable bags was observed. Second, the replacement of plastic by paper and the return to double bagging may actually increase environmental impact, as many peer reviewed lifecycle studies indicate that paper bags use more energy, produce more waste, and generate more greenhouse gas emissions than do plastic bags.[87]
    • 2) Fees introduced to producers and indirectly to consumers are relatively ineffective at reducing plastic bag consumption. Consumers should be aware of the additional fees per bag so that they will change their behavior. Fees that are directly passed onto consumers have been effective at altering behavior. If these fees are applied to only one type of bag however, they will likely lead consumers to switch to other disposable bags or more prepackaged goods.[86]
    • 3) Herrera et al. 2008 examined the 30-year impact of multiple policy options for reducing disposable shopping bag use, including enhanced education, a combination of education and ban on disposable plastic shopping bags, education and a mandatory advanced recovery fee of approximately 10-25 cents on disposable plastic shopping bags, and education and an advanced recovery fee of approximately 10-25 cents on all disposable shopping bags. The study assumed that education efforts alone would only result in a 5% shift away from plastic bags. A 15 cent fee on plastic bags would result in a shift from 100% plastic bags to 35% plastic bags, 21% paper, and 37% reusable bags, with a 7% reduction in bag use. Finally, a fee on both paper and plastic would shift bag use from 100% plastic to 35% plastic, 0% paper 52% reusable bags, and a 13% reduction in bag use.[86]
    • 4)The Herrera study suggests that all three regulatory options would result in significant environmental benefits. A ban on plastic would result in more than 60% reductions of impacts to litter aesthetics and marine diversity, and significantly reduced environmental impacts from non-renewable energy, GHG emissions, resource depletion, and shopping bag waste.136 However, eutrophication would increase slightly. A fee placed on plastic or plastic and paper bags would result in a 50% reduction in impacts of litter aesthetics and marine diversity. Although both scenarios would result in other significant environmental benefits, the fee on both plastic and paper would lead to greater than 50% reductions in non-renewable energy, GHG Emissions, resource depletion, eutrophication, and shopping bag waste generation.[86]
Seattle Public Opinion Survey[84][edit | edit source]
  • 6 out of 10 disagreed that the City should charge a fee to shoppers for every plastic bag
  • 7 out of 10 agreed that public funds should be spent for promoting reusable bags
  • Current Bag Use
    • Almost always plastic - 20%
    • Almost always paper - 20%
    • Almost always own bag - 16%
    • Sometimes own bag - 20%
    • Sometimes plastic/sometimes paper - 18%
    • Other - 6%
  • 38% use plastic bags at least sometimes. Most likely were:
    • Single parents (44% Almost Always)
    • Renters (33% vs. 15% of homeowners)
    • Making under $50,000 a year (34% Almost Always vs. 14% of those earning over $50,000)
    • Not working (32% Almost Always)
    • Men 28% Almost Always (Women 14%)
  • 36% bring their own at least sometimes. Most likely were:
    • Public sector employees (47%)
    • Couples with children at home (44%)
    • Women (42%)
  • Willingness to Pay Bag Fee
    • Not willing to pay - 17%
    • <5 cents - 28%
    • 5 cents - 25%
    • 10 cents - 17%
    • 25 cents - 8%
    • >25 cents - 3%
    • No data - 2%

Most willing to pay were:

    • Earn less than $25,000 a year (88% willing to pay;

49% willing to pay 5¢ or more)

    • Daily Shoppers (60%)
    • Under age 35 (49% willing to pay 10¢ or more)

International Programs[edit | edit source]

Ireland[edit | edit source]

After a 15 Euro cent tax on plastic bags:

  • Approximately a 90% reduction in use of plastic bags
  • "reduced litter and negative landscape effects"
  • "overwhelmingly positive" response from the public and storeowners alike
  • In Europe, taxing for environmental reasons is not a new concept. (Perhaps this adds to the acceptance of a tax on plastic bags.)
  • In the neighboring Northern Ireland, there is no tax on plastic bags. It is "highly unlikely" that shoppers would travel there to avoid the levy because it is such a minor portion of the total amount spent on any given shopping excursion. The soundness of this assumption is augmented by the fact that diesel and petrol costs do differ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; in this instance, consumers cross borders to avoid the more expensive fuel.
  • The Irish Business Against Litter and the National Trust of Ireland together conducted litter surveys after the levy was imposed to evaluate its effects. "Between January 2002 and April 2003 the number of "clear" areas (i.e. areas in which there is no evidence of plastic bag litter) has increased by 21%, while the number of areas without traces16 has increased by 56%."
  • In comparison, "the National Litter Pollution Monitoring System notes that plastic bag litter accounted for 5% of national litter composition before the introduction of the levy. In 2002, this number fell to 0.32%, in 2003 to 0.25% and to 0.22% in 2004."


