Millions of disposable plastic bags are used and discarded in Washington each year. A beached grey whale was found in West Seattle in 2010 with 20 plastic bags in its stomach. Small pieces of plastic can absorb toxic pollutants like DDT and PCB. Scientists have found that fish are ingesting these toxins when they ingest plastic, concentrating the chemicals in the food chain. There is a good chance that we also absorb these pollutants when we eat fish. The good news is, Washingtonians are taking action to protect the Sound. In 2009, Edmonds became the first city in the state to ban plastic bags. In 2011, six other cities joined the effort. Bellingham, Mukilteo, Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Port Townsend, and Issaquah all banned the bag, significantly cutting down on the amount of plastic flowing into Puget Sound. Today, dozens more communities are considering similar legislation, including Olympia. Local bans have an immediate impact and are a great start—but we can’t stop until bags are banned statewide. When plastic bags are part of mixed recyclables, they get caught in machinery, shutting down recycling operations.
Responding to an Environment
- Washington Research & Policy Center survey, 70 percent of Washington recycling companies want plastic bags out of the waste stream. Curbside recycling in some of Washington’s cities allows the inclusion of plastic bags in mixed recyclables but this actually causes problems in the recycling facilities.
- Over half of Washington’s recycling facilities do not even accept plastic bags. For those facilities, 83% reported that their recycling stream was contaminated with plastic bags and it was causing problems. When plastic bags pollute mixed recyclables, they get tangled in recyclers’ machinery, causing plants to shut down.
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Some recycling plants in Washington estimate spending 20 to 30 percent of their labor costs removing plastic bags from their Puget Sound is an irreplaceable treasure. It is central to Washington’s culture and our livelihood. Harbor seals play within our bays and thousands of salmon make their way through the Sound every year to spawn. Three endangered pods of resident orcas visit the Sound on a regular basis. Seabirds congregate on our beaches and in our arbors, belting out their familiar cries. And beneath the waves, the seafloor The problem is not limited to Puget Sound. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic, on average.
About one thousand miles off the Washington coast, more than 100 million tons of plastic garbage has concentrated in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 5 Churned by ocean currents, this toxic, plastic soup ps an area twice the size of Texas. 6 Within this area, plastic outweighs plankton by up to six times during certain imes of the day. 7 machinery – on the order of $1,000 per day.
- More than 70 percent of Washington recyclers want disposable plastic bags out of the waste system. China accepts more than half of all reclaimed plastic bags for recycling, and that number is rising.
- Plastic bag recycling plants in China expose workers to toxic fumes, create a haze that hangs over villages, and pollute groundwater sources. Consumers bring their own bags in many parts of the world. Washington can follow this example and ban bags.
- Nothing we use for a few minutes should end up contaminating our oceans for hundreds of years.
Because recycling efforts have proven inadequate, Washington’s civic leaders should ban single-use plastic bags. Researchers at the University of Washington-Tacoma have found plastic pollution in every water sample they have taken from Puget Sound. At least 20 nations and 88 local governments have passed bans on distributing thin plastic or other types of disposable plastic bags, Approximately 26 nations and local communities have established fee programs to reduce plastic bag use and/or increase the use of reusable alternatives, After Washington, D. C. , mplemented a much smaller 5-cent tax on plastic bags, the number of plastic bags distributed by food retailers fell from 22. 5 million per month to 3. 3 million per month. Edmonds was the first city in Washington to ban plastic bags, adopting a ban in 2009. More recently, Bellingham adopted a ban on thin-plastic carry-home bags and a 5 cents fee on paper bags in July 2011.Other cities, including Seattle, Lake Forest Park, and Mukilteo, are actively considering bag bans. To make a real impact, all Washington cities and counties should restrict the use of plastic bags, and dvocate for similar action at the state level
- Krehbiel, Robb. "Report: Keep Plastic Out of Puget Sound. " A Solution Not in the Bag. Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, Jan. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.
- Krehbiel, Robb. "Report: Keep Plastic Out of Puget Sound. " Keeping Plastic out of Puget Sound. Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, Nov. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.
- Krehbiel, Bobb. "News Release. " New Report: Recycling Cannot Solve Plastic Bag Problem. Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, 14 Feb. 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.
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