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EDITORIAL – Nine billion reasons we should use cloth shopping bags

More plastic goes underground. (Image: Mel Rothenburger photo)

An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WHILE I WAS contemplating Wednesday’s editorial on plastic bags, I happened to pick up a copy of the National Post and looked at the World page. (Yes, an actual copy on newsprint, not online.)

There, in the righthand column, was a story headlined “Nearly all ‘plastics made since 1950 still with us’.”

It’s a fascinating story. Written by Seth Borenstein for the Associated Press, it says more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic has been made since 1950. In fact, most plastic has been made since then because it’s a relatively new material.

Nearly seven billion tons of that 9.1 billion is no longer used. Nine per cent has been recycled, 12 per cent incinerated. Which means there’s 5.5 billion tons of plastic waste still around. A lot of it has been buried in landfills, and a lot is in our oceans.

I don’t want to go all David Suzuki on you, but that’s appalling. And we’re falling farther behind. In 2015, says the article, 448 million tons of plastic was manufactured. That’s twice as much as was made in 1998.

We aren’t going to stop making and using plastic any time soon. It’s everywhere — in products like bottles, cars, phones, refrigerators and clothing. More than a third of the plastic we use is in the packaging of other products, many of which, of course, are themselves plastic.

“At the current rate, we are really heading toward a plastic planet,” says Roland Geyer, the author of a global study on the substance.

“The growth is astonishing, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down.”

So, returning to the plastic bag recycling issue, maybe the folks who complain about having to separate them from the rest of their recycling should consider that before they start tossing them in the garbage instead.

And maybe we all need to work harder at using reusable cloth bags instead of plastic ones when we go shopping.

mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca

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About Mel Rothenburger (5081 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

9 Comments on EDITORIAL – Nine billion reasons we should use cloth shopping bags

  1. R A George // July 27, 2017 at 10:13 AM // Reply

    LIFE WItHOUT A TRUCK,
    WOULDN”T BE WORTH A (YOU FINISH IT)
    A good editorial on page 4 of HAGARTY magazine ,fall 2017 edition (HAGARTY.COM and an article in TIME,July 3rd edition,page 20
    Times hopefully will change.

  2. I am all with you in principle for sure.
    However, considering how pervasive plastic is in our crazy ways of western living what “recycling” of plastic bags going to do?
    Do you know what I did the other day?
    With a lot of ingenuity I fixed an orbital sander for which the manufacturer does not even provide parts for.
    Do you know…I should get a new truck, a shiny, twin-turbo new truck with better mileage than my otherwise perfect but older stead. A new truck will also provide me the opportunity to show off to neighbors and associates that business is doing well. But really, a new flippin’ truck? How much “carbon footprint” does “showing off” cause?
    Then I will let a little maturity and understanding take over and for the foreseeable future I will keep my good, perfect, older truck going.
    Back to you MR…

    • Mel Rothenburger // July 27, 2017 at 6:59 AM // Reply

      I don’t want a new truck. My daily driver is 12 years old and it suits me fine. However, my mechanic says there comes a point in the life of every vehicle when continuing to run it becomes impractical from a cost point of view. I think I read somewhere recently that old pickup trucks cost about $12,000 a year just to keep on the road if you calculate fuel, insurance, maintenance, licensing and depreciation. I haven’t figured it out for mine, but I recently spent $4,000 to swap out a differential. Maybe we should trade in our trucks for smart cars.

      • Smart cars? What can you possibly do with a smart car?
        How many sacks of good intentions could I fit in it?
        Now if I could sell sacks of good intentions…

      • Mel Rothenburger // July 27, 2017 at 8:27 AM //

        I knew you’d say that. What would life be without a truck?

      • Your estimate probably isn’t too far off. Calculations I’ve done in the past indicated $12-15k per year, all in. Depreciation tapers off as the vehicle ages, but maintenance ramps up. So I question how much cheaper a relative beater is compared to something a year or two old. The carbon footprint of manufacturing a new one is, of course, immense.

        Interesting to note that electric drivetrains cost less to fuel and maintain. And are expected to last much longer. Tesla is now making drivetrains that they are anticipating will last for a million miles… miles, not kilometers! I think a typical ICE drivetrain is lucky to last 150,000 miles. So maybe this will change the way we look at cars and demonstrating wealth? Maybe. But if not, at least the used vehicle will be a good buy for the next owner, rather than the money pit it often is today.

        But not to be too distracted from the plastic bags… I’m seeing more people every year, using reusable bags in Safeway etc. Things are changing, but not as quickly as I’d like. Perhaps we should go the way of Maui and ban plastic bags completely. It hasn’t seemed to hurt them any.

      • Brock and Mel, you are both very smart guys and I know deep down you understand that even if we would to completely recycle every plastic bag and even if we all would go grocery shopping with reusable (but ultimately disposable) bags the environmental catastrophe we are immersed in, will not be reversed.
        It is not recycling but reversing the trend to uber-consumerism which will give us a glimpse of hope.

      • Mel Rothenburger // July 27, 2017 at 12:16 PM //

        But everything we do adds up, right?

      • Pierre… I absolutely do recognize that banning plastic bags isn’t going to solve all our problems. We face a very long list of dangers. However, we also can’t assure ourselves of a viable future by completely solving any single entry on that list. Of course, climate change is the one that’ll take us down most surely in the near future, so solving it is the biggest priority. But pondering what plastic is doing to the oceans, how it’s breaking down and messing with the ecosystems that ultimately sustain us, tells me that something as drop-dead simple as taking my own bags to Safeway is worth doing. It’s easy and the very least (yeah, pretty much the least) thing we can do to help things in the right direction.

        Or more simply… what Mel said…!

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