  • Table 3 reports a survey which had a 42.74% response rate. It has a margin of error of ±9.8%. The restriction of the survey to the 01 area code excludes people without a landline and those who do not live in the Dublin area.


  • Effects on the plastic bag industry:
    • In 1999, it was estimated that 79% of plastic bags were imported. The rest were produced in 4 factories in the Republic of Ireland, one of which has shut down since then, resulting in 26 job-losses. "It is uncertain whether this would have happened even in the absence of the levy."
  • "Ensuring stakeholder and consumer acceptance of the tax is central to the successful implementation of such a tax. Informational campaigns highlighting the environmental impacts and hypothecation of revenues into an environment fund are central in ensuring such acceptance. In the case of this tax, high-level support from both the supporting minister and the treasury was also required."[88]
China[edit | edit source]
Taiwan[edit | edit source]

In 2002, Taiwan created a law prohibiting hypermarkets, supermarkets, department stores, and convenience stores from handing out free plastic bags. This resulted in these stores either giving out free paper bags, selling thicker plastic bags (for the US equivalent of $0.03), or selling cotton shopping bags for slightly more.[89]

South Africa[edit | edit source]
Southern Australia[edit | edit source]

Could you list the exact nature of the ban? For instance: All "lightweight plastic checkout bags" are banned, while "shops must supply reusable or environmentally friendly alternatives such as cornstarch or paper bags."[90] --Calebf 20:19, 1 November 2010 (UTC) Southern Australia bag ban Southern Australia has been quick to embrace the plastic ban for the sake of the environment. Although they can't control the rest of the Nations plastic bag consumption rate, they can however, be a leading example for change. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at UniSA has put together research that shows the statistics of plastic bag consumption since 2008. There study reveals that:

  • 9 out of 10 shoppers take reusable bags compared to the 6 to 10 before the ban was established.
  • Since October of 2008 400 million less plastic bags a year were consumed.

Since 2006 the government has been working with the many retailers and unions to promote a smooth change from plastic to reusable bags.[91] Southern Australia 2008 Trial of a Charge on Plastic Bags The Victorian Government and the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) agreed to work together to trial the application of a charge on single‐use plastic bags ("plastic bags") in supermarkets. Background The trial was established for four weeks, from August 18th to September 14th. During this trial 17 stores participated in 3 different:

  • Fountain Gate area (including Berwick, Hampton Park and Narre Warren)
  • Wangaratta
  • Warrnambool

An independent organization called the KMPG was engaged by the Victorian Government ANRA to analyze the outcomes of this trial. There study was then entitled Trial of a Government and Industry charge on Plastic Bags. Trial Outcome During those four weeks the results indicated that there was an:

  • Immediate, sustained reduction in plastic bag consumption.
  • Showing a 79% reduction across the trial areas.


  • 86% of the consumers were in support to reduce plastic bag use.
  • 60% of the consumers were happy to participate in trial.
  • 13% of the consumers expressed concern at cost of plastic bags.

KMPG Report of Surveyed consumers

  • 45% customers surveyed support a ban on plastic bags.
  • 25% opposed a ban
  • 30% were indifferent

Impact on the Retailers

  • Results don't include an analysis of scan and idle rates at the supermarkets.
  • An increase in idle rates can potentially impact retailers financially.
  • Can increase consumer costs.

Service Impacts

  • Qualitative results show issues that concern the supermarket employees.
  • Occupational Health and Safety issues
    • Weight and movement of bags
    • Hygiene of bags presented for reuse


  • Feedback from retailers to customer complaints didn't explore actual frequency of consumer complaints.
  • No description of the rate of complaints
    • No comparing of customer complaints to other issues
    • Caused issues for committee to understand the extent of complaints and impact of those complaints

Community Understanding

  • Since community wasn't completely aware of what the trial was an accurate survey of there opinions couldn't truly be made.
  • Educating the community in the harm of plastic bags, takes time and money **Although important to do so for future trials as to acquire accurate results.

