Ban Plastic Bags!

Toronto's Dependency On Plastic

We've heard the grumblings, but a ban on plastic bags just "isn't possible". The plastic bag has been successfully outlawed in some cities in North America, and recently China announced a committed effort to all together getting rid of these convenient little buggers. A year ago, Toronto city council expressed a desire to cut back on plastic bag use, too, and major grocery stores agreed. A tax imposed on stores who provide bags was suggested. Making it possible for the city to recycle plastic bags was mentioned. Reusable cloth bags are now offered for a small fee. But a ban in Toronto? Never!

Ontarians use 2.5 billion plastic grocery bags a year. That's 7 million bags each week. Four bags, per person, per week. My house, especially right now after the holidays, has been infiltrated. My Ikea Rationell plastic bag dispenser is no longer sufficient. My street, after the big melt this week, is now littered with them. They're in the trees, stuck in the mud, blowing in the wind (and not in the poetic American Beauty way). It's disgusting.

In May, we were urged to participate in a "voluntary program", with incentives like Air Miles points for opting out of plastic bag use, as well as re-training cashiers to double-bag less often and to put more items in each bag. We were informed that if these suggestions didn't produce the desired results (the goal is to cut the use of plastic bags in half by 2012), tougher measures would have to be taken. I'm shaking in my boots, but with anticipation, not fear.

I'm a single gal, living on her own, and I grocery shop roughly once every two weeks. Besides the reusable cloth bags that can be purchased for a buck, I've haven't seen any of these other measures put into place. Sometimes, it's the exact opposite. Once, I specifically asked not to receive a bag, twice, and the robot cashier still placed my items in a polystyrene beast. She apologized, saying it's hard to break the habit. But really, how hard can it be?

The buzz today is China's decision to ban plastic bags completely as of June 1st. China has been fairly vocal about their recent environmental reforms, and I'm assuming it's got everything to do with the fact that they're hosting the Summer Olympics this year. Whatever their motivation, at least they've taken a stand on this seemingly (to me) no-brainer issue. If given the choice, most people will go for the more convenient option. So, ban the bags, dammit!

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