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NEOWatcher
2007-Mar-28, 02:02 PM
While reading about the San Fransico ban on plastic bags (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/03/27/environment.baggs.reut/index.html), I ran across these statistics:
- San Francisco uses 181 million plastic grocery bags annually
- the ban would save 450,000 gallons of oil a year
- remove the need to send 1,400 tons of debris now sent annually to landfills
Now; keeping with the way that politicians have a habit of only supporting their views. (duh) I was wondering what others thoughts. In particular:

How many disposable plastic bags could be made with the oil used to produce one re-usable bag? How often can the re-usable be used? (I'm sure it varies greatly on the material used)

Assuming a good percentage will just use a bio product (ie paper bag). Then what other environmental impact would we see? Worst case, how many trees for 181 million paper bags?

Nicolas
2007-Mar-28, 02:16 PM
I've been using reusable bags for at least five years, some closer to twenty. I'm taling decent, fabric bags. 5 of these bags should have you covered for at least 5 years. Iw would be hard for me to believe that 1 such bag would take moer resources than all plastic bags I'd use in a year otherwise.

NEOWatcher
2007-Mar-28, 02:23 PM
I've been using reusable bags for at least five years, some closer to twenty. I'm taling decent, fabric bags. 5 of these bags should have you covered for at least 5 years. Iw would be hard for me to believe that 1 such bag would take moer resources than all plastic bags I'd use in a year otherwise.
In the ideal world, I would agree with you. But we are talking about a throw away, instant culture, not prone to think about "I gotta bring a bag". Now, being in California, there may be a higher percentage of people who think that way, but wouldn't a good percentage of those be using a re-usable bag already?

I guess I'm skeptical as to the overall impact. On the surface, the idea makes sense, but I keep seeing things that reduce that sense.

Nicolas
2007-Mar-28, 02:28 PM
Well, "people won't do it" is an argument that can take down any initiative. Of course, the argument is valid when the proposal indeed is too much of a burden, too clumsy, etc. But bringing your own bags to the shop is just a very simple habit, just like bringing your wallet to the shop. There's nothing more to it than having a bag, and taking it with you.

And as soon as they ban the free throw-away bags in the shop, you'll think about bringing your bag. You can even buy the reusable bags at the shop itself, you don't have to go looking for them.

Overhere, most shop still do the throw away bags though. But they charge you for it. A good reason to remember to bring your own bag.

I for one tend to just use the same backpack I use to go to Univ, when travelling, etc. It has served me every single day for like 9 years now. This way, I don't even need a reusable shopping bag :).

That said, apparently the dentist thought I wanted throw-away fillings, as the most recent one just fell out. I knew something was wrong. The tooth used to hurt when I ate something sweet, and after the filling it still did, which shouldn't happen. It must have had a bad seal all along, an now it's gone. Well, I think I ate it. But anyway :). I'll go and ask him a reusable filling on friday. pfff another half a day lost on travelling.

NEOWatcher
2007-Mar-28, 02:38 PM
Well, "people won't do it" is an argument that can take down any initiative...
Absolutely; But that is one argument that I never see measured in actual practice.
I would personally leave some bags in the car in case I needed to go to the store, but some people don't have that luxury, or foresight.

And; how many times are there indirect results that can or cannot be attributed to an action, but not considered because there is no way to determine the relationship? See, my elephant deterent is keeping them out of my cherry tree. So; painting their toenails red is not going to help them.

NEOWatcher
2007-Mar-28, 02:47 PM
And as soon as they ban the free throw-away bags in the shop, you'll think about bringing your bag. You can even buy the reusable bags at the shop itself, you don't have to go looking for them.

Overhere, most shop still do the throw away bags though. But they charge you for it. A good reason to remember to bring your own bag.

And they did only say Petroleum based bags...
Anyway, it does take a culture shift, and it does depend on greediness.
You will probably have stores that still offer free paper bags for business sake.
You will probably have stores that sell the options.
And you may even have stores that only sell the paper bags so they can keep earning profit for each visit instead of a single one-time larger profit.

Again; hard to guess.

A discount store I go to here offers bags for sale, but they also stock the products in their boxes. So, I usually just take the boxes that are going empty instead of using bags. That eliminates the waste altogether. The boxes are going to be thrown out anyway.

farmerjumperdon
2007-Mar-28, 04:28 PM
I hate those plastic bags, especially when you need to carry or transport more than 1, or if you have fragile goodies mixed with hard and/or heavy goodies. They hold no shape, refuse to stay in position, are awkward to tote in multiples. Sometimes I end up with groceries spilling all over the place. I will not patronize stores that use only the plastic.

