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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

all about plastic bags.

While the City of Edmonton publicly musing about taking the progressive step of joining the growing ranks of plastic bag-free/limited cities and countries around the world (Vancouver is debating a similar ban in British Columbia's Lower Mainland), I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some cool developments occurring in the world of plastic bags…

- In Waterloo, Ontario, 16-year old science fair contestant Daniel Burd may have helped find a way to rid the world more quickly of the plastic bag problem:

…Burd mixed landfill dirt with yeast and tap water, then added ground plastic and let it stew. The plastic indeed decomposed more quickly than it would in nature; after experimenting with different temperatures and configurations, Burd isolated the microbial munchers. One came from the bacterial genus Pseudomonas, and the other from the genus Sphingomonas.

Burd says this should be easy on an industrial scale: all that's needed is a fermenter, a growth medium and plastic, and the bacteria themselves provide most of the energy by producing heat as they eat. The only waste is water and a bit of carbon dioxide.
- Bill Given recently posted this video on his blog:

- Debbie Reynolds wrote on GoGreen about some good ideas on how we can decrease our dependence on plastic bags by describing two different types of bags being labeled as "biodegradable" – one is made from plastic (which are actually a combination of polyethylene and starch, which leaves small fragments of toxic plastic in the soil that last just as long as a regular polyethylene plastic bags) and another from corn starch:
The biodegradable corn-starch based bags are not only biodegradable but also 'compostable,' which means they will completely break down into carbon and water in under 120 days under industrial composting conditions. A compostable product will not contaminate the soil in which it was composted with heavy metals. Nor will it leave tiny fragments of plastic behind. Environmentally, compostable bags are the better choice of the two.


Kyle G. Olsen said...

You know, if your going to go to the trouble of separating all the plastic bags so you can decompose them in a bio-reactor, why not do the environmentally friendly thing and recycle them!

While plastic bags are a visible litter, they are not anyless environmentally friendly than paper bags.

If your going to ban plastic bags, not banning paper bags aswell is letting an environmentally lobby group choose winners and losers, and who says trees shouldn't be saved instead of being turned into bags.

You can also let the market decide by putting an environmental fee on bags.

joe in didsbury said...

More socialist hippie nonsense. Didn't realize that blogging was this easy while tied to a tree.

Anna said...

everyone is saying to ban the plastic bags and go for paper bags...but why not finding a good alternative for digesting the plastic ones!!!! when we use paper instead of plastic ones we should attack our trees more. so i thnk that too will be a big problem in future.

Anonymous said...

I await replies to my comments on your faceobook blog on the matter.

Anywho... I don't think banning them will really solve anything. But I admire your courage to maintain an unpopular opinion. It takes balls.

Brian LaBelle said...

I always find this argument odd when it doesn't include garbage bags and specifically targets smaller plastic bags?

Why not recycle your plastic bags by using them for your garbage bags and eliminate buying the much bigger garbage bags? How much room in landfills would that save?

Anna said...

Recycling of plastic bags is a beetter option while considering the plastic waste disposal. Why thinking only of a ban!!!!!!!

Bill Given said...

Hey All,

As usual you have to look carefully at the details - the "banning" of plastic bags is usually the banning of "free, single use plastic bags". I have the bylaw of Leaf Rapids (the first Canadian city to ban them) on my blog and that's exactly what it is - a ban on single use plastic shopping bags.

So really, this isn't about paper vs plastic;

It's about reusable vs throw away.

One of the reasons we in western society use so many resources is because so many things are designed to be thrown away after using them once. I'm sure that most people, if they thought about it, come across tons of things day to day that they use for no more than 15 minutes and then they throw it out. (Or recycle hopefully ; )

It doesn't have to be like that, take shopping bags for example... Ideally, you'd own a few better quality bags that you reused time and time again for years until they wore out - then you'd recycle them.

This kind of reduction in throw away items is simple to do. Another example; take your own ceramic mug to Timmy's or Starbucks rather than getting one that you trash when the drink is done.

They might be small steps but as with all environmental initiatives, multiplied across a broad enough population it can make a big impact.

Why design things that are only meant to be used once?

daveberta said...

I have two reusable bags (that I try to remember to bring to the grocery store) when I go shopping. It isn't a paper v. plastic issue, it's a sustainable v. unsustainable issue.

Bill Given said...

Well Dave, now you're just copying me. ; )

Anonymous said...

What is the lifespan of reusable shopping bags? Will they be around forever, cluttering the world? Safeway bags decompose.

kc said...

Safeway bags don't decompose, the polyethylene in the bags leaves fragments of itself in the soil (which are, surprise, toxic).

Reusable bags can last for years.

Anonymous said...

So, we'll never be rid of them? Great. Is that better?