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Ban the Bag

Greg Harman

Even if humankind came down sick all of a sudden and fell down dead, so much of what we have built would live on after us. At least for a few years.

Your lovely wood frame home at the corked end of that traffic-limiting cul-de-sac would be overrun and overgrown in just a few decades. Time and the elements would completely wash it away within 500 years.

Here's what it would look like as it is overtaken by roaches, rats, and other natural processes, courtesy of the website for the book The World Without Us:

And when all visible trace of humanity has left the building, two reminders of our time on earth will remain: plastics and radioactive waste â?? neither of which is beneficial to the life forms we would leave behind, either.

Here's how plasticbageconomics explains the environmental impact of plastic:

The environmental damage caused by plastic bags is enormous. Plastic makes up 80% of the volume of litter on roads, parks, and beaches and makes up 90% of floating litter in the ocean (BEC).

In every square mile of ocean there are over 46,000 pieces of plastic. This puts an enormous strain on the environment. The little pieces of plastic act as a sort of sponge for chemicals. They soak up a million fold greater concentration of such deadly compounds as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the notorious insecticide DDT), than the surrounding seawater (

Marine life then eats these pieces and dies. It is estimated that over a 100,000 different birds, seals and whales die every year ( After the animal dies its carcass decomposes and the plastic is free to roam the ocean and kill again.

So, is State Senator Leticia Van de Putte's effort to reduce the amount of plastic passing from our convenience stores into consumer grips a mad dash at marine protection? It's that, but it's also economics and the health of our aquifer. Each year, the regional water systems spend thousands of dollars unclogging plastic buildup at their treatment plants. And the bags literally blanket portions of our highways and strip malls.

Senator Van de Putte's legislation, Senate Bill 338, would require every commercial retailer using plastic bags (including non-profits) to

1) sell and verbally offer customers reusable bags in place of plastic, and

2) provide plastic bag recycling services.

With interest already being expressed by a colleague about carrying companion legislation in the House, Van de Putte expects action. And she plans on coming back within five years to ban the bags completely.

The Senator said she first stirred to anti-plastic sentiment when she achieved a lifelong dream of visiting the Galapagos Islands a year ago. As a supremely protected site, no plastic was allowed on the islands, she said.

Then one day more recently she was unwrapping some meat that had been first wrapped in plastic before it was placed in her reusable shopping bag and her son, an environmental sciences major, yelped.

“Mom! Those take a thousand years to break down!” he objected.

And with a new grandchild in the world, she said she is doubly motivated to do good by the environment. Otherwise, “in 20 years, he's going to ask me, â??Why did you let this happen?'” she said.

While cities across the country try to address the challenge of plastic, there is, as yet, no statewide policy governing the ubiquitous castaway tools in Texas. So, until we can get on with banning the bag, we'll just have to make its toxic life as miserable as humanly possible.


`For more about plastic's impact on the ocean environment, watch this important video from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.`


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