I was recently asked by a friend whether I was able to create an impact through my anti-plastic propaganda. I told him how easily I was able to reduce my plastic consumption in a couple days and how supportive the people that I spoke to are. He kept asking me whether my individual environmental care would result in a dramatic reduction of global plastic usage. Good question.
For one month, I have talked to managers of stores and restaurants who sell plastic forks, knives, bags and other stuff without providing an environmental friendly option. The managers usually thank me for my consciousness and promise to fix that soon. Apparently, as an individual, my impact is limited. However, that doesn’t mean I have zero impact. I am glad to hear some of my friends have happily started plastic diets too.
Individual effort is as important as state-wide efforts. On June 2nd, the California State Assembly voted to ban the usage of plastic grocery bags. Once Assembly Bill 1998 (AB 1998) is signed, California will be the first state in the US to prohibit food stores from providing no-cost plastic bags. The law will start in 2012. In 2007, San Francisco pioneered the banning of plastic bags and more cities within the country have followed.
European countries have been steps ahead of the US. Ireland passed a plastic usage tax law in 2002. With the aid of a nationwide awareness campaign, plastic bag usage dropped 94% within only couple of weeks of passage. In most European cities, customers have to pay for the plastic bag if they don’t bring their own shopping bags. In most cases, it is socially unacceptable to use plastic bags.
A friend recently sent me an article from a Turkish newspaper. Edremit, a small town in northwest Turkey has just banned the use of plastic bags. As a Turkish citizen, I was proud to see that there are courageous Turkish legislators who are conscious about environmental issues.
Proponents of plastic bag bans are those who are keenly aware of the environmental effects of plastics. They consistently advocate for sustainable alternatives for plastics. Bio-degradable (compostable) plastics seem to be the best option to conventional plastics so far. Bio-plastics could replace almost all the plastics that are used in food and beauty industries. Thus the packaging industry could evolve into a more sustainable industry with less environmental effects. The video below shows how a bio-plastic material can decay in 10 days, compared to 100 years for normal plastic.
As an individual, I already prefer products that are sold in environmentally friendly packages. They may be more expensive but I see myself as paying an environmental tax. Big companies do not have to wait for law makers to tell them what they have to do.
photo: Shira Golding