Green plastic bottles and bags in the US

  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I just got back from a trip to Japan and one thing I was super impressed with was that all the plastic bags and bottles were derived from plants and thus would safely breakdown over time. I know California has some tough laws, but what about the rest of the US. Why are we not using plant plastic? Of course cost, but we are trashing the world! Not worth it!
 

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  • #2
dlgoff
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I was just about to say, "I'll drink to that" until I read this paper. However I'm not sure if it's an acceptable source?

"www.news.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/documents/TaboneLandis_etal.pdf" [Broken]

As shown through the LCA results, biopolymers represent decreases in fossil
fuel use and global warming potential and increases in other
impact categories such as eutrophication, human health
impacts, and eco-toxicity. These impacts result both from
fertilizer use, pesticide use, and land use change required for
agriculture production as well as from the fermentation and
other chemical processing steps (28).
 
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  • #3
Monique
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Are you sure it is better? Biodegradable plastic does not break down in an ambient environment: it needs to be composted for 180 days.

It is to be ruled out that biodegradable plastics once thrown or disposed-off, it would biodegrade by its own, however, the biodegradable plastics need to get exposed to the controlled environment for their bio-degradation. (source: http://www.cpcb.nic.in/upload/NewItems/NewItem_150_PlasticsWaste.pdf)
A better system is to charge for plastic bags so that people would be less wasteful and bring their own bags.
 
  • #4
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A better system is to charge for plastic bags so that people would be less wasteful and bring their own bags.
Personally I think it's just going to make people mad and stores won't hop on that bandwagon. Either outright ban plastic bags or make them biodegradable.
 
  • #5
Monique
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Personally I think it's just going to make people mad and stores won't hop on that bandwagon. Either outright ban plastic bags or make them biodegradable.
Most stores in the Netherlands charge for plastic bags, I've never heard anyone complain. A ban would never work and I've yet to hear about biodegradable plastic that really does what it claims.

Another drawback is that the biodegradable plastic is made out of corn (at least the kind that I know of), which drives up food prizes.

I hope you can read German, the Germany’s Federal Environment Agency says (translated): "Packaging made of biodegradable plastics are not superior to those of conventional plastics"
http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/presse/presseinformationen/biokunststoffe-nicht-besser

Or read this: http://www.sustainableplastics.org/spotlight/biodegradable-plastics-true-or-false-good-or-bad
Too good to be true? You bet.

Most if not all these claims are unsubstantiated.
If there is better news I'd like to hear it.
 
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  • #6
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Most stores in the Netherlands charge for plastic bags, I've never heard anyone complain. A ban would never work and I've yet to hear about biodegradable plastic that really does what it claims.
Same here in Belgium. Also I find using those tough reusable bags easier on the hand.
 
  • #7
phyzguy
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Personally I think it's just going to make people mad and stores won't hop on that bandwagon. Either outright ban plastic bags or make them biodegradable.
When I lived in France, they wouldn't give you a bag. After carrying my groceries home in my arms once, I never again forgot to bring a bag!
 
  • #8
Monique
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When I lived in France, they wouldn't give you a bag. After carrying my groceries home in my arms once, I never again forgot to bring a bag!
Hah, I had that once! I bought a Baguette in Paris and the baker refused to give a bag to go along with it!
 
  • #9
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Maybe I am very wrong, but I just don't see vast portions of Americans accepting that they need to bring their own bag. It's not right, but it's how I see things here.
 
  • #10
Monique
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No one said there wouldn't be bags available, I think that's a bad idea.

However, if the bag starts costing money (which of course it does) people'll start thinking about reusing the plastic bag or getting a sturdy one. The money paid could go towards recycling of the plastic. In some stores there is a container where people can dump their used bags and customers can use those. But then I don't like using a bag if I don't know where it's been :smile:

As said, considerable effort needs to go towards recycling biodegradable plastics as well. How do the Japanese do that? If the biodegradable plastic ends up in a trash bin, there is no benefit.
 
  • #11
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As said, considerable effort needs to go towards recycling biodegradable plastics as well. How do the Japanese do that? If the biodegradable plastic ends up in a trash bin, there is no benefit.
They are quite strict and people pretty much follow the rules in Japan. This is not the case in America where convenience rules.
 