Sustaining Change

  • The Qualitative assessments don't necessarily convert to actual results.
  • Committee cautions that the net benefit of a higher charge should be considered before its imposition
    • In regards to the 10 to 25 cent cost for each plastic bag, it shows that this influences the reduction of such bags

Bin Liners

  • Number of bags in reusable condition is unknown, as is the regularity of plastic bag reuse.
  • The net impact of plastic is still unknown if there are no bin liners.
  • Bin liners a fairly important in this issue but weren't fully explored
    • Education program could be put in place to help inform the community that bin liners are avoidable.

Type of Bags

  • Comparison between bag choices are limited.
  • Needs a better understanding of customer pay off in regards to bag use.

Conclusion As a result of this survey it has been concluded to be a success. Although the community involved recognizes that if the trial is to be extended then there are matters that still need to be studies. These the affects of long term behavior changes, impact on retailers and retailer employees, service delivery impacts, community education on plastic bags and alternatives and information on bin liners.[92] South Australia 2009 Overview This research was conducted as a phase three part of research on the banning of plastic bags. It was established as a continuation of the research conducted in 2008. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia was partnered with the Zero Waste SA, which facilitated the research project. Controlled phase groups

  • Phase 1, consisted of a sample of 253 people. (benchmark study)
    • Allows for a better understanding of behavior change and avoids sample error.
  • Phase 2, consisted of a sample of 254 which were randomly selected
    • Focused on evaluating advertising and media recall. **50% of those responsible for their household's grocery shopping
    • Group acts as a control group
    • Representative cross-section of residents living in both metropolitan and regional areas of SA.
  • Phase 3, consisted of two groups that totaled 502 respondents whom participated
    • Represents a behavior change within the last three months for all groups.
    • Shows a shift in behavior directly associated with the ban's implementation.

Project Objectives 1)To better understand the South Australian householders' behavior and perceptions towards the ban now that it has been put into effect. 2)Looks to identify how people's behavior and perceptions towards plastic bags 3)And to see if that will have changed since the implementation of the ban. Bag Usage and Ownership

  • Overall 9 in 10 respondents claimed to take their own bags shopping.
  • Approximately 6 out of 10 in phase brought their own.
  • The overall claim of using store only bags has dropped from 18% to 1% in phase 3.
    • Awareness & Perceptions of the Ban
  • Half of the despondence had heard the ban was being implemented as a need to be environmentally responsible.
  • 7% claimed to have not heard of plastic ban.

Vote of support from 0 out of 10

  • More than half surveyed voted in full support of the plastic ban (10/10).
  • ¾ respondents claimed to be highly supportive of the ban (8/10) or higher.
  • Only 4% claimed to be 'not at all supportive' of the ban (0/10).

Phase group Support

  • Phase 1, mean of support was 8.2
  • Phase 2, mean was relatively the same as phase 1, 7.7
    • Results indicate a level of stability in this survey

Impact of Ban

  • 82% believed that the ban will have an impact.
  • 6% believed that the ban will have no impact.
  • 6 in 10 believed that this impact would include litter and produce a reduction in landfills.
  • 15% believed will save resources
    • Reducing impact on waterways
    • Reducing impact on marine life
  • Those that believed that the bag ban is having an impact, 7% thought that it is too early to tell what kind of impact is occurring.[93]
Italy[edit | edit source]
Denmark[edit | edit source]

Challenges - Lab 1[edit | edit source]

Plastic bag bans in San Francisco and other areas have resulted in most people simply switching to paper bags. It has also resulted in law suits, and in Oakland the ban was overturned by plastic industry plaintiffs who argued that a plastic-only ban was illegal since there were no studies on the effects of increased paper bag usage. This illustrates that "plastic-only bans have proved vulnerable to legal challenges," and that if the end-state is supposed to be a complete shift to reusable bags, then there is no reason to leave paper bags out of a bag ban, especially since it renders the ban legally unstable.[94] In 2 years, all 11 states which attempted to ban single use plastic bags failed.(AWAITING citation from lab2 efficacy), while community and federal bans around the world seem to have better results. Bethel, AK example shows greater success when community is ready and on board(further info and citation). Other voter reversals of bans have taken place where communities are not ready for bans(cite examples).

