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The Green Life: Petition Seeks to Put an End to Plastic Bags

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July 17, 2009

Petition Seeks to Put an End to Plastic Bags

Sea of trashIf the first step to quitting an addiction is admitting there’s a problem, then here we go: our culture is plastiholic. Americans alone produce double their weight in raw plastic materials each year. The world uses more than 500 billion bags annually, and the 97 percent of those bags that are not recycled pile up in landfills or make their way into the ocean, where marine life ingests much of them.

In May, Sierra reported on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an expanding gyre of trash now twice the size of Texas, and one of the many impacts of our extravagant bag-use. 

Now, two environmental groups have decided it's time for an intervention. The Green Education Network and the Greenhouse Neutral Foundation are trying to achieve a worldwide ban on non-biodegradable bags by the end of this year. To that end, they’re circulating a petition, which you can sign here.

Impossibly ambitious? Maybe. But it’s worth considering that China recently saved 1.6 million tons of petroleum when it banned ultra-thin bags from its stores, reducing plastic-bag consumption by 66 percent.

Additionally, the U.N. Environmental Program’s chief has called for a ban on plastic-bag production, and a Treehugger article reported that Washington, D.C. recently approved a 5-cent fee on all shopping bags.

The groups behind the petition would have stores replace traditional plastic bags with the biodegradable type, often made from corn.

In the meantime, consider purchasing reusable totes and converting your trash and doggie bags to biodegradable ones.

--Jamie Hansen


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