A new environmental program is being inaugurated in Israel to persuade people to use less polymer plastic material. The program, mentioned briefly on T.V. Channel 10, is asking consumers to “use one less plastic bag” when sacking up their groceries during their weekly supermarket shopping forays. Most shoppers use an average of 20-25 polymer plastic shopping bags each week; and though lighter in weight than paper bags, as well as slightly less polluting, these bags are not wholly biodegradable and wind up being buried by the millions in sanitary landfills and garbage dumps.
Made from petroleum derivatives, these bags take up to 100 years to completely disintegrate, and on their own contribute immensely to Israel’s already critical pollution problem. The government’s Ministry for Environmental Affairs began a plastic bottle recycling program more than 7 years ago in which plastic beverage bottles, usually made from an even less biofriendly polyimide plastic material, have been recycled by placing large wire mesh “cages” in residential neighborhoods for people to put empty beverage bottles in; usually in the 1.5 to 2 liter size. While this collection method has been partially effective, countless more empty bottles, particularly those which contained bottled mineral water, wind up either in the garbage dumpsters or littering roadsides, beaches, and other public places. These bottles take even longer than plastic bags to disintegrate, with environmental scientists saying that a bottle of this type will take hundreds of years to be biologically “broken down”.
While recycled bottles are melted down and made into other plastic products, including garden hoses and lawn furniture, the bags often are not. Some large supermarket chains in America, for example, have launched programs in which no bags, either paper or plastic, are furnished at the store check-out counters. Customers are expected to either carry their food purchases home in empty boxes (if available) or bring bags or boxes with them to carry their purchases home in.
To give you an idea of what can be achieved by using less plastic grocery bags, it is estimated that if citizens in a city the size of New York City use one less plastic grocery bag per year, the savings will be 109 less tons of disposable garbage and $11,000 less in disposal costs. Now multiply that by one less bag on each weekly shopping trip!
While this idea may not catch on in Israel, at least in the foreseeable future, by using less bags at the check-out counter, each customer will not only help reduce the overall expenditure on petroleum products from which the bags are made; they will also help reduce the amount of these pollutants which wind up being buried in our country’s very soil! Many people even take extra bags home with them for use around the house, especially to put garbage in. Obviously these bags are going right into the ground, and may even delay the natural bio-degrading process of the garbage itself, due to it being “trapped” inside the bags!
Some food chains, including the Super Sal Chain, are selling large green environmentally friendly bags for shoppers to carry their grocery purchases in without the need for polymer bags. These bags cost around 3 NIS each and can be used repeatedly on other shopping trips, as well as for going on picnics or to the beach. The bag’s green color is derived from the “green” environmental conscious movement which is finally beginning to receive due notice in Israel.
Using a few less polymer bags won’t hurt anyone; and the end result will be a cleaner environment, as well as money saved. If people can accept the idea of using less shopping bags, even one or two, we’ll all benefit in the end.
October 31, 2007 at 4:28 am
You know, if the government had some type of compensation plan, say for businesses that used either paper or sold reusable bags (through tax breaks), then we would probably see more people in Israel using less bags because the store provides less.
Just my two cents/shekels. 😉
November 6, 2007 at 7:25 am
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