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August 13, 2007 - Image 26

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-08-13

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14 The Michigan Daily- Orientation Edition 2007

RACHEL WAGNER

KIM LEUNG

Nov.29, 2006

Plastic problems

I like to consider myself at least
marginally environmentally con-
scious. I try not to leave my laptop
plugged in indefinitely, and I have
plans to pick up the new energy
efficient compact fluorescent light
bulbs. The more I become aware
of switching off lights when leav-
ing a room or remembering to turn
off my printer, the more aware and
guiltier I feel about the useless,
cabinet full of.plastic grocery bags
my roommates and I have stashed
in our kitchen.
While waiting for significant
change on issues like carbon emis-
sions and alternative energy, reg-
ular citizens can start adopting
greener ways of life. This doesn't
mean never driving a car or
becoming a vegan - I'm not quite
ready to let go of cars or meat just
yet either. Instead, it means being
conscious of the often overlooked
aspects of daily living that have
a large impact on nature. This is
where plastic bags enter the scene.
Every year, 500 billion to 1 tril-
lion petroleum-based plastic bags

are consumed globally. Aside from
using up increasingly valuable
natural resources like petroleum,
plastic bags create large amounts
of litter, harm wildlife and con-
tribute to waste from landfills.
It's just not possible to justify
these harmful environmental
effects for a bag most people will
only use once.
Studying in Ireland last sum-
mer showed me how life would be
without plastic bags. In 2002, the
Irish government introduced a
consumption tax (the PlasTax) of
20 cents on plastic bags. Revealing
my obviously American side, I was
at first shocked and annoyed that
my beloved and previously free
plastic bags now came at a price.
How was I possibly going to carry
my food back home?
My options were to pay for the
bags, pay for a reusable cloth bag
sold at the register or use my back-
pack. As a student trying to stick
to a budget, I shoved my groceries
in my backpack and walked home.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn't that

bad. I gradually became a convert
to the cloth bag lifestyle. So have
the Irish. Since 2002, their plastic
bag use has fallen more than 90
percent, and the government has
raised millions of dollars to put
toward recycling programs.
Now America is trying to tackle
its own plastic problems. San Fran-
cisco recently banned petroleum-
based plastic bags at grocery stores
and pharmacies, and Ann Arbor
looks to be gearing up to be next.
As expected, the taxes and bans
have raised considerable opposi-
tion, and some people may have a
hard time letting go of the time-
honored tradition of leaving the
grocery store with two fistfuls of
plastic bags. For me though, the
appeal of the plastic bag is long
gone. I think I'll start putting my
Irish canvas grocery bag to use.
How appropriate that I learned
to go green on the Emerald Isle.
- Apr.16, 2007
Rachel Wagner is an LSA senior and a
member of the Daily's editorial board.

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