In an attempt to escape the heat, I sucked down my 33.18 ounce (no metric here) bottle of soda with a plastic straw in my idle car in my Freon induced comfort zone and contemplated why I refused a bag from the convenient store. The young $7.25/hr worker didn’t ask me if I NEEDED a bag, she asked me if I WANTED a bag. Well, of course I want a bag – I paid for it. Every store works that into the prices of their product. So why did I refuse (that will evolve into a pun)?
Well, I didn’t decline to make her and the people behind me think I was a hip environmental poet (unemployed). In fact, had I considered that they might have assumed that of me, I would have asked for ten of them and, in my best falsetto sang “Can you take me hiiiiiiigher”. If there’s one thing in this world I cannot stand it is to be associated in judgment with those who refuse to bathe.
Besides, the snugglers of the sycamore have it all wrong, plastic bags aren’t so bad for the environment. There, I said it Julia Louis-Dreyfus! I’m quite sure, in fact, that the hairspray used in the first 4 seasons of Seinfeld to hold your awful bangs up was more detrimental. Yet, you crusade on to ban plastic bags in the great state of Reagan.
Recently someone who probably lives in a naturally formed cave and defecates up stream chimed in on the bag ban saying, “”The cost of convenience can no longer be at the cost of the environment for centuries to come”. Indeed! The problem with that is that nearly EVERYTHING that we throw away takes centuries to degrade. Our sanitary engineering doesn’t even attempt to do the impossible – compost all refuse (told you), but instead, we manage it, hide it, seal it up, and then use it to our advantage.
In Japan, entire sections of land are made out of garbage to include the most popular airport. America has golf courses, refineries, parking lots, ski slopes, and more developed on top of yesterday’s debris. Amazingly, it’s not all plastic. Rome has a giant 150 ft “mountain” in the middle of it. Few realize this mountain that houses trendy shops is the biggest garbage dump of the world given to us by the Roman Empire.
Of course, the Roman’s didn’t have the evil plastics and unnatural products that we have today. They were organic (which explains their stench). True, but they also didn’t have our engineering. Today we have composite liners, runoff collection systems, purifiers, and clay tops to these sites. In the 50’s Americans threw away everything at the dump. Paint, tires, hairspray, oil, and mafia bodies were all tossed into the landfill and then largely ignored due to the smell (take note hippies).
In 2009, a school in Robbinsdale, MN began to dig in their back yard and found one of these 1950’s landfills. What they found was a ton of this stuff that we wouldn’t dare throw in the dump now. It wasn’t causing any harm, no water was contaminated, and nobody even knew it was there until they dug it up. After around $1 million dollars of removal money was spent, they took all of the material and put it in… a more modern dump. The biggest concern from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was asbestos fibers being stirred up during the dig. Interestingly, they found that many of the newspapers, books, and even some fruit were completely recognizable. How is it that this biodegradable product wasn’t decomposed in half a century?
To find out I got to reading. One of the interesting things I found was that the UK’s Environmental Agency (a big conservative think tank *snicker*) study on supermarket bags found that, “paper bags have a worse effect on the environment than plastic bags in all nine impact categories, which include global warming potential, abiotic depletion, acidification, eutrophication, human toxicity, fresh water aquatic ecotoxicity, marine aquatic ecotoxicity, terrestrial ecotoxicity, and photochemical oxidation.”
I was ashamed. For years I had been asking for plastic bags hoping to irk environmentalists and all the while I was actually HELPING the environment? The truth is I always had a problem with paper bags. Paper bags do kill those poor trees that we all adore so much, but they also just suck. How many times have you had to double bag with plastic? How many times have you used a paper bag as a lunch “pale” or a gym bag as you have with plastic bags? How many times has a plastic bag dropped your milk on the side walk?
The truth is I was using plastic because it was better. Getting dirty looks from the window of a Prius was just a bonus. Now I find out that all the while I was the environmentally sound one? I feel dirty… I think I’ll take a long shower.
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