Significant Interest Groups Against Ban[edit | edit source]

  • Small businesses: expensive to implement
  • Consumer groups: inflated grocery bills, California expanding deficit
  • American Chemistry Council (ACC): think plastic bag ban is irrelevant, desire more efforts towards recycling[95]

Arguments Against Ban[edit | edit source]

  • It will increase consumer and retailer costs[96]
  • Concern about the lack of availability and quality of compostable bags[96]
  • The production of paper bags is more damaging than the production of plastic bags-the ban will do more harm than good[97]
  • Freedom of choice: Can people be told how to bag their groceries?
  • It's easy to forget your re-usable bags
  • Banning plastic bags creates job loss
  • Plastic bags are recycled

Laws[edit | edit source]

Challenges - Lab 2[edit | edit source]

  • Laws, SIGs, etc.

Environmental Justice issues - Lab 1[edit | edit source]

  • Health effects, secondary effects, other issues.
  • Some reusable bags, made with plastic and transported thousands of miles, are actually more harmful than "disposable" plastic bags if they're not reused. The heavier material also takes longer to breakdown in the landfill.[98]
  • "If each [reusable, plastic] bag is used multiple times -- at least once a week -- four or five reusable bags can replace 520 plastic bags a year, says Nick Sterling, research director at Natural Capitalism Solutions, a nonprofit focused on corporate sustainability issues."[98]
  • "Plastic totes may be more eco-friendly to manufacture than ones made from cotton or canvas, which can require large amounts of water and energy to produce and may contain harsh chemical dyes. Paper bags, meanwhile, require the destruction of millions of trees and are made in factories that contribute to air and water pollution."[98]
  • "Many of the cheap, reusable bags that retailers favor are produced in Chinese factories and made from nonwoven polypropylene, a form of plastic that requires about 28 times as much energy to produce as the plastic used in standard disposable bags and eight times as much as a paper sack, according to Mr. Sterling, of Natural Capitalism Solutions."[98]
  • "Mr. Shiv also says that according to surveys done by his graduate students, many shoppers say they are less likely to carry a retailer's branded reusable bag into a competing store. "What these bags are doing is increasing loyalty to the store," he says."[98]
  • People can sometimes have averse reactions to purchasing reusable bags, especially when the average grocery run may take around 12 of these purchased bags versus free "disposable" plastic bags.[98]
  • To incentivize customer use of reusable bags, some stores have begun using SmarTote brand reusable plastic tote bags with a barcode tracking system that can record how many uses the bag gets and enter users in store-sponsered contests for prizes.[98]
  • "Plastics are readily combustible and under open-fire conditions generate black smoke, decomposition, and volatilization products, which become incorporated into the ambient environment (5-9), resulting in human and environmental exposure."[99]
  • Plastic Samples Collected for Extraction and Open-Fire Self-Combustion Source Tests

Sample type/locale: Shopping bags, unused (USA)
Plastic formulation/mixture: PE
Extract yield (mg hexane-soluble g-1 polymer): 35.3[99]

  • "The plastic material itself is environmentally quite stable, but the additives, their reaction and degradation products incorporated into the polymeric material, can be released into the environment as well as into the contacting fluids, products, or food (17, 18). The main environmental concerns associated with additives used for plastics are related to their (a) potential ecotoxic effects, (b) mobility under conditions of use, (c) capacity to accumulate in the environment or bioaccumulate in organisms, and (d) generation or release of hazardous substances during disposal procedures or under normal geo-environmental conditions. Additives are released from plastics by leaching and contact transference (17)."[99]
  • The city of Solana Beach contracted directly with a company who takes the city's used plastic bags and uses them to produce recycled goods, such as decking and fencing where it is blended with wood fibers.[100]

There are several resources used and emissions put into the air in order to produce, transport and recycle plastic bags. Between 1 to 2 percent of plastic bags are recycled in the United States of America. When plastic bags photo-degrade in land fills the plastic never goes away and toxic particles can enter the food chain if eaten by animals.[101] Many animals die from mistaking plastic bags for food. After the animal dies and their bodies decompose the plastic remains intact, littering the land again which can potentially lead to another animal ingesting the same bag.[102] Every year more than a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die from eating or getting entangled in plastic according to the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. In every square mile of ocean there are 46,000 pieces of plastic, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. In the Northern Pacific Gyre there is six times as much plastic as biomass.[103] Plastic bags can contain toxic metals, such as cadmium and lead, which can leach out and contaminate food. Cadmium can cause vomiting and heart enlargement if absorbed in low doses. Long term exposure to lead may cause degeneration of brain tissues. Plastic bags that are not disposed of properly clog drains, which can cause flooding and lead to water borne diseases. Because plastic bags are non-biodegradable and impervious, if they are disposed of in the soil they can prevent the recharging of ground water aquifers.[104] Polyethelyne is used in the production of plastic bags and is suspected to be a human carcinogen.[105]

