Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year. Just one of those plastic bags takes 1,000 years to break down. California was poised to become the first state to initiate a law that would ban the use of these long-lasting plastic bags, but it failed to pass.
The Pacific garbage patch and the Atlantic garbage patch – giant islands of garbage that linger in the ocean – are each sobering reminders of how when we throw things away, they don’t go “away.”
Much of the global ocean remains uncharted in terms of pollution but the more we look, the more we find. And now even the most remote, pristine waters on the planet — the coastal seas of Antarctica — are being invaded by plastic debris.
In a series of surveys conducted during the austral summer of 2007-2008, researchers at the British Antarctic Survey and Greenpeace trawled the region finding an errant fishing buoy and a plastic cup in an exceedingly remote sea.
It doesn’t sound like much, but finding trash in the far corners of the planet is a worrying sign. The research team believes the debris they found represents the leading edge of a tide of man-made refuse that is just now starting to make its way into the most secluded parts of our oceans.
Earlier this month, the California State Assembly passed a bill that attempts to scale back the enormous quantity of plastic carryout bags that are provided to customers every year. In an effort to reduce waste and encourage customers to bring their own reusable shopping bags, Assembly Bill 1998 prohibits supermarkets and pharmacies from providing single-use carryout bags effective January 1, 2012. It extends the ban to convenience stores and other outlets where groceries are sold a year and a half later. Stores may offer recyclable paper bags for a minimum fee of five cents. AB 1998 is now awaiting consideration in the state Senate.
California is a step closer to being the first state to ban plastic bags.
The Assembly passed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit single-use plastic bags from being offered in supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies, and would charge customers five cents for recyclable paper bags. The California Grocers’ Association, which includes retailers Safeway and Costco, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger support the bill.
Californians use around 19 billion bags a year. According to Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, the author of the bill, the state spends $25 million to collect and bury these bags.
Environmentalists are also concerned that the bags can become litter. Marine life can ingest the bags or become entangled in them, and this can result in injury or death.
The American Chemistry Council, which is against the bill, is concerned about the cost to consumers and the cost of running the program.
The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.
A recent TEEB for Business report estimated that the world’s 100 largest corporations do $7.3 trillion in damages each year to the global environment. These “externalized” costs are not borne by the business itself, but by society as a whole. Changing the way that corporations do business is critical to solving global environmental crises such as climate change. In the book Corporation 2020, Pavan Sukhdev presents a vision of how » read more
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On DCBureau are a story and timeline about the history of the Clean Water Act and the efforts to undermine it. Together they show an incremental, well-funded, organized campaign to weaken the law. On the 40th Anniversary of the Act, it is important to remember that environmental laws enjoyed bipartisan support for years. Weakening environmental regulations through the Congress and courts will have lasting, irreversible results.
Read in The New York » read more
A new web documentary quotes security experts as saying the Savannah River Site, where massive amounts of weapons-grade plutonium and other dangerous substances are stored, is vulnerable to a terrorist attack that could have dire consequences for the entire southeastern United States. The documentary reveals the Site is guarded by a foreign-owned firm with a checkered security record. The radioactive material is stored in aging buildings. The small private guard force » read more
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