Two US cities took significant steps to thwart plastic waste this month. Dallas managed to pass fees for disposable bags, while San Francisco ventured into the fraught bottled water debate.
Los Angeles became the largest city in the US to pass a plastic bag ban, when the City Council voted 13 to 1 today to disallow the use of plastic bags in supermarkets.
Recycling in earnest can make a person crazy. Maybe you’ve got curbside pick up for plastic bottles and newspapers. But what about batteries, cell phones, CFL light bulbs, printer ink cartridges, cardboard boxes and old computers? These harder-to-recycle items often comprise the clutter in our garages and mud rooms as they wait patiently for someone to haul them to the appropriate place.
Lowe’s stores are trying to make that task a little easier. The home improvement chain announced today that it has installed 1,700 recycling centers in nearly 1,700 stores across the U.S. that will collect and recycle rechargeable batteries, cell phones, unbroken CFLs and plastic shopping bags.
This whole debate about plastic bags once seemed a mite frivolous to me, next to some of the really mammoth issues confronting society — food scarcity, global warming, coal and oil pollution. I got that it mattered. But it seemed like a side trip on the road to sustainability, like a smaller matter that would eventually resolve on its own. I was more concerned about the carbon pollution from big industrial sources, and our cars and our homes, that comprise the Damocles sword threatening our children’s future.
We had big fish to fry.
By Robert Lilienfeld
Green Right Now
My New Year’s Resolution
Fifteen years ago, the big environmental issue making headlines was whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. We were supposedly going to be buried by the disposables, as they were filling up our landfills so fast that we would soon run out of places to put our trash. To better understand the problem, my co-author, Dr. William Rathje of The Garbage Project at the University of Arizona, was dispatched by a variety of environmental, government and business groups to study the composition of landfills all across America.
What Bill and his associates found was not at all what people expected them to find. Diapers were actually a rather small part of the typical landfill makeup. Also, when all the data on production, transportation, water and energy usage were factored into the equation, the data indicated that disposable diapers might actually produce less environmental impact than cloth ones.
By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Guess what city just mandated that businesses disclose their toxic chemicals, put a five cent price tag on plastic bags and set up a future ban on the sale of bottled water at city-owned centers as well as plastic take-out food containers?
Portland? San Francisco? They’ve taken some similar measures. But no, the latest municipality to get aggressive with consumer waste is Toronto, Canada’s largest and apparently greenest city.
This week the Toronto City Council set in motion a sweeping effort aimed at reducing the number of plastic disposables – grocery bags, water bottles and take-out cartons – that wind up in the local landfill.