Environmental Justice issues - Lab 2[edit | edit source]

The environmental justice movement was begun in recognition of the fact that: "Environmental regulations have not uniformly benefited all members of society. People of color (African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans) are disproportionately harmed by industrial toxins on their jobs and in their neighborhoods. These groups must contend with dirty air and drinking water- the byproducts of municipal landfills, incinerators, polluting industries, and hazardous waste treatment storage, and disposal facilities."[106] Environmental justice issues also cross international borders. Many cheap products we buy in the United States are manufactured in countries that do not have stringent, or any, environmental regulations. Thus, the populations of those exporting countries are bearing the external costs associated with the production of materials we consume. Most plastic shopping bags are made in countries with lax environmental regulations, like China.[107]

Contribution to global climate change[edit | edit source]

  • "In a comparison of the two types of grocery bags, Franklin Associates

concluded that the manufacture of plastic bags produced considerably less air pollution, water borne wastes, and industrial solid-waste than the manufacture of paper. Because plastic bags are lighter, they also produce less post-consumer solid waste, taking up less space in landfills. Researchers found that plastic sacks have these advantages even when grocery store clerks pack less in each bag, thereby using 1.5 or 2 times as many plastic bags to pack the same groceries as paper.[108]

  • "According to a study conducted by Boustead Consulting, the manufacturing of 1,000 paper bags incorporate 30% recycled content, uses 2,622 MJ of energy versus 763 MJ for the production of enough plasticbags. The paper bags generate 33.9 kg of solid municipal waste versus 7.0 kg for plastic. The study also found that 1,000 paper bags generate twice as much greenhouse gas emissions than plastic bags.[109]
    • "The specific vulnerabilities of communities with climate-related risks, such as the elderly and the poor or indigenous communities, are typically much higher than for the population as a whole."[110] [5]
    • "Chapter 19 of the WGII TAR (Smith et al., 2001) concluded that there is high confidence that developing countries will be more vulnerable to climate change than developed countries; medium confidence that a warming of less than 2°C above 1990 levels would have net negative impacts on market sectors in many developing countries and net positive impacts on market sectors in many developed countries; and high confidence that above 2 to 3°C, there would be net negative impacts in many developed countries and additional negative impacts in many developing countries.There is still high confidence that the distribution of impacts will be uneven and that low-latitude, less-developed areas are generally at greatest risk due to both higher sensitivity and lower adaptive capacity. However, recent work has shown that vulnerability to climate change is also highly variable within individual countries. As a consequence, some population groups in developed countries are also highly vulnerable even to a warming of less than 2°C (see, e.g., Section 12.4.). For instance, indigenous populations in high-latitude areas are already faced with significant adverse impacts from climate change to date (see Section 14.4; ACIA, 2005), and the increasing number of coastal dwellers, particularly in areas subject to tropical cyclones, are facing increasing risks (Christensen et al., 2007 Box 11.5; Section 11.9.5). There is high confidence that warming of 1 to 2°C above 1990-2000 levels would include key negative impacts in some regions of the world (e.g., Arctic nations, small islands), and pose new and significant threats to certain highly vulnerable population groups in other regions (e.g., high-altitude communities, coastal-zone communities with significant poverty levels), with increasing levels of adverse impacts and confidence in this conclusion at higher levels of temperature increase."[110] [6]
    • "Africa is likely to be the continent most vulnerable to climate change. Among the risks the continent faces are reductions in food security and agricultural productivity, particularly regarding subsistence agriculture (Chapter 9 Sections 9.4.4 and 9.6.1; Parry et al., 2004; Elasha et al., 2006), increased water stress (Chapter 9 Section 9.4.1) and, as a result of these and the potential for increased exposure to disease and other health risks, increased risks to human health (Chapter 9 Section 9.4.3). Other regions also face substantial risks from climate change. Approximately 1 billion people in South, South-East, and East Asia would face increased risks from reduced water supplies (•) (Chapter 10 Section 10.4.2), decreased agricultural productivity (•) (Chapter 10 Section, and increased risks of floods, droughts and cholera (*) (Chapter 10 Section 10.4.5). Tens of millions to over a hundred million people in Latin America would face increased risk of water stress (•) (Chapter 13 Section 13.4.3). Low-lying, densely populated coastal areas are very likely to face risks from sea-level rise and more intense extreme events (Chapter 13 Section 13.4.4). The combination of land-use changes and climate change is very likely to reduce biodiversity substantially (Chapter 13Section"[110]
    • "There is very high confidence that human settlements in polar regions are already being adversely affected by reduction in ice cover and coastal erosion (Chapter 15 Section 15.2.2). Future climate change is very likely to result in additional disruption of traditional cultures and loss of communities. For example, warming of freshwater sources poses risks to human health because of transmission of disease (*) (Martin et al., 2005). Shifts in ecosystems are very likely to alter traditional use of natural resources, and hence lifestyles."[110]
    • "Small islands, particularly several small island states, are likely to experience large impacts due to the combination of higher exposure, for example to sea-level rise and storm surge, and limited ability to adapt (Chapter 16 Sections 16.ES, 16.2.1 and 16.4). There is very high confidence that many islands are already experiencing some negative effects of climate change (Chapter 1Section 1.3.3; Chapter 16 Section 16.4). The long-term sustainability of small-island societies is at great risk from climate change, with sea-level rise and extreme events posing particular challenges on account of their limited size, proneness to natural hazards and external shocks combined with limited adaptive capacity and high costs relative to GDP. Subsistence and commercial agriculture on small islands is likely to be adversely affected by climate change and sea-level rise, as a result of inundation, seawater intrusion into freshwater lenses, soil salinisation, decline in water supply and deterioration of water quality (Chapter 16Executive Summary and Section 16.4). A group of low-lying islands, such as Tarawa and Kiribati, would face average annual damages of 17 to 18% of its economy by 2050 under the SRES A2 and B2 scenarios (•) (Chapter 16 Section 16.4.3)."[110]
    • Even in developed countries, there are many vulnerabilities. Arnell (2004) estimated a 40 to 50% reduction in runoff in southern Europe by the 2080s (associated with a 2 to 3°C increase in global mean temperature). Fires will very likely continue to increase in arid and semi-arid areas such as Australia and the western USA, threatening development in wildland areas (Chapter 4 Section 4.4.4; Chapter 11 Section 11.3.1; Chapter 14 Box 14.1 and Section 14.4.4; Westerling et al., 2006). Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events, as well as concentrations of air pollutants, such as ozone, which increase mortality and morbidity in urban areas (see Chapters 8, 11, 12 and 14)."[110]
    • "Despite progress in reducing the mortality associated with many classes of extremes, human societies, particularly in the developing world, are not well adapted to the current baseline of climate variability and extreme events, such as tropical cyclones, floods and droughts, and thus these impacts are often assessed as key vulnerabilities."[110]

