I saw a lot of fantastic sights on a recent trip to Ireland. But it was only after I came home that I realized there was a common staple of life that I hadn’t seen there.
This year’s Earth Day theme is “End Plastic Pollution,” and I discovered that Ireland, progressive little country that it is, had passed a plastic bag tax in 2002. It was then I realized I hadn’t seen any plastic bags in Ireland.
No bags blew through the air like kites on the Ring of Kerry. No one bagged my T-shirts in plastic at the Killarney Brewery. The streets of Dublin yielded not one sighting of the ubiquitous bag lofting over the River Liffey.
Ireland hadn’t “banned” the plastic bag, but when they placed a fairly steep tax — about 22 euros cents or 33 cents American — they also started a public relations campaign to explain the importance of ending the reliance on plastic. Soon, lots of ordinary people began purchasing reusable canvas bags and keeping them handy.
The money from the tax goes, fittingly enough, to the ministry of the environment. And to enforce the purpose of the tax, stores were prohibited from simply paying the tax on the bags themselves and passing the cost on in some other way. And although my souvenirs were bagged in paper, grocers were warned not to merely substitute paper for plastic.
The amazing thing, according to a New York Times story run a few years after the tax was enacted, was that within a few weeks, plastic bag use dropped by over 90 percent. Like smoking too close to the office door, or failing to clean up after Rover, it became socially unacceptable to be seen using plastic.
Omaha, the city where I live, is currently having a discussion about imposing a fee for plastic bags. Just as in other cities where it has been debated, there are arguments on both sides.
Paper bags, while biodegradable, take more energy to create. Canvas bag must be washed occasionally. Some jurisdictions worry that jobs in plastic manufacturing will be lost. (Ireland had no plastic manufacturing and got most of theirs from China.)
But here’s the powerful flip side: According to The Wall Street Journal, 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S. annually. They poison and injure marine life. In the past few days, a dead sperm whale was discovered with 64 pounds of garbage in his digestive system, lots of it plastic.
Plastic bags litter our beaches and landscapes. Few of them are biodegradable, and will be around for hundreds of years, clogging our waterways and piling up in our landfills. We’re desecrating our sacred environment.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that the World Economic Forum found that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish, by weight, in the oceans. Plastic threatens our planet’s survival, which is why 25 countries have tried to initiate programs to reduce single use plastic.
What can we do against 100 billion bags? By using recyclable bags, we can each save hundreds of plastic ones yearly. Keep them in the car where you’ll remember them. Take the ones you do get to the recycle bins that most grocery stores offer.
Earth Day 2018 urges us to reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle and remove plastic. Not just bags, but the single use plastics that are so ubiquitous in our society.
Carry your own utensils when you know you’ll be offered plastic. Take your own container to the restaurant for leftovers. Be the example that may help change attitudes the way the Irish did.
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Talking about Environmentalist and Oceans, I remember Marine Scientist Jacque Cousteau in 1966 warning us with tears in his eyes on his Saturday Night PBS Tv show that the Ocean was dying and by 1988 we will be able to walk from East Coast of USA to France.
The Ocean would be Hardened Molasses… Oh my I thought…How Could that be..
Fast Forward to 1978 I lived in Sunny Miami and the University of Miami FL Marine and Atmospheric Program was embarking on a Monumental environmental project to save the Atlantic Ocean and To help restore the Ocean reefs off the Coast of FLORIDA. The solution these environmental Marine Genius scientist implemented was too Carefully dump 1 Million plus used Tires. The Tire Tread sandals craze had about ended and this was a No Brainer…
Fast forward to 2018 and the environmental toxic disaster is still being remediated at a cost of More than a million Us Dollars a Year.by fishing the dilapidated tires one by one…
The Plastic bag debacle is Primarily the Responsibility of ASIA. I lived in Hong Kong and the Harbor water has Zero Oxygen near kai Tak Airport Runway.. The Harbor was Full of Plastic Bags in 1990’s. I lived in Singapore who hired SIri Lankans to Keep the Beaches and water ways free from Plastic Bags they had a special Trash Paddle Boat the picked up all the floating Debris..
What is Ironic is to see all the Progressive Marches the supposed caretakers of the environment trashing Mother Earth. Go to an environmental related event and it is a Trash Haven. The entertainers live in oversized Homes and fly in Environmentally Damaging jets… so they tell us mere peons in their Speeches.
If you ever want to write another article about an Environmental hazard write about San Francisco or LA or how progressivism has destroyed a beautiful US treasure..think Venezuela.