24 Januar 2011

Will Banning Plastic Bags Help The Environment?

Main source of plastic waste in the sea is land activities

The banning of plastic bags may not be the salvation of the environment, but it could be a useful way to begin reducing waste pollution.

Plastic bags:

- are one of the plastic products produced in the greater numbers, and one of the products most commonly dispersed in the environment;

- have a slow rate of decomposition, and are very dangerous for sea life;

- are a sources of “microplastic” particles (or “plastic plankton”), which is vastly present in many marine areas around the world;

- are able to absorb high concentrations of the toxic substances in water, which can in turn be absorbed by living organisms;

- are now one of the most easily reproduced plastic materials (using biodegradable biopolymers);

- is the product for which the market can best withstand a relatively high increase in the cost of raw materials, due to their low unit price.

The banning of plastic bags: Italy and USA
A vote of the Italian Parliament at the end of December 2010 rejected the attempt to once again postpone Article 1 of Law 296 (paragraphs 1129 and 1130) of 27 December 2006 from coming into effect, which provided the Italy-wide ban of non biodegradable single-use plastic shopping bags (hereafter referred to as “plastic bags”).

Therefore, from 1 January 2011, the marketing of plastic bags in Italy is strictly forbidden: in the coming days shops and supermarkets will only be able to provide customers with the plastic bags remaining in their stockrooms, giving them to customers free of charge; and only until 31 August 2011 in supermarkets and 31 December in smaller shops.

From the information I have gathered on the web, I have noticed that in the U.S.A. no state has passed laws as strict as this, although ordinances of the prohibition of, or of fiscal penalisation for, plastic bags have been enforced in some cities. The municipal government of San Francisco, in 2007, issued an ordinance ban of plastic bags in supermarkets and pharmacies with annual sales of over two million dollars, and similar decrees have been promulgated in Los Angeles County, Portland, Oakland, Malibu, San Jose, Manhattan Beach, and Brownsville, among other locations.

My question is: Is the ban on the use of plastic bags a “political placebo”, to quote Hank Campbell, i.e. a useless law passed by politicians as a demagogic pretence, or is it a positive measure which will insome way reduce environmental and sea pollution?

Full text to be downloaded here. (PDF-file)

Source: Science 2.0.com, 2011-01-24.

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