Americans throw away around 100 billion plastic bags every year, with less than one percent making it to recycling facilities. One of these bags takes up to 1,000 years to decompose, which is why many cities and companies are making changes to curb plastic bag use.
Whole Foods and IKEA are two of the most popular stores now known as plastic bag-free establishments. It appears WalMart is in the process of cutting back as well, with a goal of reducing global plastic bag waste by 33% per store by 2013.
Some companies have not completely ditched plastic bags, but do offer incentives for customers who bring reusable bags. Target, for example, offers 5 cents off for each reusable bag customers use. CVS Pharmacy started the “GreenBagTag” program in 2009, which earns customers points when bringing plastic bags back to the store for recycling. Other stores, such as Kroger, claim to have cut plastic bag use by selling reusable bags and training employees on how to efficiently bag groceries and minimize waste.
San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu City, and Toronto are cities that have recently enacted plastic bag bans, which have not come without controversy. Alameda County, located in Northern California, will soon be prohibiting plastic bags throughout all 14 of its cities and towns, and Austin, Texas will require retailers to get rid of single-use shopping bags in March.
This is no doubt a controversial move, especially for those working in the plastic bag industry. However, it’s pretty common knowledge that plastic bag use is grossly wasteful and harmful the environment, making it an unsustainable industry. Do you think it is best for entire cities to ban plastic bags, or do you think it is smarter to allow individual companies to make the choice, thus causing a “domino” effect among the competition?
Image CC licensed by Zainub Razvi