Urban Pollution[edit | edit source]

Examples of problems caused by pollution and litter of plastic bags in urban areas are found worldwide. Plastic bags, sometimes referred to as "urban tumbleweeds," are blown and the float into storm drains and other waterways, eventually resulting in a clog. Blockage of drains resulting in flooding and water contamination has been reported in Dhaka City, Accra, Dar es Salaam, and in the 1980s in the Ogunpa flood disaster in Ethiopia, as well as in many other cities worldwide.[111] In 1999 in Cisadene, Indonesia, plastic bags blocked six sewage treatment pipes resulting in a difficult and costly cleanup.[112] A small amount of rainfall sends the plastic bags into drains, streams, and other waterways quickly, triggering floods. Results of the floods are often disastrous. One factor in the problem of plastic bag pollution is because plastic bags are difficult to recycle. Plastic bags can jam processing machines during recycling, which creates costs due to work stoppages. They are non-biodegradable, and therefore pose problems in other waste management methods of landfilling and incineration. One study of plastic pollution occurred in Accra, Ghana, where drinking water is widely sold in plastic sachets which are commonly littered in urban areas. As mentioned above, flooding in Accra after minimal rainfall periods was attributed to plastic bags that had accumulated in drainage pipes.[113] In California, litter of plastic bags is no small problem. For example, in a cleanup of the Los Angeles River, plastic film and bags accounted for 43% of the total trash collected.[114] One reason plastic bag litter is so abundant is because single-use plastic bags are readily available. According to the Californians Against Waste website, retailers in California alone distribute 14 million plastic bags annually.[115]Plastic bag pollution has not been shown to be a cause of flooding in the state. Instead of being limited to urban areas, it is apparent that much of the plastic bag waste is moving towards the coast. According to the San Francisco Bay Area organization Save the Bay, California taxpayers spend over $25 million in cleanup of plastic bags, both in local agency efforts to clean plastic bags from drains, waterways, and streets, and in landfill employee time being spent catching plastic bags that have blown away.[116] The plastic bags that have managed to escape waste bins and landfills often travel far, accumulating in places with no waste management service, like the North Pacific Gyre's Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch[edit | edit source]

