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[GreenYes] Re: plastic bags slide show

Title: [GreenYes] Re: plastic bags slide show

As an advocacy piece, the slide show on plastic bags looks pretty
effective.  However, it is a one-sided argument that really talks
about only certain uses of plastic bags - and appears to ignore many
other uses.  The use of bags that is easiest to replace, and that
probably causes most of the litter issues demonstrated in the slide
show, is the bags handed out by stores to customers to carry their
groceries or other items they purchased.  Clearly, it would be much
better if the customers brought their own reusable bags rather than
taking disposable plastic bags.

How about other uses of bags though, such as bread bags or plastic
bags used to protect other products being sold.  Are these plastic
bags worse than the alternative packaging?  It might be a neat idea if
we could come up with a system of, for example, reusable bread bags,
but that does not seem to be a likely development.  If you are talking
about single-use bags, plastic bags generally take much less in the
way of energy and natural resources to make than do other sorts of
containers such as boxes or even paper or cloth bags.  Thus, switching
from plastic bags to another single-use bag material for things such
as bread or produce might increase energy use, not decrease it.
Regarding recycling costs, on a per-bag  or per-use basis, I suspect
that the net cost of recycling each plastic bag is less than the cost
of recycling other types of bags, and least when the recycling is done
through return-to-retail.

I also question a statement in the slide show that states that the
polyethylene bags will photodegrade into smaller, more toxic petro-
polymers.  Can any GreenYes person provide some background research
showing that this is true?  I know that polyethylene is basically very
similar to ordinary wax.  Both are just long-chain hydrocarbons,
although polyethylene chains are usually longer and more orderly.  It
seems unlikely to me that the photodegradation of polyethylene would
cause any significant concentration of toxic smaller molecules to be
produced.  Does anyone have evidence that plants cannot grow in soil
that contains degraded polyethylene?  The one thing I have heard is
that when bits of plastic are floating in the ocean, other toxic
organic compounds in the water might  attach themselves to the
plastic, thus concentrating the toxins that already exist in the
water.  Does this concentration of toxins make them more or less
likely to end up being ingested by animals?  I don't know the answer
to this - maybe someone else on the list does.

In writing this, I have no intention of supporting the use of single-
use plastic bags for carrying home groceries or other purchases,
because multiple-use bags would be much better.  I do think we need to
be cautious though regarding the used of plastic vs. other materials
for single-use product packaging, because in a number of respects
plastic may be superior.

Peter Spendelow

On Jul 1, 4:13 pm, Gary Liss <g...@no.address> wrote:
> >Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2008 14:08:38 -0700 (PDT)
> >From: Mark and Janet Thew <mandjt...@no.address>
> >Subject: Fw: plastic bags
> >A quick slideshow that would convince even the most wasteful that
> >plastic bags are bad.   :)
> ><>
> >Buy less.  Use less.  Waste less.
> >Every day is Earth Day.
> Gary Liss
> 916-652-7850
> Fax:

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