Thursday, June 25, 2009

Love and hate by the five-cent bagful

Back in the days when plastic bags were not invented yet, my grandmother never needed one. After all, life was simple those days. No need to clean after the pets, since they didn't have one. No need for garbage bags, since a) they didn't produce that much waste b) they dumped all the waste in the garbage bin.

When the plastic bags came into picture, in early 20th century, they were to replace paper bags which back then were known as inefficient and number one contributor to killing trees. Plastic bags were light, water proof, and only took a small storage space. They became popular and soon gave new shape and color to the way we shop.

It took us 50 odd years to realize that plastic bags are indeed as inefficient as the paper bags, if not more. They use up another natural resource, oil; they don't disintegrate; they end up in the landfills; they are a known hazard for the marine life.

Time for a change? You bet.

We have since welcomed the new, the reusable bag, eco-friendly alternative to the plastic bag in our consumer driver lives. We know that manufacturing these bags uses scarce, expensive energy. However, durability will make the average cost of energy used per bag lower than plastic or paper bags.

Holding a chic reusable bag is more than making a fashion statement. It's regarded as responsible! While we are gradually buying into the idea of purchasing our first and second R-bags and reducing our plastic bag footprint as a result, our city decided to pull a plastic bag tax on us to hasten the process.

Many took issue! Many are unhappy. It's added insult on injury, to be asked to pay an extra 5c per bag after you spend $$$ in a store. It's understandable. Especially, for some of us, the free plastic bags served a variety of purposes in our households.

In a consumer driven culture a moral lesson can be taught only by attaching a price tag to it. Only then we realize the value of what we have taken for granted. The point here is that, the reusable bags are great and they are a good solution to our over a century old quest for efficient, environment friendly packaging and storage. But, a coup de tat against plastic bag was not necessary.

Each of the products we switched from/to had their own set of pros and cons. Perfect has not been discovered and/or invented yet. We could continue using plastic, paper, and/or reusable and our environment will still be fine, if only we learned the art of moderation.

If each party involved did its part, the impact will be effortless and huge. If we used one less bag on each trip to the supermarket, we could reduce the usage by a lot!

The imposed tarrif or in the case of Inida the $2000 fine are just measures to curtail the wasteful behavior and culture.

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