The North Pacific Gyre is a circular pattern of several currents in the Pacific Ocean. The North Pacific Gyre has corralled a mass of floating garbage roughly the size of Texas, which is referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.[117] According to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History website, 80% of the garbage, which ranges from bottles to packaging material to toothbrushes to plastic bags, is from land.[118] The name "Patch" may be a misnomer, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program website. The debris does not accumulate in large masses above the ocean surface, instead the debris is often small and suspended just below the surface of the water.[119] The debris was discovered by Charles Moore while travelling from Hawaii to California. The North Pacific Gyre is not an area commonly travelled, as it is an oceanic desert. Oceanic deserts, which are largely unexplored, have little biomass, as photosynthesis only occurs near the ocean surface. The nutrient-rich residue of near-surface photosynthesis is sequestered at the bottom of the ocean. Zooplankton and phytoplankton are abundant in oceanic deserts. Until the discovery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the North Pacific Gyre was believed to be unexploited. When Moore and his colleagues sifted through the debris, they described what they saw as "plastic-plankton soup." It took Moore one week to cross the gyre, during which there was no clear spot found.[120] Physical and environmental effects of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have potential to cause social injustice. Aesthetic degradation can infringe upon tourist-dependent economies when plastic debris collects on shore. Plastic debris can be lethal to various species of marine wildlife. Ingestion or entanglement causes widespread mortality of marine mammals, turtles, birds, and fish. The effects on marine life could infringe on the livelihoods of people who depend on marine life for food or industry.[121]Debris can damage habitat areas, but particulates and chemicals in the plastic are also harmful. The marine ecosystem can be degraded by alterations in the composition of chemicals, gases, and particulates. Plastic particles contain toxins, such as Bisphenol A (BPA), polyvinyl chloride(PVC), and other chemicals that leach into water and may cause adverse health effects in wildlife and in humans.[122]

Impact on Developing Nations and Disempowered Peoples[edit | edit source]

  • A monsoon flood in 2005 killed 1,000 people in Mumbai, India. City officials blamed the intensity of the flooding on large amounts of plastic bags clogging gutters and sewers, which prevented water from draining through the underground infrastructure. Plastic bags were banned in the city in 2002, but continue to be a problem. 40% of Mumbai's 6,000 tons of daily waste comes from plastic. Fines for possession are severe: about 90 euros for stores distributing plastic bags and 1,000 rupees for individuals caught using them. Additionally, plastic bags create health concerns for rural farmers, who fear the plastic bags littered throughout their land leach dangerous chemicals into the soil when it rains. However, widespread plastic bag bans could also have negative social consequences. The Indian Plastics Manufacturers Association estimates that approximately 1,000 plants could close in the province of Maharashtra alone as a result of new regulations, putting 100,000 out of work.[123]
  • Similar flooding events occurred in Bangladesh in 1988 and 1998, leading to a plastic bag ban in 2002.[107]
  • Another consequence of plastic bag induced flooding events (as discussed above) is the creation of stagnant water. Stagnant water is the ideal habitat for mosquitoes and other parasites that spread disease. Encephalitis, dengue fever, and malaria are among the infectious diseases that already plague developing nations and poor communities, where high population density, unsanitary conditions and limited access to health care add up to catastrophic conditions.[107]
  • The Lucknow Times of India reported in 2000 that local cows were dying from eating discarded plastic bags, which fatally clog their stomachs. As many as 100 cows a day were dying in one town. This phenomenon is especially significant in India, where the dominant religion of Hinduism regards cows as sacred. The economic impact of the lost revenue from the cows is also noteworthy.[124]
  • Litter from plastic bags has degraded the aesthetic quality of natural tourist destinations around the world, including the Himalayas, where bags have been banned.[125] Marine tourism, like whale watching, is perhaps suffering the worst, though, as waste from plastic bags ultimately finds the sea. Plastic bags litter beaches, making them less appealing to vacationers.[107] Popular marine wildlife, like sea turtles and dolphins, can mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and fatally ingest them. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society reports that a Cuvier's beaked whale washed up on shore in Scotland in 2000, and an autopsy revealed its stomach contained large amounts of shredded plastic bags.[126]
  • North America and Europe consume about 80% of the 4 to 5 trillion plastic bags made annually. Recycling rates for plastic bags are a meager 1-3%. The US throws away about 100 billion plastic grocery bags each year.[107] Those 100 billion bags are primarily disposed of in landfills or by incineration. Many landfills and waste incinerators are in impoverished, rural areas, including Native American reservations. "The pressure for some type of economic development and employment on underdeveloped and resource-poor reservations has led the Campo of California to agree to a 600-acre landfill, and the Kaibab-Paiutes of Arizona and the Kaw of Oklahoma to accept hazardous waste incinerators."[127] This raises environmental justice concerns for several reasons. First, it imposes the external costs of plastic bags on populations that did not consume the product. Second, many native communities maintain a closer bond to their natural environment than urban centers, meaning they depend upon local crops and water supply for survival. Landfills can result in the leaching of toxic substances into the soil and groundwater. The smoke from burning plastics contains dioxins and furan, which can have serious health impacts including cancer, impotence, asthma, and allergies.[128]