I like the paper ones, and am willing to pay a nominal fee to use them. I also could easily get used to a nice heavy duty reuseable as a norm.

My typical trip to the grocers results in 4 to 6 FULL bags (the standard brown paper variety). That would take about 12 to 15 of those silly plastic excuses of a bag.

Extravoice
2007-Mar-28, 04:58 PM
I spent seven years working in a grocery store during my high-school and college years, a considerable amount of it as a cashier. Those plastic bags are pure concentrated evil. A properly packed standard paper bag (1/6 bushel size, I think they are called) can hold the equivalent of several plastic ones and are far easier to pack.

I can't tell you how many times I've helped my wife unload the groceries (she won't take me with her) only to find a single bottle of soda inhabiting one of the plastic bags. When I do go grocery shopping, I actively seek-out the paper bags. They are always available in my area, although I sometimes have to ask for them. (I always do my own bagging.)

The problem is that paper bags aren't cheap. I don't know the actual cost, but was told by the store manager that the switch to plastic was done purely to save money. So, I find it ironic when cashiers place paper bags inside the plastic ones.

As for the cloth bags, we had a few customers who used them. They weren't as easy to pack as the paper bags, but anything that can stand-up on its own was easier to pack than those plastic abominations.

BTW: We have a local discount grocery store that charges a few cents for the paper bags. They also sell the reusable cloth ones. That is probably a workable business model, IMHO.

John Mendenhall
2007-Mar-28, 05:17 PM
No one has mentioned this advantage of plastic bags yet.

NEOWatcher
2007-Mar-28, 05:26 PM
No one has mentioned this advantage of plastic bags yet.
Cost was mentioned...
But; are they 90% worse, or 5% worse?



... Those plastic bags are pure concentrated evil. A properly packed standard paper bag (1/6 bushel size, I think they are called) can hold the equivalent of several plastic ones and are far easier to pack...
I would agree with you there, but nobody "Properly" packs bags anymore. The art of bagging has gone away, it used to be like a game of Tetris (I wonder if that's where it came from), Now its grab and drop.

I started going to self-checkout lines so I can bag myself*. But; the only grocery left near me has baggers even at the self-checkouts. Aarrg.

*That sounds like a statement that can leave me wide open.

Moose
2007-Mar-28, 05:36 PM
Plastic (the more "bio-degradable" kind, preferably) are useful to me for cleaning clumps out of my cat's litterbox and straight to the garbage bin. I can never get enough of those kinds of bags. I wouldn't want to (re)use paper for that sort of thing.

Nicolas
2007-Mar-28, 06:01 PM
With fabric bags, I meant all kinds of reusable shopping bags. We've got soft cloth ones, some cloth ones with a more defined shape, and some woven plastic fabric ones. The best to pack are those which have a defined bottom side, not just 2 sides that meet at the bottom. Get yourself enough of these bags-with-bottom, bring them with you when you go (grocery) shopping, and you'll never want plastic bags or pay for paper bags again :).

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-28, 06:02 PM
I remember a study made re. plastic vs. paper bags in Denmark a couple of years ago.
Remember that Denmark is rather Green, and the study hasn't been disputed.

First some needed info:
Our plastic bags as we get them in supermarkets etc. are quite sturdy and can easily be reused, additionally we pay for them.

Denmark don't do landfills, we burn the garbage for the energy in power plants optimized for such mixed content.

Paper bags require both power and clean water to produce, and basically can't be reused, and depending on the color can have chlorine residue from bleaching.
Plastic bags require energy, can be reused multiple times, including the last time as a garbage bag, is made of polyethylene.

The study showed that plastic bags are less bad for the environment than paper bags as they are used more times and ends up in a clean burn.

This is one of those cases where feeling green and natural can actually lead to worse problems for the environment.

This study probably won't be relevant for countries where household garbage is put in landfills, and were clean water isn't considered a resource to be saved, since a large part of the balance is that the bags ends up burned, returning a large part of the energy used to produce them.

NEOWatcher
2007-Mar-28, 06:06 PM
I remember a study made re. plastic vs. paper bags in Denmark a couple of years ago.
Those are the kinds of things I'm looking for. People actually studying it.
Now, if we can apply it to Californians, and/or determine how many people will go re-usable vs paper or plastic. :think:

Donnie B.
2007-Mar-28, 06:09 PM
Count me among the cloth-bag users, most of the time. I use a heavy canvas tote that I got as a thank-you gift for a charity contribution.

