Tag Archives: American Chemical Society

Are Thowaway Bags Something to Get Worked up About?

On August 18, 2009 Seattle voters will have a chance to make a change in the way our society deals with throwaway bags. Will we be in the forefront of change or do we not have time to be bothered by the seemingly trivial issue? Will a $1 million advertising campaign by the American Chemical Society have an impact on the outcome?

Referendum 1, in an attempt to get Seattle consumers to use reusable bags, would impose a 20 cent fee on both plastic and paper bags.

So what the big deal?

Salon.com in a recent article entitled “Plastic Bags are killing us” gives a few insights into both plastic and paper bags and their problems.

-Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags after they’ve been used to transport a prescription home from the drugstore or a quart of milk from the grocery store. It’s equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.

-Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide — about 2 percent in the U.S. — and the rest, when discarded, can persist for centuries.

-The problem with plastic bags isn’t just where they end up, it’s that they never seem to end. “All the plastic that has been made is still around in smaller and smaller pieces,” says Stephanie Barger, executive director of the Earth Resource Foundation,

-Bits of plastic bags have been found in the nests of albatrosses in the remote Midway Islands. Floating bags can look all too much like tasty jellyfish to hungry marine critters. According to the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, more than a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die every year from eating or getting entangled in plastic. The conservation group estimates that 50 percent of all marine litter is some form of plastic. There are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

-In the Northern Pacific Gyre, a great vortex of ocean currents, there’s now a swirling mass of plastic trash about 1,000 miles off the coast of California, which spans an area that’s twice the size of Texas, including fragments of plastic bags. There’s six times as much plastic as biomass, including plankton and jellyfish, in the gyre. “It’s an endless stream of incessant plastic particles everywhere you look,” says Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of education and research for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which studies plastics in the marine environment.

-It takes 14 million trees to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used every year by Americans, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Change has to start somewhere. Let’s start here. Vote yes on Referendum 1.

Click here for the link to the Campaign website for GreenBagCampaign.org supporting Referendum 1.