Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day and Plastic Bags

Today is Earth day, and it was announced that Loblaws will start charging for plastic bags. It's in a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, and framed as an environment-enhancing way of keeping bags out of landfills and from "blowing around the neighbourhood."

The most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

Listen, I do everything I can to not be a dick to the earth. My carbon footprint is so low that one day, people will be digging way down at the center of the earth, and they'll be like "how did footprints get here? They are so low." I reduce, reuse, and recycle.

But the thing with plastic bags is, does anyone actually throw them away? Everyone I know keeps them around for reusing them. There are entire kitchen accessories for holding bags. Personally, I need a constant supply of bags to use as garbage bags, to transport stuff around, to shelter stuff from rain, to pick up dog shit, etc. I don't think I've ever just thrown a plastic bag in the garbage. When my supply is high I'll bring a reusable bag to the store, but otherwise I'll take advantage of the free bags they provide. Sometimes I feel like an ass doing it, but hey, if everyone around me is loading a box of single-use Glad garbage bags into their fancy reusable canvas bag, then I'm not the ass.

It seems to me that charging for bags will only accomplish two things: 1) It will discourage reusing plastic bags, since people will now (for either psychological or financial reasons) be more apt to buy bags separately then only use them once; and 2) It will make Loblaws and Glad a lot of extra money.

And that's, sadly, what much of the environmental "movement" is about. It's a marketing gimmick designed to fool consumers into paying more money for the same products and being happy to do so. Certainly we should be doing everything we can to preserve this lovely planet, but unfortunately doing that now requires sifting through a lot of bullshit. The backlash this causes will do more harm than good. Being green should be accomplished by listening to common sense and peer-reviewed research, not people who are trying to sell you stuff.


SeangSTM said...

Agreed. My local grocery store has always charged me $0.05 a this announcement seems a little behind the times. I use reusable bags anyway...

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Superstore in Alberta has been charging for bags for years...and you always under-guess the bags you need so you overstuff them since you have to bag your own groceries which is insane...they have kids that roam the store in rollar blades but they can't put my poptarts into a bag? Bastards! I refuse to go there...bagboys have rights too.

Dead Robot said...

We have more reusable bags in our closet than plastic bags under our sink.

But what will dog owners do when plastic bags become such a rare and expensive commodity? Hold poo in their hands?

Marc said...

I've also got a ton of plastic bags under my sink. I don't think a nickel, a dime, or even a quarter per bag is really going to make anyone think twice about going plastic, either.

But I'd be really happy to pay it if that small fee was specifically going towards some means to counteract the impact of plastic bags, like funding recycling initiatives or whatnot.

Greg Fowler said...

Define "the environmental movement." Because it's damn sure not Loblaws.

Loblaws is not a leader with respect to the diversion/reduction of plastic bags. IMO, they waited as long as they possibly could, and now that they're doing something it's all about self-promotion in the guise of something else.

Re-using your plastic bags is better than simply tossing them after one use. But there's a limit to how long you can reuse them. Sooner or later they'll be tossed. And although they may break down, they won't degrade for a long, long time.

Five cents per non-biodegradeable bag is not a disincentive. The cost should be considerably higher. And it should only be a first step. I'd like to see a ban on all plastic bags that aren't biodegradeable.

For more information about this issue check out this FMBS page.

Jennifer said...

I have no opinions on sticking it to the man, or the earth or whatever.

But, I do buy a shitton of groceries every week (hell, we have upgraded to buying actual fractions of farm animals these days). Those reusable bags kick grocery ass. You can cram all sorts of things in them and the handles don't rip off shattering the baby food or whatnot. Use them for the selfish reason that they are just way better.

Phronk said...

Sean & Calvin: Yeah, half the places here have been charging for bags for a while. But since Loblaws owns the other half, they're gonna make a big deal of it and make lots of money.

DR: That's the only reasonable option. From now on, we'll have to consider this when shaking hands with someone.

Marc: That's a great idea. If the money went somewhere other than Loblaws pockets, I'd be less skeptical of their motives.

Greg: I guess I'm referring to the "movement" in the sense that adding the word "green" to a product makes it more popular and makes people feel good about themselves. I agree that long term, we should be working to get rid of all non-biodegradable waste. Dunno if a ban or more expensive bags are the answer right now, though, especially if it just leads to MORE bags being used overall as I've argued here.

Jen: Nice. Yeah I think that will be the ultimate incentive for change; naturally increased practicality. Not artificial financial incentives that serve an ulterior motive and might not even be greener.

coldprairie said...

Completely agree. I just wrote a bit of a rant on earth day that was choking me all up on my blog today. It's a cynical money grab all around. BTW, "global warming" rears it's ugly head with 3 inches of snow in Calgary today.

Just to say hi, I checked out every. single. blog on Canada Blog Friends today and yours is the most readable so far.

Phronk said...

Aw thanks Coldprairie, that is such a nice thing to say, especially given all the awesome blogs on CBF.

I agree with much (but not all) of the ranting on your blog; there is certainly a lot of bullshit from both sides in politically sensitive issues like this. I tried to leave a comment but it didn't recognize my Wordpress login.

katrocket said...

I can't really add anything new to the discourse here, because I agree with everyone -- just wanted to say I enjoyed this post more than I enjoyed writing this awkward comment.

sarah said...

i have way more plastic bags than I have garbage and we should be trying to eliminate/reduce waste and not use a garbage bag every time your dog poos. I'm all for reusables. I have enough plastic right now to last me forever.

That being said, it looks like poo-head srahberry is moving up the list to the top!!

coldprairie said...

That's okay, I don't always agree with the ranting on my blog either. It was more of an off the top of my head observation walking to work and being handed paraphenalia that went in the garbage as people walked by the garbage can.

Harry said...

The last line of this post is perfect. From now on I'll be asking "who profits?" when purchasing any product that claims to help the earth.

We have reusable bags as well for our trips to the grocery store. They're a common product around my town, which has seemingly become part of an over-blown fad. Out here its not uncommon to see people claim 'green', but then turn and drive away in their Hummer.

Greg Fowler said...

Oh yeah, just remembered. For those who may not know, you don't have to throw away those plastic bags after they start to tear on you. They can be fused together with nothing more than a household iron (with a pillow case between it and the plastic). In fact, you can cut the bags into strips and fuse them into all kinds of neat things if you're the creative type (and if you do I hope you'll visit FMBS and let me know about it).

Phronk said...

Very cool idea, Greg. Thanks.

I can imagine making some sort of recycled reusable superbag with like 20 pockets and room for all your groceries and a human baby. If I ever get an iron, I'll try it for sure.

SharkBoy said...

I think I might set up a table outside of Loblaws and sell my old pastic bags for $0.02 each to people walking in. I too can capitalize on Earth Day