Since my local grocery is right on my way home from work, I stop in two or three times a week for a toteful of supplies. As a bonus, I eat fresher food than if I made one multi-bag trip a week.

Now for the irony: I often get the bags anyway, since the baggers will bag meats to prevent cross-contamination. That means I'll often have a triple layer of plastic on the meats: the original packaging, the meat department bag I put it in before adding to the tote (prevents leaks), and the bag at the checkout.

There are also times when I need more supplies than will fit in the tote, which leads to extra bags. But overall I'm accumulating far fewer of those plastic grocery bags than I used to.

Oh, and by the way: don't ever count on a plastic grocery bag to be waterproof. Take a close look at one. It's extremely common for them to have holes in the bottom where the material is folded and (not very well) sealed. They're designed to carry solid objects, not liquids.

SeanF
2007-Mar-28, 06:29 PM
No one has mentioned this advantage of plastic bags yet.
Cost was mentioned...
John meant the fact that the plastic bags are waterproof hadn't been mentioned yet. :)


Plastic (the more "bio-degradable" kind, preferably) are useful to me for cleaning clumps out of my cat's litterbox and straight to the garbage bin. I can never get enough of those kinds of bags. I wouldn't want to (re)use paper for that sort of thing.
I use 'em for this, too. And is it just me, or are the plastic bags weaker now than they used to be? A lot of the ones we get from the grocery store I won't use for scooping litter because of holes in them...

Moose
2007-Mar-28, 06:38 PM
It seems to depend on the stores, Sean. I've noticed that the local markets, and the Sobeys chain both have reasonably sturdy bags, and it's not hard to get 'em hole-free.

The Atlantic Super Store chain (the other big market in these parts), on the other hand, get these flimsier bags that have really weak handles, tie poorly, and often do have two small holes at the bottom. Useless for my needs.

And this, in my mind, is one of the biggest factors in my choosing a grocery store.

danscope
2007-Mar-28, 06:45 PM
Hi, When it comes to meats, THAT plastic application works fine, but routine use of plastic bags is a damned evil nusiance. I understand that Ireland banned them all together. Well done! I have several canvas totes, and a cooler in the car. I put the items I buy in the cart, and load the totes in the car. Saves time at checkout. Yes, the meat gets wrapped. That's it. Meat and seafood.
And I don't miss paper or plastic bags ripping on me and spilling or breaking my purches. More than pays for my trouble. HOW I WISH we could ban styrofoam cups. It just makes sense.
If we had to PAY enough when we take a plasic bag, we would change our ways. At two dollars a bag, these plastic nightmares would dwindle. YES.
Best regards, Dan

jrkeller
2007-Mar-28, 07:37 PM
While reading about the San Fransico ban on plastic bags (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/03/27/environment.baggs.reut/index.html), I ran across these statistics:
- San Francisco uses 181 million plastic grocery bags annually
- the ban would save 450,000 gallons of oil a year
- remove the need to send 1,400 tons of debris now sent annually to landfills
Now; keeping with the way that politicians have a habit of only supporting their views. (duh) I was wondering what others thoughts. In particular:

How many disposable plastic bags could be made with the oil used to produce one re-usable bag? How often can the re-usable be used? (I'm sure it varies greatly on the material used)

Assuming a good percentage will just use a bio product (ie paper bag). Then what other environmental impact would we see? Worst case, how many trees for 181 million paper bags?

I've used the same re-useable bags for 17 years. Got them through the Sierra Club. I can't say that I used them all the time. They are especially good for carrying heavy items. If I can, sometimes I don't even get a bag, like when I have one or two items.

I also re-use all my plastic bags. They are good for holding the sludge after I clean out the gutters.

I doubt the statistics. While the ban would save 450,000 gallons of oil a year, the use of paper only, has to have its energy costs too. Making paper, even using recycled paper, isn't energy free.

Celestial Mechanic
2007-Mar-28, 07:57 PM
This is so foolish, it's hard to know where to start.

How much petroleum is used to cut down trees? To transport the lumber to the paper mill? To make the pulp into paper? To transport the paper to the company that makes paper bags? To transport the bags to the grocers? All of this petroleum ends up in the atmosphere. The plastic bags may end up in landfill because they are not economical to recycle today, but ultimately it may become necessary to recycle them. At that time it will become economical.

Cloth bags? OK, how much petroleum to make the fibers? If the fibers are natural instead of synthetic, how much petroleum to grow them, harvest them, process them, transport them to each factory along the way and finally to the store where you buy them? Nothing ends up in the ground here, but again all that petroleum ends up in the atmosphere.