  • #12
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Why are reusable bags better than disposable? Reusable cost more money and resources to make, need to be washed and will still wear out eventually.

What is the problem with disposables? Is it chemicals they leech into the ground water? And do reusables not leech chemicals? Or is it the energy it takes to make disposables vs reusable? If its simple landfill space then I am not convinced disposables are a problem. In my city we do not dump our trash in the ocean so our disposable plastic bags just go to a landfill.

I think its easy and somewhat knee-jerk to just assume that single use equals bad, but that is not necessarily the case. I've read articles that claim either way, its not so clear cut to me.
 
  • #13
Monique
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They are quite strict and people pretty much follow the rules in Japan. This is not the case in America where convenience rules.
That was not my question: I wonder how the plastic is being gathered and decomposed in Japan.

And with the convenience spirit of American culture I don't see how the plastic would be appropriately be disposed of. How is waste handled currently, is glass/paper/plastic/organics/clothing being disposed of seperately by consumers?
 
  • #14
DavidSnider
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Recycling is pretty much the norm in Japan.
 
  • #15
Q_Goest
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Our grocery store in Pennsylvania recycles the plastic grocery bags (since they're not made of plastic that is normally recyclable). I would have thought that was common practice now.

Pennsylvania also requires recyclable material to be recycled. It's picked up with the regular garbage, and they have single stream recycling so you don't need to sort.

I wonder how it is in other states and other countries?
 
  • #16
lisab
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Maybe I am very wrong, but I just don't see vast portions of Americans accepting that they need to bring their own bag. It's not right, but it's how I see things here.
Depends where you live. In Seattle (city limits), they charge you for bags by law. Everyone brings bags when they shop now.
 
  • #17
Monique
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Recycling is pretty much the norm in Japan.
So it is in many other countries, like the Netherlands. Glass/paper/plastic/organics/clothing is mostly collected separately. However, it's not uncommon for the separated good to be dumped on the same landfill: cost of recycling is high. For soft drink bottles extra money needs to be paid upon purchase, which can be reclaimed upon return of the bottle. There is now talk to stop this practice: recycling the bottles is not economical.

One can introduce bioplastic and pretend it's all good, but 1) the production is expensive, 2) the decomposition is time consuming and expensive. Who is going to pay for that, how is Japan handling that? Do they really decompose the bioplastics? I cannot find any information on that.

The Society of the Plastics Industry Bioplastics Council, executive summary.

Growth Challenges:

Lack of infrastructure to capitalize on the alternatives which new bioplastics offer to traditional landfill. The slow developments of food waste diversion programs as well as a lack of a composting and other industrial biodegradation infrastructure have slowed the acceptance of compostable bioplastics. Although the infrastructure for yard waste composting is well developed nationwide, the number of sites accepting food waste remains limited and is primarily concentrated on the West Coast in states including California, Oregon and Washington. Confusion over the impact of new plastics in the plastics recycling scheme, as well as the lack of a robust recycling infrastructure for the numerous incumbent plastics which already exist in the market today (i.e., PET, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP, PS), create perception hurdles for new materials, which in reality are often no different in their recycle stream impact than other unique plastics long in the market.
 
  • #18
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Our grocery store in Pennsylvania recycles the plastic grocery bags (since they're not made of plastic that is normally recyclable). I would have thought that was common practice now.

Pennsylvania also requires recyclable material to be recycled. It's picked up with the regular garbage, and they have single stream recycling so you don't need to sort.

I wonder how it is in other states and other countries?
well certain stores in Canada, Sobey's for example has green water bottles. for water coolers, so its coming
 
  • #19
Hepth
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I've noticed that here in Europe people tend to buy a LOT less at each grocery store trip. I believe this is due to the majority of the population living near large, dense cities and relying on public transportation; you can only carry so much. The public transportation is usually pretty good even out into the suburbs. So when I shop now I bring along two of my Carrefour reusable bags and thats about how much I buy. When I live in the US I drive my car to a grocery store and basically fill the cart with things. (Oh, today I should buy that 40lb dogfood bag, I might as well buy 4 loaves of bread because theyre on sale and just freeze 3, and these soup cans are only $0.60 so I might as well stock up and get 12..) I hate buying more than one bottle of wine now as its too heavy to carry home if I got other stuff.
(I also have a fridge, freezer and pantry in the US that are about 4x larger than the ones here in Europe). On average I'd say I have about 10 bags of stuff by the time I'm done in the US. (And usually when shopping its not abnormal to see families with 2 carts full of groceries).

