Digging into anything and everything that makes the CNMI tick beyond politics...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A glimpse at the plastic bag pandemic

WAS there ever a day in your life when a plastic bag was not a part of it? Plastic bags are most handy objects you pull out when you need to carry anything, even small items.

How many times do you go to the grocery each week? When you buy even one can of soda, a bottle of mineral water, or even small things such as a pen, you will come out of the store carrying a plastic bag.
Check around your kitchen and your garage and any part of your house. Chances are you will see plastic bags all over. According to an Environmental Protection Agency report, an average family accumulates about 60 plastic bags in four trips to the store. In 2008, the EPA estimated that about 3,960,000 tons of plastic bags, sack and wraps were produced, and 90 percent of that volume was discarded. Only from 0.5 percent to 3 percent of all the plastic bags ends up being recycled.
Plastic bags come in all colors, shapes and sizes and you may have taken their existence for granted because they have always been there, providing convenience and protection for your things.
About one million plastic bags are used all over the world every minute of the day, and that comes up to about 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags a year, according to www.Worldcentric.org website. Of that volume, Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags each year. About 10 percent of all the plastic bags produced end up in the ocean.
A staggering figure, if you consider it, and here are some alarming facts about using plastic bags.

Plastic bags are made from oil, which is a non-renewable resource. The millions of gallons of petroleum required to produce plastic bags could have been used for transportation purpose.
Another staggering fact is it takes up to 1,000 years for a single plastic bag to degrade. This means a single plastic bag that you throw today will stay to pollute the world long after you and your future generations are gone. Just think of the extent of damage a thousand or a billion plastic bags can do.
Plastic bags are not biodegradable. When you throw them away, they clog the sewers and waterways, end up in landfills or flow out into the oceans. Plastic bags pose as hazards to wild life, marine mammals and birds that mistake them for food, killing them or making them sick.
In the CNMI where tourism is its main industry, the sight of plastic bags scattered all over the streets and coastal areas will do the islands no good.
Next to cigarette butts, plastic bags are the second most common debris collected in any cleanup operations for the past years. Last year alone, individuals who joined a one-day clean-up picked up over 1,300 plastic bags along Saipan’s coastal areas. Just think how much more plastic bags have been swept to the seas, or scattered all over the land.
What you can do
The community cannot just stand and watch helplessly as today’s generation continues to damage the environment for the future.
The Mariana Islands Nature Alliance in collaboration with the CNMI Coral Reef Initiative and the Division of Environmental Quality is launching a campaign to stop using plastic bags in the CNMI.
Last week, Jon Igitol of MINA said they have already started training cashiers and store personnel in some business establishments about the “No Need Bag” campaign.
“We are encouraging the community not to use plastic bags for small purchases and start carrying a reusable bag,” Igitol said.
You can help by considering a personal ban on the use of plastic bags. You can switch to reusable shopping bags that you can easily roll or fold small enough to fit easily into a pocket.
Only take a bag when you really need it, pack it as full as possible, and start recycling your plastic bags. When you are having a picnic at the beach, collect any trash, especially plastic bags before you leave.
For more information about the “No Bags Campaign”  call MINA at 233-REEF (7333). Published HERE

Ways to reuse plastic bags
1. Use your plastic bags as trash can liners. Now you don’t need to buy expensive trash bags.
2. Use plastic bags as gloves to protect you from touching anything you would not want to touch, like animal waste.
3. Use plastic bags instead of expensive filler when packing.
4. Create art — plastic bag crochet patterns are available online.
5. Use bags for storage. They take up less space and keep your stuff nice and dry.
6. Use them as dental floss. Crease the bag until you have a long thin line. Put it in between your teeth and floss!
7. Cut the bags to make bibs or aprons.