By Deepthi V
Effective July2015, as part of a large scale eco-friendly drive, California is set to ban the usage of disposable single-use plasticshopping bags. California is the first state in the US to bring in this ordinance. As per this decree, plastic bags will be phased out of checkout counters across large grocery stores and supermarkets and in 2016, it will be carried out across smaller convenience stores and pharmacies. Further, a fee of at least 10 cents will be levied on reusable plastic bags or paper bags given out by retailers/grocersto customers at the checkout counter.However, if customers do not wish to pay for these bags, they are encouraged to bring along their own eco-friendly or reusable shopping bags.The respective retailer or grocer can keep all the proceedings that come from the bag fee.
California has introduced the ban on non-ecofriendly bags in a bid towards conserving the environment.Environmentalists have lobbied for years, sayingplastic bags take decades to decompose and break down very slowly with time, and hence just adds on to the piling litter polluting the surroundings, clogging sewers and creating environmental havoc. To reduce this vexing source of waste and pollution, California is in dire need of this law to take effect. Further, this plastic debris ispotentiallydangerous to fishes, turtles and other marine life in the ocean; they often mistakenly consume plastic endangering their lives or get fatally strangled in its snare.
The ban is a sure victory for environmental activists who state that over 13 million plastic bags are handed out each year in the state end up as litter and a pollutant. There have reportedly been as many as 13 failed California bills since 2007 to curb or ban single-use plastic shopping bags, and the eco-warriors are rejoicingover the much-awaited victory after 7 years.
While most supported the legislation, a few groups—mostly comprising plastic bag manufacturers—opposed the bill. A support group representing the manufacturersclaimed that banning plastic bags would jeopardise thousands of jobs (approximately 30,000) across the US. Responding to these concerns, the bill has further taken this into account and proposed a $2-million dollar loan for plastic bag manufacturers to help them shift their operations to manufacture reusable plastic bags.
On the other hand, there is the rising concern over the health issues with regards to the usage of reusable bags. Possible health risks have been associated with usage of reusable shopping bags since shoppers rarely wash these bags and it becomes a potential breeding ground for germs. Reusable shopping bags need to be maintained appropriately and kept clean to ensure the prevention of unintended health consequences.
According to an analysis of the bill, cities and counties estimate that they spend millions of dollars to clean up the waste. This statewide plastic bag ban saves taxpayersa huge amount on litter cleanup, besides protecting the environment, making it a commendable step towards sustainable living. A society that has found a disposable variant for almost everythingis most assuredly not a sustainable turn for the long haul. The move from plastic bags to reusable bags is presumably a wise decision and a starter. The same needs to slowly apply to other disposable items that contribute heavily towards litter and pollution.
What are green alternatives for plastic shopping bags, especially for those that need to carry meats and other food? Tell us how you use and green shopping bag alternatives and also share tips on keeping them germ-free.