Plastic Bags, Part 2: Rethinking Cost and Convenience

by Red Pill Mama · 1 comment

in Character,Environment,General,Politics+Policy

Just joining us?  Catch up by reading Part 1 of this 3-part series.


Having addressed the sanitary issue, I’ll now address the other two concerns: “I don’t want to pay for them” and “They’re not convenient.”

I pair these two together because they’re both about personal cost: monetary cost, and time-and-effort cost.  Well, in truth, even if you choose disposable bags because they’re “free,” trust me, you will pay for them — just not at the grocery store cash register, and they’ll ultimately probably cost you way more than the $1 each per bag price tag.  Using petroleum as an example, consider that the 2011-2019 U.S. budget includes a proposed reinstatement of a tax (which expired in 1995) on oil companies to fund Superfund (a governmental environmental cleanup initiative), which will result in an estimated $17.2 billion in revenue.  Do you think the oil companies will take the hit for the “cost” of that extra tax?   Do you think the top-level executives at those oil companies will receive smaller salaries or bonuses during those years?  Or do you think maybe that “cost” will be passed on to you at the pump?  Admittedly, this example is not about plastic or bags specifically, but cleanup and amelioration of the environmental damage caused by them will have to be funded (it’s already started in D.C.) — and someone will have to pay for it.  Guess who?

And convenience?  Three words here: Get Over It.  How much more convenience do we Americans really need?  How much more can we take might be a better question.  The post-war emphasis on comfort and convenience has caused damage that even if we stopped now would take generations to repair.  And I’m not even talking about global warming.  Even to skeptics who believe that Al Gore invented Environmentalism and global warming — and that the fact that we had lots of snow this winter debunks the whole theory — the fact remains that discarded plastic is everywhere these days: clogging waterways and municipal drainage systems (causing floods), affecting ecosystems (which affect our food supply), tumbling across Antarctica (which is just mind-blowing), and it takes an enormous amount of petroleum to produce the world’s 4 to 5 trillion bags every year (430,000 gallons per 100 million bags, to be precise, with all the air quality issues, tectonic issues, foreign oil dependence and cleanup cost (see Part 1) that comes with that), and that these bags make up a large part of what is accumulating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating plastic graveyard that is estimated to cover an area of the ocean equivalent to twice that of the continental United States.  Yes folks: our disposable society has loosed enough plastic debris into the winds to create a formation the size of a continent.  (For more about the consequences of plastic bags from start to finish, see  “No Bag, Thanks” or this great student paper (read: no affiliation, no interest group, no political party, no bonus or salary, no vested interest in anything but a good grade!): Plastic Grocery Bags: The Ecological Footprint.)

As I edit this for publication the week of Earth Day, more than 144 billion plastic bags have been consumed so far this year (according to the constantly rolling counter at  Surely, at some point way before 144 billion, it should have been way more than enough.

So yes, they’re “disposable” (like so many other things) but does that really mean you have to “dispose” of them?  And yes, they’re recyclable, but why use them in the first place, especially when recycling does not pay for itself? (Though if you are going to use them, please do recycle them — because it’s not just about paying for itself!)  If you’re worried about germs, wash your bags occasionally, don’t throw raw sides of bacon into them, don’t chew on them and you’ll be fine (I will confess that I’ve never washed mine, and no one in my family has ever contracted a food-borne illness).  The bottom line is: why support an industry that causes so much aesthetic and environmental damage, and will end up costing you money?  (And do you think your grocery store is really giving you those bags for free?)

So, here we are at our “What’s a Red Pill Parent to do?” moment.  Following the Red Pill Three-Step Program, first you just have to stop and look at what you’re doing: think about packaging and containers every time you shop.  Think about the environmental ramifications of taking that bag.  Think about what that teaches your child, standing next to you at the cash register, or helping you unload groceries at home: that the resources of this world are meant to be consumed and thrown away, without another thought for where that bag came from, what it took to get into your hands, or what’s going to happen to it after you walk away from it.

Now stay tuned for Plastic Bags, Part 3: The Good News, Plus Cute Reusables for Your Kids.

And please take the Red Pill Poll!

Red Pill Mama

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Plastic Bags, Part 3: The Good News, Plus Cute Reusables for Your Kids
April 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm

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