I don't know if this has received much attention, but seeing that plastic bags are made from petrochemicals, I thought this is actually a quite timely bit of news:
The California Assembly voted 41 to 27 to ban single-use plastic grocery bags, and the bill is expected to pass the senate and get signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Should it pass, you'll have to bring reusable bags to the store or pay at least 5 cents apiece for recycled paper bags when getting your goods bagged.
Sorry, I won't shed a tear, and neither will the Pacific Ocean and its many glorious residents:
I know they're convenient and what are you going to pick up your dog's poop with, but come on, this is long overdue, and I promise, we will survive. (Actually, our chances of surviving just went up)
From the NY Times:
"They’re not only on beaches," said Ms. Brownley, a Democrat from Santa Monica who sponsored the measure, which squeaked through the Assembly with just the 41 votes needed. "You look in trees and there they are. You look in fences and they’re stuck in there. In storm drains after a big rain you see plastic bag goop, is what you see."
Yup, they're everywhere and it is actually still hard to believe that this measure passed outside of San Francisco, considering how much these little buggers have become part of our daily lives. But it actually hasn't been that long since our lives were fully functional without a closet full of crinkled bags.
The goal is to prompt 21st-century shoppers in California to do what 20th-century shoppers in Moscow did routinely — keep an avoska, or reusable sack, at the ready. China and Bangladesh already have plastic bag bans in place, and the United Nations has called for the bans to go global.
Plastic bags have been a major pet peeve of mine since I first moved to the US from Germany 23 years ago. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love this country in so many ways, but the friggin' bags everywhere have been a major source of headaches. I've basically been on defense for 23 years, trying to anticipate gratuitous plastic bag dispersal wherever I go. Keep your eye off the drug store clerk for just one second and the pen you're buying (that's already packed in plastic) is tossed all by its lonely self in the plastic baggie. And I don't even blame the clerk, the dude (dudette)'s just on autopilot and would probably get cussed out by his/her manager for being rude. But you know what spells total and utter defeat for me? When he/she then takes my pen out of the bag and proceeds to throw the bag in the trash bin under the counter. I mean, how do you spell E P I C F A I L! And don't even get me started on doublebagging, it's as annoying as teabagging.
You know you've got unstoppable momentum that is going to spread from California far and wide across the country when the director of the American Chemistry Council's best argument against the ban is that it's going to hurt the plastic bag recycling industry: Why is California attacking recycling? sounds either like a scary horror movie or sour grapes to me. You just can't make this stuff up, it's like saying we've got to keep people in prison so the guards have job security. Oh wait, we do say that, don't we? Never mind.
So anyway, tonight I raise my GLASS to a sweet victory, to the oil that will be conserved, to the birds and turtles that won't be choked to death, to the new habits of bringing reusable bags to the store that will be acquired, and last but definitely least, to the nerves and time I will be spared in wild bagbuster chases throughout the stores of the great State of California! Thank you for passing AB1998.
If you haven't seen Werner Herzog narrating the sad journey of the plastic bag, I highly recommend it:
Update [2010-6-10 0:1:24 by citisven]: Thanks everybody for taking this diary and general theme to another level. This is why I love this community, there are so many amazingly smart and knowledgeable people here that a little news flash can instantly turn into a vast resource library. I urge everyone to check out all the comments, there's such a wealth of information in there! I especially love the number of pet peeves there are regarding plastic bags. It shows that they're really more of a nuisance than convenience anyway.
I'll also take this opportunity to plug the righteous ECSTASY series which deals brilliantly with finding creative solutions to our consumerism mania. Links copied at the bottom of the diary.
ECSTASY diaries will appear most often on weekends and Thursday evenings. All diaries dealing with the problems of living in a Consumerist society are potential candidates. If you think you've got something to contribute, please contact WarrenS and he'll schedule you in.
The ECSTASY series thus far:
February 28: Introducing ECSTASY.
March 7: The Work of Julian Lee and Juliet Schor: Two Voices of Sanity.
March 10: G2Geek's Measure The Power.
March 14: Earthfire promoted Annie Leonard's appearance in Washington, DC.
March 21: RL Miller tells us about Chickens.
March 24: G2Geek prompts an unbelievable discussion about the
difference between Consumerist Time and Hunter-Gatherer Time.
March 28: citisven shares a thought-provoking and aesthetically satisfying look at the ways that one person's trash is another person's art materials.
April 4: WarrenS gives us the good word on Making Homemade Musical Instruments.
April 7: G2geek talks about what makes for robust and sustainable technology.
April 11: B Amer tells us how to find ECSTASY on our bicycles.
April 18: rb137 reviews Judith Levine's book, "Not Buying It!"
April 25: mwmwm's powerful rumination on our collective complicity in consumerism.
April 29: G2geek discusses the need for a new economic and emotional narrative.
May 2: WarrenS offers Eight Thoughts About Timescale.
May 6: G2geek talks about the ecological implications of Where You Keep Your Money.
May 9: rb137 gives us a powerful review of the role of "blood metals" in our consumer electronics — "Your Cellphone is Killing People!"
May 13: G2geek gives us the backstory of neo-feudalism, with more promised in the weeks to come.
May 16: Milly Watt tells us more about the power of feedback in reducing our consumption of electricity.
May 23: G2Geek presents part two of The Backstory of Neofeudalism
May 30: WarrenS asks an important question about consumerism and parenting: Can a Middle-Aged Dad Find ECSTASY?