Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Biodegradable Plastic Bags

Before too long the days of "paper or plastic" will be history. Cities all over the word are making the bold move to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags. I think this is a smart move.

If people won't change their behavior - bringing their own reusable bags - they have to be given no other choice. Giving people an "incentive" of 5 cents off for bringing their own bags clearly does nothing to change behavior en mass.

Plastic bags are now on the market that are made of corn and fully degrade in 120 days. They are made by Trellis Earth, a company based in Portland, Oregon. The bags have already made their way to grocery stores there, with The Daily Grind being one of the first to adopt them. They're on Hawthorne street by the way, if you want to see what the bags are like. Or, you could go to the homepage of Trellis Earth and watch the video.

If I never see another plastic bag washed up on a beach, stuck in a chain link fence, way up on the tips of the highest branch of a tree - the world will be a better, and cleaner place.

The corn-based bags cost stores about 6 cents each, compared with 1 cent for the petroleum-based bags.

If communities won't go for an all out ban on petroleum-based bags, there is another way to change consumer behavior really fast - grocery stores can start charging people for the plastic bags consumers use. I'd charge 6 cents per petroleum based bag, 1 cent for the corn ones.

And, while I'm at it, you know - If I Was President - I would establish a national bottle bill.

Here's the letter I sent the company:
Dear Trellis,
I am busy writing a blogpost about your bags, and while doing so I was forced to think about my own relationship with plastic bags. The only time I routinely use plastic bags is for dog poo clean up while out on walks around my city. I looked through your inventory and saw that the only size bag you make that would fit the bill is not the right dimension for this job. I have a Newfoundland who leaves monster dumps, so it's important for me to have the right dimensions. Please consider making bags that are 6 inches wide by about 12 inches tall. I know many other eco-conscious dog owners like myself would be happy to buy and use them!
Thank you,
~ me


Psychgrad said...

I see that Ikea is charging for bags in the statesand I found this link which gives a running count for plastic bags consumed this year. I find cloth bags are such an easy solution for shopping.

Propter Doc said...

One of the problems with the 'antiplastic' movement is that it often makes no distinction between nonbiodegradable and biodegradable plastic. Clearly, we can still have these corn bags. Reusable bags are probably not without problems - it depends on what they are made of and how they are made. I like the thicker cotton ones - they have greater strength, especially as the reusable bags tend to be bigger.

This Christmas I gave all of my cousins reusable bags that fit into a wee keyring pouch.

Field Notes said...

That's a great idea PropterDoc; I love the keychain ones that I found in Tokyo at Tokyu Hands :) The bags, when unfolded, are spacious and strong. I think they are nylon.

SquirrelGurl said...

Our city in Maryland tried unsuccessfully to ban plastic bags... I must admit I was a bit sad to hear that the bill did not pass. Some stores around here sell cloth bags and offer a discount on your purchase if you use them but the bags are offered for sale AFTER the checkout line which means you have to pick them up after you've already had your groceries paid for and bagged with plastic and thats not gonna get people to use them.

We use a lot of plastic bags in our household... for doggie duty, litterbox cleanup, hamster/chinchilla cage cleanups, packing material in boxes we ship and its amazing how handy they are around the barn when I need to soak my horse's hoof.

I feel fairly good about our "reusing" efforts but I'd feel better I new they were entirely biodegradeable.

QuintessentiallyEnglish said...

I love the letter you composed for the company! In South Africa theycahrge you for using plastic bags but this is yet to happen in the UK. Lets hope that soon it will be banned!

Anonymous said...

I went to inspect an item I had stored way in a plastic bag and found it covered with a dirty shower of small plastic pieces which were exceedinly difficult to clean up. This appears to be the result of re-using a biodegradable plastic bag. I have since found other items where the same contamination has taken place.
Good plastic bags are wonderful for re-use, for storing materials for neatly folding in ones pocket or handbag and for shopping. I am using the same plastic bag for carrying dirty washing, for about five years now.
One feels so helpless that commentators, manufacturers, and do-gooers, have such a narrow analysis of the overall situation. The idea that a bag would disintegrate and pollute one's home is the poorest of all.