Imagine a nation that eliminates plastic bags. Think it’s a pipe dream? Perhaps, but if Jim Moran has his way, the US could be one step closer to making that a reality.
U.S. Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) unveiled a bill on Earth Day that he calls the Trash Reduction Act of 2013. If passed, a five-cent fee on single-use plastic AND paper bags will be imposed at every retail store across the country.
"According to the Environment Protection Agency, the average American throws away about 4.4 pounds of trash each day. The results of this waste can be found in our oceans, now home to floating landfills ten times the size of Virginia. Small steps like replacing plastic bags with reusable ones yield large returns in reducing the amount of trash we create,” said Rep. Moran.
The bill is modeled after a plastic bag fee system that went into effect in 2010 in Washington, DC. By the end of 2010, plastic bag usage had dropped from the 2009 monthly average of 22.5 million to just 3 million.
Revenue generated from the Trash Reduction Act of 2013 will support the nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides, in part, matching grants to state and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities.
How can you help? Call or email your local senator and reps and urge them to support the Trash Reduction Act of 2013. In the meantime, don’t forget your reusable grocery bags. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Local landfill and waste managers are speaking up about the damage that plastic bags are doing at their facilities. Three years ago, we first talked about how plastic bags wreak havoc at recycling facilities. Well, that problem hasn’t gone away. C’mon. You really can’t be surprised.
Even though there is a recycling symbol on plastic bags, and even though modern recycling technology makes it possible recycle almost any household item, plastic bags should not be recycled in your curbside bins. Automated single-stream recycling equipment can’t sort them—even if they don’t blow away first.
In Maine, some waste management leaders are advising consumers to bring reusable bags, or they will start pushing for laws to make you do just that.
“In the winter, the bags get buried under snow,” said Peter Owen, public works director for the city of Bath, which operates its own municipal landfill. “When the snow melts, those plastic bags become little kites and get strewn everywhere through the woods. It’s a nightmare. We need 10 people working eight hours a day for two weeks to clean it up...Plastic bags last forever.”
One local recycling facility, ecomaine, has chosen to accept plastic bags to the list of items they recycle because “people were putting them in their recycling bins anyway, and if we had to pick them out, we might as well do something with them.”
Plastic grocery bags are lumped into a recycling category called polyethylene film. Other wraps (like bubble wrap and pallet wrap) also fall into this category. Plastic bag manufacturers use a small portion of the cleanest of this mixed film to put back into shopping bags. Thus, the “up to 35% recycled material” phrase you see printed on them. This means, however, that the remaining 65% (or more) of each bag is new materials that, some argue, just add to the plastic rubbish problem.
The rest of the polyethylene film is recycled into things like plastic mulch and plastic lumber. Ultimately, it ends back in the landfill. Again. Ecomaine sells their polyethylene film to companies that compress them into plastic lumber. However, there’s not a lot of demand, and the sale of them doesn’t even cover the hourly wages of employees plucking and collecting them from conveyor belts.
Convenient as they may be for consumers, plastic bags are terrible for the environment…and for waste management and recycling facilities. We all know what the solution to this problem is. Use your reusable grocery bags whenever you shop. Your local landfill manager will thank you.
Our clients often come to us not quite sure of what bag they want to put their messaging on. We pride ourselves on truly listening to what matters to you—budget, colors, corporate identity, and more—and make thoughtful recommendations for bags that will work best for YOU.
Bulletin Bag [.com]’s current trending is pointing largely towards foldable reusable bags. People love the portability and ease of a bag that can be folded up or stuffed into a pouch. If your recipients love the bag, they’ll want to use it—which increases the number of times your message is seen! It’s a win-win-win!
The Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill that creates an administrative framework for industrial hemp production in Kentucky. The bill passed by an overwhelming 88-4 majority. The Senate concurred in a House floor amendment, 35-1.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said, “By passing this bill, the General Assembly has signaled that Kentucky is serious about restoring industrial hemp production to the Commonwealth and doing it in the right way. That will give Kentucky’s congressional delegation more leverage when they seek a federal waiver allowing Kentucky farmers to grow hemp.”
Proponents of the bill cite its potential to help Kentucky’s farmers and bring thousands of jobs to the state, should the federal government lift the ban on the crop.
Bulletin Bag [.com] is very excited about this development. We believe that hemp is the ideal material for reusable bags for many reasons. Not only is hemp several times stronger than cotton, but it is also less bulky and doesn’t wrinkle as easily--while at the same time, it's more compact and easier to store in a small pouch. Unlike many synthetic bag options, hemp fabric is machine washable (a major issue for safety/cleanliness of reusable bags) and it provides a wonderful canvas for custom printing. In addition, it can also be grow without pesticides, making it an ideal fabric for this eco friendly industry.
Unfortunately, hemp has been given a bad rap since it comes from the same plant species as marijuana. What most people don’t realize is that industrial hemp contains only trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of marijuana. In fact, industrial hemp was widely grown in the US until about 1958, when it became controversial.
In recent years, senators from both sides of the aisle, including Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), have proposed legislation to again allow farmers to grow industrial hemp in the US.
"The federal prohibition on growing industrial hemp has forced companies to needlessly import raw materials from other countries," said Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) "My amendment to the Farm Bill will change federal policy to allow U.S. farmers to produce hemp for these safe and legitimate products right here, helping both producers and suppliers to grow and improve Oregon's economy in the process." (You can learn more about Wyden’s compelling argument for industrial hemp here: http://youtu.be/rC3OoMc3V3)
We are hoping that the bill that passed in Kentucky signals a first step toward a reusable bag that could be grown, harvested, milled and produced in the USA – which would be a dream come true for us!
Plastic grocery bags could soon be a thing of the past in Portland, Maine.
The City Council has formed a workgroup tasked with drafting an ordinance to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags. The group is comprised of people representing Environment Maine, the Maine Restaurant Association, the Maine Audubon Society, and the Maine Grocers Association—as well as local business owners and residents. The group is considering both bag bans and fees.
Last year, a neighboring Town Council adopted a resolution asking the Legislature to pass a statewide ban on plastic bags with less than 40 percent recycled material. The resolution brought opposition from Helix Poly, a major manufacturer of plastic bags that was represented by Portland law firm Verrill Dana.
Ultimately, the resolution was tabled, but the debate led to voluntary reduction efforts by grocery store chains. Hannaford Supermarkets spokesman Michael Norton said the company has been working to get its customers to switch from disposable plastic bags to reusable cloth bags.
A preservation associate with Environment Maine, who is serving on the working group, said, "Maine's fisheries are important. Nothing we use for five minutes should be polluting our environment for a lifetime."