the global war on polymer

28 July 2008

I thought banning paper bags was still just a California thing. Los Angeles has just decided to do it and, not surprisingly, some parts of the Bay Area have already done it.* But they’re not alone:

In June, China banned shops from giving out free plastic bags throughout the country, and banned the production, sale and use of any plastic bags less than one-thousandth of an inch thick. Bhutan banned the bags on the grounds that they interfered with national happiness. Ireland has imposed a hefty 34 cent fee for each bag used. Both Uganda and Zanzibar have banned them, as have 30 villages in Alaska. Scores of countries have imposed or are considering similar measures.

*This reminds me of when I was a kid and Berkeley banned styrofoam containers. That might have seemed like an odd decision at first, but in retrospect it turns out to have been a good one. Of course styrofoam is still around (not in Berkeley), but in a less environmentally damaging way.

What I noticed most about the ban at the time – I was quite young – was that fast-food hamburgers, previously kind of soggy in condensation catching containers, now had to be wrapped in paper or put in thin cardboard boxes. They tasted better that way.