Thursday, January 31, 2008

Plastic bags, no more

It is no secret that plastic bags to carry groceries have a good contribution to pollute the environment. People concerned about the environment have noticed this, and a few years back the first programs to reduce the use of such bags were implemented. For example, I remember that during my trip to France back in 1998, there was a convenience store chain named E. Leclerc, which had a very innovative system to reduce the use of plastic bags at the time: They would charge their customers 1 Franc (which at the time was equivalent to $0.16 US Dollars) for each new plastic bag they used. However, people were not charged whenever they brought used plastic bags to reuse them, over and over again. That was a good start to discourage people of using plastic bags indiscriminately, but there were more programs to come from other supermarket chains around the world in the following years.

Fast forward to 2008. The frenzy caused by the global warming phenomenon has made people and companies around the world to become more conscious about environment. In Canada, as well as in many other countries, some supermarket chains offer shoppers options to avoid the use of disposable plastic bags (and of course, to avoid the subsequent pollution arisen from the use of those bags). One of the more interesting and effective programs is the use of reusable bags made from 100% recycled materials. The customer pays a few cents to purchase the reusable bag, and it can be used ad infinitum. It is a very simple program that has had a limited success, as some shoppers are still reluctant to pay for their grocery bags and still prefer to use the traditional plastic bags and dispose of them afterwards.

The reluctance of people to turn to reusable bags has turned some activists in Vancouver, Canada, to ask the local government to impose bans on the use of plastic bags. If the proposal is successful, in the near future the use of plastic bags would be phased out in the city, and hopefully some other cities in the country would be following this example.

This kind of idea is not new in Canada, however. The town of Leaf Rapids, in Manitoba, got frustrated by the reluctance of shoppers to use reusable grocery bags, despite of their wide availability and proven durability. According to the town, the use of the disposable plastic bags not only has a bad impact in the community's environment, but it also gives it a bad aesthetics touch. This rationale drove the local government to impose a ban to the use of disposable plastic bags in 2007.

The idea to eliminate the use of plastic bags seems very interesting to me. It looks like a crucial step that communities will eventually have to take in order to really adopt a greener attitude, which will allow governments to better cope with pollution problems, and to avoid potential sour consequences in the short and long run.

With some information from CTV


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