Maybe its that Americans can't be bothered to go grocery shopping 2-3 times a week. Maybe its the small fridges Europeans use. Maybe its the better public transport and lack of cars. But I don't think Americans will ever get away from the full-load grocery shopping, due to the convenience, nor do I see them brining 12 reusable bags to do that kind of shopping unless its forced on them.
 
  • #21
OmCheeto
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A few U.S. cities have banned plastic bags:

Portland OR 2011 (ban)[1]
Corvallis OR 2012 (ban, charge)[1]
Eugene OR 2013 (ban)[3]
Los Angeles CA 2014 (ban)[2]
San Francisco CA 2007, 2012 (ban, charge)[1]
Santa Cruz CA 2012 (ban, charge)[1]
Seattle WA 2011 (ban, charge)[1]

{2} said:
And some shoppers, like Jerry Koren, opted to go bagless. Exiting the Fresh & Easy, Koren awkwardly juggled a container of strawberries, a yogurt tub and granola bag in his hands. "I don't want to pay 10 cents for a bag," Koren said.
Get used to juggling, you cheap, self-centered *******.

With its new ban, Los Angeles joins a list of 90 cities and counties in the state, including unincorporated Los Angeles County, with similar laws over plastic bags.
I have at least 10 re-usable bags, from nearly every local grocer.

hmmm.....

I think I've found another future hobby:

pf.2014.05.03.good.use.for.my.disco.pants.jpg

I have never thrown away a pair of pants in my entire life. So, you can imagine.

And if you've ever heard the rumor, that I even recycle/purpose my socks, it's true. I give them away as gifts, and people love them. So I'm not going to use the red-faced emoti today. :smile:

Someone once suggested, that I patent the idea. I think she may have one of the "medical cards", and may have smoked too much of her medication that day. :tongue:

[1] freakville
[2] huffpo
[3] even freakier than freakville (ask Integral)
 
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  • #22
Monique
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A few U.S. cities have banned plastic bags:

Portland OR 2011 (ban)[1]
Corvallis OR 2012 (ban, charge)[1]
Eugene OR 2013 (ban)[3]
Los Angeles CA 2014 (ban)[2]
San Francisco CA 2007, 2012 (ban, charge)[1]
Santa Cruz CA 2012 (ban, charge)[1]
Seattle WA 2011 (ban, charge)[1]
What is offered as a replacement for plastic bags?

And if you've ever heard the rumor, that I even recycle/purpose my socks, it's true. I give them away as gifts, and people love them. So I'm not going to use the red-faced emoti today. :smile:
:rofl: you give away used socks as gifts?
 
  • #23
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:rofl: you give away used socks as gifts?
I'm going to use the obligatory #GladOmCheetoIsNotInMyFamily :)
 
  • #24
Evo
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What is offered as a replacement for plastic bags?
According to Greg's article and options here, it's disposable paper bags.

I reuse the little plastic grocery bags for trash bags so that I don't have to buy trash bags. I use them as liners for my trash cans, I use them to collect trash and food scraps in the kitchen. I don't just throw the bags away.
 
  • #25
Monique
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According to Greg's article and options here, it's disposable paper bags.
Well, that's a great replacement, mother earth would be so happy *add sarcasm* :rolleyes: Really, so everyone is going to waste paper instead? One positive point: I guess those are truly biodegradable. I do wonder what happens when those gallon-sized liquid containers are placed in a paper bag...

I reuse the little plastic grocery bags for trash bags so that I don't have to buy trash bags. I use them as liners for my trash cans, I use them to collect trash and food scraps in the kitchen. I don't just throw the bags away.
That's a good initiative, thoughtful to get the most use out of them.
 

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