San Francisco led the way, the County of Alameda has done it, Pasadena has done it, Delhli has done it, and now the City of Los Angeles has done it. And it? Banning single-use plastic bags.
History might even show that the plastic bag was a temporary aberration of the late 20th century — perhaps the ultimate symbol of a wasteful time.
By some estimates a trillion of these light but strong bags are produced each and every year. It’s easy to think of them having a short life: from the check-out to your kitchen counter. But for many, there life does not end there. They end up in landfill where they last an eternity. Or worse still, in our waterways where they choke fish on their way to the ocean where they slowly break down in to smaller and smaller parts and make their way out to massive churning mid ocean gyres of polluted water. Pretty nasty stuff, especially if you care about our oceans.
I was curious about the history of these bags. I really can’t remember a time without them. But as with many things it turns out there are a temporary invention — and a Swedish one at that. An ingenious Swede invented the process for making a cheap, light strong and disposable plastic bag in the 1960s. They made their way to the States in the 1970s, finally achieving wide-spread use when they were adopted by Krogers and then Safeway in the 1980s.
I for one won’t miss them. It’s one less question at the check-out stand (paper or plastic….) and even though I now have to buy bags to put my trash in, its a small price to pay.
It also has me wondering what’s next? I remember when milk was delivered to my door in glass bottles on the back of an electric milk-float, the empties collected by the dairy the next morning. Sounds futuristic, but it was actually Britain in the 1970s! It’s time to get back to some of that. Good for the environment and convenient too!