Hate Plastic Bags? Get Your Friends to Help Ban and Tax Them

BlogHer Original Post

Sick of hearing "Bring your own bag"? The plastic bag issue's become such a ubiquitous eco-message the last few years that it's gotten tiring -- almost as tiring as the bags themselves: eco-blights that still litter our streets, oceans, and neighborhoods.

The damn bags have really become a strange sign and symbol for me. Last weekend at Trader Joe's, the guy in front of me bought three items -- A tiny tub of dried figs, a pack of eight mushrooms, and a small bottle of organic orange juice -- and got a plastic bag for what he could have easily carried out with his two hands. I, of course, had my own bag for my bottle of Moscato. And the woman behind me came armed with a stack of reusable Trader Joe's bags for her groceries; she glared daggers into the guy in front of me.

Being a green blogger, I get the full range of emails about plastic bags -- from those who chew out every grocery bagger who dares bag items without asking (I email back encouraging friendly convo, since after all, baggers are TRAINED to do just that but are usually more than happy to de-bag if you say you don't need one), to others who don't get what the big deal is when plastic bags can be recycled (I email back letting them know only a few municipalities actually recycle plastic bags -- and the ones that do do so at an extremely high cost to the taxpayer).

Then I get emails like these:

Hi. My name is Nina, I live in Boulder CO. I'm trying to get my city council to start taxing plastic bags, and I've been doing allot of research. Seeing as I'm only 12 years old, I need all the help I can get. You don't really have to reply to this, but I would appreciate the support, thank you for your time.

I gotta say, I'm not known to be a fan of pre-adult humans, but I found this email adorable, especially as it came with this sig file:

(\__/) 4 out of every 3 people
(='.'=)
(")_(") have trouble with fractions.

I don't have trouble with fractions -- cross-multiply and divide, baby! -- but I think bunnies are cute. In any case, I had good news for Nina! Other students in her 'hood -- at New Vista High School and University of Colorado -- also want to ban plastic bags! They're drafting up an ordinance to do just that, and plan to meet with city council members to push the resulting ordinance into law.

And that, really, is what anyone needs to do to get a plastic bag ban or tax in their neighborhood: Find just a few like-minded people to work with, contact a city council member, then bug said members until a ban or tax happens.

Yes, you'll probably run into complications -- as we have in California. In an ironic turn of events, plastic industry people are using California's groundbreaking environmental laws -- the California Environmental Quality Act -- to file lawsuits saying banning plastic bags will harm the environment. No, I'm not kidding -- the industry's actually dubbed itself the "Save the Plastic Bag" Coalition, as if the plastic bag's an endangered species like the polar bear. But the work on plastic bag bans and taxes in California continue -- if a tad slowed down -- on city, county, and state levels.

In fact, one Cali nonprofit called Heal the Bay's come up with a fun viral campaign -- Trash Your Friends -- to get everyone behind bag bans, whatever state you live in. All you gotta do is pick out who you're gonna trash -- whether via their blog, Facebook page, or Twitter profile!

Of course, I had to pick Beth Terry, fellow green BlogHer contributing editor and author of the plastic-hating blog Fake Plastic Fish. I entered in her URL and email -- to send her a message with a link to what her website would look like if it were, say, the ocean. Behold!

Trashed Fake Plastic Fish

Basically, Heal the Bay's app loads up any webpage and trashes it with images of plastic bags -- until an interactive graphic pops up to show how the webpage owner can do something about this baggy pollution. Yes, there is a "Not my problem, bro" button too -- and those who click it get taken to this hopeful image:

plastics are forever

Funny, eh? So -- what are you doing to stop the blight of plastic bags in your neighborhood? Is your city one of the forward-thinking ones that have banned or taxed these bags already? Or have you found a nonprofit or other group of like-minded peeps?

If you've searched but haven't found a neighborhood group that wants to ban plastic bags, simply start by bringing your own. You'll be amazed at the people who slowly come out of the woodwork to compliment you on your bag, express eco-solidarity, and maybe even suggest forming a neighborhood group --

Related links:

>> At GOOD, Siobhan O'Connor writes about artists who've been collecting plastic beach trash: "This isn't stuff left behind by visitors, mind you: It's stuff that's been belched out by the ocean. Their resulting work is surprisingly beautiful, and provocative because of it."

>> There's one eco-use for disposable plastic containers! Plastic jugs can be placed in toilet tank to save water each flush, as Fairfax at Frugan Living demonstrates.

>> But don't make buying plastic jugs a regular practice. Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish points out that plastic containers of juice can leach the chemical antimony, which has been linked to negative health effects.

Top photo by Envirowoman

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