Remember the Four Laws of Thermodynamics:

0: There is a game and a score is kept.
1: You can't win.
2: You can break even, but only rarely.
3: You can't leave the game by going bust.

danscope
2007-Mar-28, 08:05 PM
Look at the problem. There is nothing to ridicule but those shopping zombies who just flush their problems away. Some places are showing that progress can be made. Clean and green is not a bad thing. Or do you like plstic bags in the trees?

NEOWatcher
2007-Mar-28, 08:24 PM
Look at the problem. There is nothing to ridicule but those shopping zombies who just flush their problems away. Some places are showing that progress can be made. Clean and green is not a bad thing. Or do you like plstic bags in the trees?
That's just it...what kind of a problem is it? Are we only looking at a single aspect? They state the 450k but in reality will it be 445K, 4k?

This sounds like the same reasoning that was applied to Daylight Savings Time. People throwing numbers around based on (what I think) are circumstantial reasoning.

Nicolas
2007-Mar-28, 08:47 PM
Cloth bags? OK, how much petroleum to make the fibers? If the fibers are natural instead of synthetic, how much petroleum to grow them, harvest them, process them, transport them to each factory along the way and finally to the store where you buy them? Nothing ends up in the ground here, but again all that petroleum ends up in the atmosphere.

I don't like the paper bag alternative. But for cloth bags, do take into account that people can use them for years, every single day again. That's a huge factor over plastic single use bags (I reuse even plastic bags, but anyway)

Celestial Mechanic
2007-Mar-28, 09:00 PM
I don't like the paper bag alternative. But for cloth bags, do take into account that people can use them for years, every single day again. That's a huge factor over plastic single use bags (I reuse even plastic bags, but anyway)
A good point, but then -- how much petroleum for detergents and possibly hot water for washing the cloth bags during their lifetime? How much petroleum to make, package, and transport the detergents? How much petroleum to treat the water and pump it to you for washing the cloth bags?

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-28, 09:04 PM
Exactly, you need hard numbers before you can say something is environmentally better.
The "knowledge" that plastic isn't natural and paper is and that plastic is therefore worse for the environment, is just plain woo unless it's backed by real numbers.

Moose
2007-Mar-28, 09:15 PM
There's one of my peeves (though not my pet, she's snoozing beside me...): "plastic isn't natural". Plastic is made from petrolium. Petrolium is created through natural processes from (extremely) long-decayed plant matter. Petrolium was there many millions of years before we ever came to be.

Paper, OTOH, is created through the harvesting of live trees. Trees that help clean our air, reduce carbon dioxide, provide oxygen and habitat for the wild.

If cloth bags are valuable in the long term, then plastic bags could be as well if they were made sturdy enough. It has many of the same advantages as cloth. There's no sensible reason to avoid plastic entirely if you've created the infrastructure to reuse and recycle it. We don't have that infrastructure. We need to create it.

Nicolas
2007-Mar-28, 09:21 PM
A good point, but then -- how much petroleum for detergents and possibly hot water for washing the cloth bags during their lifetime? How much petroleum to make, package, and transport the detergents? How much petroleum to treat the water and pump it to you for washing the cloth bags?

How clean do you think I am? :D

They are rally washed when necessary. For most of them, that boils down to "never". And if say a bit of yoghurt got onto the bag, I take a sponge that I own anyway, and what have you 10 deciliters of water to clean it. And that happens like twice a year.

I don't think these reusable bags, the way I use them, have much environmental impact other than being made and disposed of in the end.

SeanF
2007-Mar-28, 09:25 PM
A good point, but then -- how much petroleum for detergents and possibly hot water for washing the cloth bags during their lifetime? How much petroleum to make, package, and transport the detergents? How much petroleum to treat the water and pump it to you for washing the cloth bags?
Similar to diapers. I've read where some studies suggest that cloth diapers are actually worse for the environment than disposable because of the washing.

And that a Prius actually does more environmental damage over the life of the vehicle than a Hummer because of what's involved in manufacturing/transporting/disposing of the battery.

Gillianren
2007-Mar-28, 09:43 PM
We take the bus to the store most of the time (which I really hate doing; have you tried to do a week's grocery shopping on the bus?), and when we do, we generally have a little wheeled suitcase that we use instead of bags. It's much more convenient in several ways, and we use one until it falls apart. We also use it for library books.

However, we do have a large supply of plastic bags, in no small part because we get rides to the store whenever possible. Mostly, these go to a friend who has a total of twelve pets. She changes litter boxes a lot.