Bin the bag

LAST UPDATED: 1 Apr, 2009 @ 10:54
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Bin the bag

Olive Press launches campaign to consign the plastic bag to the dustbin

THEY are given out in their billions, used for a few minutes and clog up the back of everyone’s kitchen drawers.

That is until they get thrown out to block up a landfill site somewhere in the middle of the countryside.

But that is only a fraction of the problem.

While plastic bags take an incredible 1,000 years to degrade and vast amounts of energy to produce them, it is when they enter the nature cycle that they can be devastating.

Look at the photos. The whale washed up on the seashore in Marbella last month. Autopsies on such mammals reveal a stomach filled with plastic. Or the gannet, strangled by a plastic bag. Then there is the sea turtle, struggling through the water with bags stuck to its flippers.

These highly-endangered reptiles are dying in alarming numbers because they mistake the translucent bags for jellyfish, a key element of their diet.

It is a horrific death. Once swallowed by the turtle, the tough plastic becomes lodged in its gut, sealing its fate.

The plastic is indigestible and wraps around the turtle’s insides. Slowly, agonisingly, the animal starves to death.

The Olive Press has decided to help. Following the launch of a series of similar campaigns around the globe, we are vowing to help bring this mindless slaughter to a halt by encouraging the banning of the bags in Spain.

“Plastic bags are disastrous for the environment”

Hundreds – including Greenpeace – back OP campaign

WHILE the Spanish government has drafted plans to reduce the consumption of plastic bags by half by 2009, nothing has yet been ratified. It claims if it wins the election there will a complete ban on non-biodegradable single-use bags from the following year.

But, like most politician promises, the Olive Press believes it is better to work directly on the consumer and provider.

We are hoping to encourage our readers to get their local mayors to back our campaign and try to encourage their local shops – and supermarkets – to stop using non-vital plastic bags.

As is the case in various towns in the UK, such as Modbury in Devon, some have gone completely plastic bag free.

Greenpeace España chief Juan Lopez de Uralde fully supported our move. “We have been campaigning against this for years. It is great news you are taking it up and we wish you luck.

“Plastic bags are a disaster for the environment. They are filling up huge landfill sites and are a waste of energy. It is absurd to use so many of them.”

The pressure group had a plastic bag free day in December, with activists encouraging shops in 21 towns to stop giving out the bags.

There are ten billion bags used a year in Spain and the average person uses 238 a year.

They produce 100,000 tonnes of non biodegradable toxic rubbish, while only 10 per cent is recycled.

In Ireland, a tax on plastic bags of 20 cents has seen their use plummet by 90 per cent. The average amount per person dropped from 328 bags to under 20 in just one year.

Ecobolsa is now making reusable bags. The company, based in Catalunya, launched a new bag recently with the logo: I Am Not A Plastic Bag. It has been selling them at numerous shops and markets around the country.

Stores such as Ikea only sells paper bags at 10 centimos or recycled reusable plastic ones for 50 centimos.

Supermarkets Dia and Lidl only give customers plastic bags if they pay for them.

Spanish pressure group EcoEspana has run a variety of campaigns against the bags.

Directory Angel Munoz advises people not to expect to ban plastic bags completely, but merely to use them sparingly.

“For fresh fruit, fish and meat it is important to use plastic, but most of the time it is just unnecessary. My advice to your readers would be to encourage shops to sell them or only give them out sparingly.”

Plastic not so fantastic as governments launch crackdown

South Africa and China lead global battle against plastic bags

IT is flexible, versatile and waterproof. With a lifespan of up to 1,000 years, it is also very, very durable. But plastic is not exactly a wonder material. It creates toxic, noxouis gases when burned and suffocates and poisons animals that have accidently ingested it. It also helps to create stagnant pools, which become breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Concerned over the risks to human and environmental health, governments in Africa and Asia are leading the battle to ‘ban the bags.’

From June 1 this year, plastic bags in China will effectively be outlawed. Shops will be banned from handing out free ones, while passengers will not be able to board planes, trains or buses while carrying a plastic bag.

Perhaps more radically, visitors to tourist attractions such as the Gardens of Perfect Clarity in Beijing and the Great Wall will be turned away if they are seen carrying any belongings in plastic bags.

In South Africa, heavy fines and even prison sentences are in place for those who flaunt tough new rules concerning the use of plastic bags.

The government of Thabo Mbeki has banned the manufacture and commercial distribution of plastic bags with a thickness less than 0.03 millimetres. Anything below this and bags blow away in the lightest of winds and cannot easily be recycled.

In Europe, shoppers in Germany, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden pay for plastic bags and France intends on an outright ban on them by 2010.

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4 COMMENTS

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  1. Even recycled plastics are not degradable and will still lie around in the environment for decades. However, there is no need to ban them, because ordinary plastic and recycled plastic can now be made oxo-biodegradable.

    This is done by including d2w additive which makes it degrade, then biodegrade, on land or at sea, in the light or the dark, in heat or cold, in whatever timescale is required, leaving NO fragments NO methane and NO harmful residues. Oxo-bio passes the tests in American Standard 6954, and is made from a by-product of oil refining which used to be wasted, so nobody is importing extra oil to make it.

    There is little or no additional cost.

    Plastics made from crops, are at least 400% more expensive, they are not strong enough, and they emit methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) in landfill. Also, it is wrong to use land, water and fertilisers to grow crops for bioplastics and biofuels, which drives up the cost of food for the poorest people.

    The same applies to growing cotton or jute to make durable bags. These rapidly become unhygienic and become a durable form of litter, but they can be made from oxo-bio plastic to last up to 5 years.

    Paper bags use 300% more energy to produce, they are bulky and heavy and are not strong enough. They will also emit methane in landfill

    Michael Stephen
    Symphony Environmental, UK

  2. What a fortunate coincidence. I’ve been trying to locate a supplier of paper bags or paper carriers for my book stall on Cadiar and Ugijar markets. To date I’ve had to reuse old plastic carriers but I’d decided I could no longer carry on doing this. Then I read the article in the Olive Press. I’ve been trying to locate a paper bag supplier in the UK – without success – the ones I contacted wouldn’t supply outside the UK, so can anyone help me by giving me a web address or phone number of any company here in Spain that can supply low cost paper bags please?
    Many thanks.

  3. In Catalunya plastic bags are a necessity to take our six different types of rubbish to our beautiful underground recycling bins. There is also a separate bin for all plastics including bags. Its a wonderful system.

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