Archive for November, 2007

Plastic Jesus and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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We were somewhat taken by surprise when we saw the plastic illuminated nativity scene in front of our subdivision. Yes, the majority (including PlanetTrash) home owners are Christians, and we don’t want to get into the silliness over “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas” or whether the nativity scene is spiritually correct and will insult our Muslim neighbors. In this country, the majority rules, but the minority has the right to disagree. We find the plastic illuminated nativity scene tacky. It doesn’t represent the true meaning of Christmas to us. It’s an example of what this blog is all about – too much manufactured stuff that will wind up in landfills or in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

While baby Jesus looks sweet and innocent, I have this vision of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Wise Men broken, discarded and floating in the Pacific Ocean in the infamous Garbage Patch.

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When Man Is Gone

A co-worker has recommended Alan Weisman’s book, The World Without Us.

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One Toke Over the Line

And two garbage bags full of pot found during a roadside litter pick up along I-4 in Florida.

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A Response to Share about Plastic Bags

Jarron Springer, president of the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association, responded to a post I left on my councilman’s Yahoo group about plastic bags. Thanks, Mr. Springer, for your insight. and for giving me permission to share your comments here. Springer discusses reusing plastic bags, which I have done. I reuse them for storing shoes, dirty laundry while traveling, as a trash bag in small trash cans, carrying my lunch to work, etc., but I want to get away from them as much as possible. The bags eventually make their way to the landfills. I’m glad to know that the stores encourage and accept canvas bags. Possibly, Publix, Kroger and other chains could produce these canvas bags with their logos on them.

The ban on plastic bags in San Francisco is not actually a ban on plastic, but a mandate to use bags that break down faster in land fills. The problem with using these bags is that if they are mixed with regular plastic bags to be recycled, they ruin the entire batch of bags trying to be recycled.

If you compare paper and plastic bags, the energy used to make bagsand overall environmental “footprint”, plastic bags are by far more environmentally friendly. If you look back to when paper was the primary grocery bag of choice, people were looking to find an alternative because [of] the environmental “footprint” paper caused (cutting trees, processing the paper and the energy consumed.) Plastic was the answer and a huge environmental improvement. Of course reusable canvas type bags are best overall, and you do see grocers promoting the use of reusable bags. Grocers would love to see canvas bags used – it would save them money.

Ireland has taxed/banned bags so that canvas is used primarily, the problem now is that more small bathroom sized garbage bags (that take much longer than traditional grocery style plastic bags to break down) are being purchased for use in small garbage cans – a place where most people reuse their plastic bags now.

Please take these comments into account and I would be happy to share details to back up my statements if you or anyone else would
like to know more about the issue. The grocery and plastics industry takes the issue very seriously and works hard to assure that the best methods are used to keep our environment safe for us all.

PlanetTrash: Mr. Springer, what do grocery stores do with the plastic bags that we leave in the recycle bins at their stores? I hate plastic grocery bags getting caught in trees. Could grocery stores follow Costco lead and use boxes to put our groceries in when we check out?

There is actually a high demand for the bags and they are quite valuable in the recycling world. A recycling company picks up the bags from the store
and they are converted to new products. Plastic lumber, more bags and plastic pellets are a few of the uses for recycled bags. Grocers are taking the lead and voluntarily setting up plastic bag bins in front of their stores.

Obviously the consumer must choose to recycle to make it work to the best it can. Don’t forget that consumers reuse plastic bags around the house, etc. And Reuse is also a part of the “Three R’s” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. All three R’s have a place, but it seems that Reduce gets an abundance of the
focus and we don’t remember that Recycling and Reusing is a major part of making the world the best it can be because we do need certain items and
products (including plastic bags) to assist us in our everyday lives.

The bags are light weight, so they do get caught in the wind and blow in to trees, etc – therefore getting more attention than other litter issues. As for the Costco question, grocers recycle their boxes that are used to deliver products to the stores. All grocers have huge box bailers in their back rooms that break down the boxes into bails and have a recycler pick those items up. For a traditional grocery format, use of boxes to carry out the items is not an efficient option for the retailer or the customer.

Feel free to post my comments on your blog. It is an issue that is important to the grocery industry and I wanted to share thoughts from the retailer
perspective so you and others will understand that the industry is taking a comprehensive approach to address the issue. Looking to all aspects of the
issue and not just eliminating the use of the bags. You may want to take a look at http://www.progressivebagalliance.com/ as well to learn more about
ways the industry is addressing the issue.

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Ways to Reduce Accepting Plastic Bags

I’m overjoyed that San Francisco is now plastic bag free. Since retailers in our area readily stick any item in a plastic bag, I sometimes struggle saying, “No thanks.” So here are two helpful hints to avoid taking that plastic bag out of the store:

  • Put a canvas tote in the car or stash one in the office (if you’re riding the bus that day) to have it available for last minute shopping before getting home from work. Often, I’ve had to stop to pick up a last minute item for dinner without a canvas tote available.
  • Yesterday, I bought cat food in a paper bag and a bag of dog biscuits. The clerk put both into separate plastic bags, although the items didn’t need them. I told her that I didn’t want the plastic bags, so she removed the items. Then she helped me carry my pet food to the car.

After an hour or two of shopping, I brought home one plastic bag with a pair of sweatpants in it. I have guilt feelings if I’m walking around a mall or a grocery store with an item in my personal tote. I’m sure time and more folks refusing plastic will help those feelings.

I’m going to contact public officials in my city and state and request that they follow San Francisco’s lead. Hey, just think of all that petroleum we’re going to save.

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Good News for Tennessee Trash

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Here’s an article from Associated Content:

According to the Tennessee.gov News Center, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, along with the Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely, has announced that all 95 counties in the state would receive grants to keep roads clean and litter-free as part of the StopLitter campaign. The Governor announced that the grants would total in $3.8 million and would be distributed over a specific amount of time to all the counties.

Governor Bredesen said in the announcement, “Each year volunteers pick up nearly 25.5 million pounds of roadside litter. Litter is an eye-sore, it’s costly to clean up and is harmful to our environment, but it’s totally preventable.”

As stated, the grants to help clean up litter would be distributed over a specific amount of time. Additionally, the grants will be given out annually as well to every single county.

“These funds will be used by counties across the state to organize their pick-up efforts as well as educational campaigns to teach children and adults about the importance of keeping Tennessee beautiful,” added the Governor.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Nicely also commented on the grants: TDOT awards approximately $3 million each year to help local communities in their efforts to stop litter in Tennessee.

However, many residents were concerned about where the grant money was coming from, to which Nicely assured, “These funds are obtained through the collection of a specialty tax on the malt beverage and soft drink industry through the Litter Grant Bill which was enacted by the General Assembly in 1981.”

Some counties will also receive more money than others. The money alloted depends on the size, the number of roadway miles, and the population in each individual county.

Additionally, the grants have strict guidelines. The money must go for little clean-up efforts and for litter prevention education programs within each county. The funding for the educational aspect of the effort can go towards programs in schools as well.

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Photos of Our Sanctuary and Our Home, Planet Earth

“And God saw that it was good.”

 

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And we want what was given to us to last forever.

 

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Let Earth renew itself during every orbit around the sun.

Happy Thanksgiving from PlanetTrash!

Please don’t litter. Please don’t take more than you need.

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