Impacts on Human Health[edit | edit source]

  • "According to the Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment (1990), the manufacturing of two plastic bags produces 1.1 kg of atmospheric pollution, which contributes to acid rain and smog. Acid rain is recognized as a serious threat to natural and human-made environments...Smog is also a well-documented and significant problem, particularly concerning human health."[107]
  • Not the best news: A recent study on the health implications of replacing plastic shopping bags with reusable bags tested randomly obtained bags for bacteria, yeast, mould, and E. coli. Dr. Richard Summberbell, a medical mycology expert, interpreted the results and found "surprisingly high levels of bacteria in two-thirds of the reusable bags. One-thrid had levels above those set for safe drinking water."[129]

Who is working on this in Humboldt[edit | edit source]

  • If you come across programs, individuals or organizations already going on in Humboldt. Please list them here.

General Awesomeness[edit | edit source]

  • Chico Bag - a reusable bag company that has a "Take Action Page" including Google map feature that has pins on the map for every place that has or has tried a bag ban![130]
  • EPA on paper vs. plastic bags[131]
  • 2007 world report on governmental action against plastic bags from Clean Up Australia[132]

Plastic Bag Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Bunzle Distribution and Ink (2) Anaheim?
  • Kormark (1)
  • Supply Warehouse (1)
  • Mendes (2)
  • Robert Hamm (1)
  • Cisco-Cash and Carry (1)
  • United Grocers (1)

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Help:Footnotes
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  5. [3]
  6. [4]
  8. 2205419.stm
  9. 01/01/AR2010010101673.html?hpid=sec-metro
  10. plastic-bag-use-dc-drops-22-million-3-million.php
  11. news/2009/03/05/plastic-bag-tax-proposed-in-texas/
  15. County of Maui
  23. Notice of Availability from the City of San Jose
  24. City of Brownsville
  42. 42.0 42.1
  48. 48.0 48.1 Reference
  57. Reference
  58. Reference
  64. 64.0 64.1 64.2 64.3
  72. 72.0 72.1
  83. Murphy, Environmental Protection Specialist, Stormwater Management Division, District Department of the Environment
  84. 84.00 84.01 84.02 84.03 84.04 84.05 84.06 84.07 84.08 84.09 84.10
  86. 86.0 86.1 86.2 86.3
  87. 87.0 87.1 87.2 87.3 87.4 87.5 87.6 87.7 87.8 87.9
  89. Lan, San-Pui, and Jiun-Kai Chen. "What Makes Customers Bring Their Bags or Buy Bags from the Shop? a Survey of Customers at a Taiwan Hypermarket." Environment and Behavior 38.3 (2006): 318-32.
  96. 96.0 96.1
  98. 98.0 98.1 98.2 98.3 98.4 98.5 98.6 This information according the article "An Inconvenient Bag" by Ellen Gamerman. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern Edition). New York, N.Y.:Sep 26, 2008. p. W.1
  99. 99.0 99.1 99.2 This information according to "Combustion Products of Plastics as Indicators for Refuse Burning in the Atmosphere" Berndr T. Simoneit, Patriciam Medeiros, and Borsym Didyk.
  100. This information according to the article "Program calls for recycling plastic bags | Contract between city, company may be unique" by Tanya Mannes which appeared in The San Diego Union-Tribune.
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