Here’s looking at you, California
State’s plastic bag ban sets good example for entire nation
California is known for its general sense of environmental awareness, and it made a major move this week by announcing it is officially banning the manufacture and distribution of plastic bags. There have been local bans on plastic bags for a while, so most of the population is already well adjusted to the change. But by signing the bill into law, the bags will be banned for good in grocery and convenience stores across the entire state. Considering the fact that more than 13 million bags are used and thrown away every year in California alone and plastic products in general account for 60 to 80 percent of all ocean pollution, the positive environmental impact is sure to be significant.
While plastic bags are a very specific product and banning them completely might seem like too narrow of an action to take, this is actually one of the smartest and most effective bans because of the fact that pretty much every single person in the state will be affected by it. Everyone needs bags to go grocery shopping, and the fact that plastic bags readily available is a product of a culture obsessed with convenience. It might take some getting used to, but the benefits by far outweigh the costs. And we’re not just talking about the long-term benefits to the environment — in the short-term, completely cutting the use of plastic bags can save taxpayers a lot of money on litter and cleanup, and it saves stores millions of dollars otherwise wasted on purchasing plastic bags.
The state is providing businesses with $2 million in loans to help with the transition to paper, canvas and other reusable bags. All stores will be required to offer customers paper bags for 10 cents each, so the option to use disposable bags is still around for now. This is a win-win situation for pretty much everyone.
This is a great move for California, and we’re definitely hoping that more states follow suit. But adopting such a ban in a state like New York or New Jersey will probably present many more challenges. The culture and mentality in California is generally one of much more awareness and concern for the environment. More people are likely to resist the ban in New York than in California, so it might take a lot longer to become an official ban.
At Rutgers, all dining halls on campus except for Brower Commons have retired food trays in an effort to conserve the energy and water that is used to wash them. Going trayless also helps to cut down on food waste because instead of piling three plates full of food (that often doesn’t get finished) onto a tray, we now have to think about how much food we can take on one plate at a time. It’s the same kind of concept as banning plastic bags. It’s pretty annoying to get used to, and a lot of us kind of wish we still had the trays — but now that trays are not an option at all anymore, we’re just going to have to get used to it. Plastic bags are useful, but they’re definitely not a necessity, and we should start to seriously think about what we need and what’s just wasteful.