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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

byo bags

The South Australian government has done something pretty radical – it is the first state in Australia that has decided to phase out and ban lightweight plastic shopping bags to help the environment by 04 May 2009.

The one thing that I noticed when I first moved here was that reusable bags were already very commonplace at supermarkets and farmer’s markets.  What made me even more happy and surprised was that people were actually using it for environmental reasons and not just because they got $0.05 credit per bag re-used at a supermarket like they do in many U.S. supermarkets.  My childhood home of Hawaii has a long way to go before people start to get less wasteful – I’ve only recently seen reusable bags for sale at drug stores and supermarkets.

We always keep at least 6 to 8 bags in our car at all times just in case we do that “spontaneous grocery shopping”.  But I have to admit, even someone like myself who is very environmentally conscious, has forgotten my reusable bags quite a few times (especially if I shop on my lunch break at work).  Luckily I have a great reusable bag that folds up into the size of a wallet that can fit in any purse. Having worked at a produce store in my late teens, I know full well how many bags an average supermarket goes through in one day (it is astonishing) and it is so wasteful because the majority end up in landfills.  The only thing that I will admit to being sad about is not having free wastebasket liners…I like using those plastic bags for my office and bathroom bins but I’m sure I’ll get over it.

You can watch the television ads running here about this on Youtube:

Of course, we are not the first city to have a ban on plastic bags.  My former city of residence San Francisco, was the first city in the USA (yay, go SF!) to ban bags in March 2008.  http://www.sfenvironment.org/our_programs/interests.html?ssi=7&ti=6&ii=142

Although China has not banned plastic bags, they have stopped giving away free plastic bags which is great news for a country that wasted billions of bags a year.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/7443530.stm

Here are a few more places that have had a ban:

Plastic bag bans around the world

South Australia joins an increasing number of countries that already restrict plastic shopping bags or plan to do so:

AFRICA: Rwanda and Eritrea banned the bags outright, as has Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia. South Africa, Uganda and Kenya have minimum thickness rules, and Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho and Tanzania are considering similar measures.

BANGLADESH: The first large country to ban bags in 2002. Bangladesh blamed millions of discarded bags for blocking drains and contributing to floods that submerged much of the country in 1988.

BHUTAN: The isolated Himalayan country banned plastic shopping bags, street advertising and tobacco in 2007, as part of its policy to foster “Gross National Happiness”.

CHINA: The ban on ultra-thin bags that goes into force on June 1 will cut pollution and save valuable oil resources, the State Council, or cabinet, says. In May 2007 Hong Kong proposed a 50 cent “polluter pays” levy on plastic shopping bags.

ENGLAND: In May 2007 the village of Modbury in south Devon became Europe’s first plastic bag-free town, selling reuseable and biodegradable bags instead. London’s 33 councils plan to ban ultra-thin bags from 2009 and tax others.

FRANCE: In 2005, French lawmakers voted to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags by 2010. The French island of Corsica became the first to ban plastic bags in large stores in 1999.

INDIA: The western state of Maharashtra banned the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags in August 2005, after claims that they choked drains during monsoon rains. Other states banned ultra-thin bags to cut pollution and deaths of cattle, sacred to Hindus, which eat them.

IRELAND: A plastic bag tax was passed in 2002. The tax created an initial 90 percent drop in bag use, according to the Environment Ministry, though usage gradually rebounded.

ITALY: Outright ban to be introduced from 2010.

TAIWAN: A partial ban in 2003 phased out free bags in department stores and supermarkets and disposable plastic plates, cups and cutlery from fast food outlets. Most stores charge people who don’t bring their own T$1 ($0.03).

UNITED STATES: San Francisco became the first and only US city to outlaw plastic grocery bags in April 2008. The ban is limited to large supermarkets.

Source: Planet Ark, May 28, 2008

Hopefully more cities will follow suit.  Don’t forget your bags next time you go shopping!
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