Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Righting a Wrong in Illinois

A 12-year-old girl in Illinois saw the damage that plastic bags were doing to her environment. She asked her town to step up and put an end to plastic bags. Big Plastic noticed. They lobbied to get a bill written making it ILLEGAL for any town to ban plastic bags. Instead, the bill pushes the failed fable of plastic-bag recycling as the way forward. They're hoping to make it a model bill for all states!
Abby Goldberg, Grayslake, Illinois, USA
But it seems that Big Plastic bulled the wrong 12-year-old kid. This girl, Abby Goldberg, isn't backing down without a fight of her own. She's published a petition to convince the Governor to overturn this bit of extreme silliness.

Abby is the future. She is a very brave young champion, with a vision of a world that's less polluted instead of more. The petition drive is going viral. There were a few hundred signatures early this afternoon. Now there are close to 7,500 (Today, June 26, one week later, there are close to 150,000!!). If you agree with her stance, please take a moment to add your name to the list.


  1. There are several issues with Abby's petition; unfortunately change.org doesn't allow for counterpoint on posted petitions. I agree it is admirable that this young person is so passionate about taking action for the environment. I don't agree that a ban is the way to accomplish what she's trying to do. A couple of issues: 1)Re:"control the rights of citizens in towns all over America" - does banning a citizens right to a plastic bag not restrict them? 2) "Local communities should be able to decide for themselves" - Can local communities not create awareness campaigns and decide collectively not to use plastic bags out of choice, rather than create an unenforceable ban? Which is more behaviorally effective? 3) Lastly, a point - who decides that grocery store plastic bags are single-use? I use them as my garbage bags. I'm not a scientist, but I'm thinking the flimsy grocery store bags use less plastic and are likely more bio-degradable than say, a reinforced hefty bag.

    Just my .02.

    1. Thx much for the thoughtful comments. Will respond this evening when back nr a computer that doesn't lock up constantly.

    2. Beatrice, what do you mean unenforceable? When the stores no longer purchase the plastic bags from companies, there will quickly be no plastic grocery bags left in that area and therefore automatically enforced. And despite your notion of using the bags as your garbage bag, they are still single-use. Once you toss the bag into a larger garbage bag or a dumpster, it will never be used again nor will it be recycled. So using it twice before polluting does not make it much better and there are reasons it is worse than a hefty bag for the environment (think sheer numbers produced as well as weight vs. wind).

      If you don't know the facts of why banning is the best option, do a little research.


    3. Regardless of the mountain of misguided misinformation about these bags, banning them will not improve anything except some gentrification efforts. They have a smaller carbon footprint that paper bags; they are 100% recyclable; and contrary to close minded LB, they are definitely reusable for many tasks, unlike any of the alternatives. And those that will be impacted the most are the lower income population who by necessity can think better than LB of the many uses for these multi-use plastic bags after removing the groceries. This is a misguided example of the lowest form of political correctness gone very wrong. Abby, get more information, please.



      Abby, the only pollution on Earth is the human race. If seeing litter bothers you, work vigilantly to promote full access to birth control.
      Humans are the problem, not plastic bags.

    4. Dr. Jawn, your arguments are plastic-industry boilerplate, and fall apart at the slightest tug. Plastic bags are found in gutters, drains, trees, parks, beaches, caught in the gears at recycling centers, and filling the bellies of dead sea life. When is the last time that a paper bag clogged up a drain, blocked an endangered animal's intestine, or gummed up machinery? Removing plastic bags most certainly & clearly will benefit the landscape.

      The "100% recyclable" statement has also been gutted. They are only recyclable when -extremely- clean. By their very nature only a small percent are clean. The plastic bag-makers puff up their recycling numbers by conveniently combining sterile recycled industrial film with post-consumer plastic bags. They bury the true rate that post-consumer bags are recycled & refuse time & again to tell the truth.

      Pretending to care about lower income folks? You know that plastic-bag costs are buried in grocery store bills, plus they siphon away city/state resources that could have been used in many ways besides waste cleanup. You also know that low-income doesn't mean unresourceful, and the idea that a grocery bag is a necessity that can't easily be replaced by something else is an insult.

      "Humans are the problem" is also boilerplate plastic-industry talk. It completely neglects the truth that most plastic-bag litter comes from accidents that are beyond the control of a well-meaning person. Plastic bags blow out of hands, trash bags, recycling bins, recycling trucks, and landfills easily because they're -extremely- poorly designed. But it's far simpler to blame end users and put all the responsibility on them, than it is to rethink an extremely lucrative business plan -- no matter the effect that plan has had on the environment.

      I'm all for seeing problems from both sides. But I don't like industry-speak masquerading as regular people discussing an issue.

  2. Hi again Beatrice. Sorry if this seems long, I want to lay out my thoughts, coz I appreciate how you worded yours... First & foremost, thickness of a bag is no measure of how biodegradable it is. Bags are made of polyethylene, and nothing in the entire -world- is known to digest and break down polyethylene. Sunlight makes it brittle so it cracks, but it just cracks down into smaller pieces of plastic. The best proof of this? Despite all the bag industry's rhetoric & twisting of facts, even -they- have never suggested that any of their bags break back down. In many ways, the thin flimsy bags are far worse than the big thicker ones because they blow away so easily.

    Re awareness campaigns. It would be nice to think that they work. But "Keep America Beautiful" and the crying Indian have been around 40 years, and trash gets worse every year. The Ocean Conservancy runs an international cleanup every year, for 26 yrs now. Every year more & more trash, almost all of it plastic, is found on beaches. The problem with plastic-bag awareness is that, everyone already is aware! Most bags that litter the landscape aren't willfully tossed as litter. They blow out of hands, car windows, trash bins, dumpsters, recycling bins, and landfills. They're -really- poorly designed. So I don't think awareness has much to do with it, and we can pump tons of money into awareness campaigns with little effect.

    Re the term "single use," sure you can find a second use for a bag -- like you can find a second use for a holed, stained sock as a rag. That doesn't make it a multi-use item. It's intended as an item that takes your groceries home one time. The next time you go to the grocery, it's intended that you take a new set of bags home. If we wanted them to be known as "two-use" items, we should market & sell them as such.

    The last part is the trickiest -- the rights of a city vs. the state. There's an argument that if a state bans plastic bags, that also takes away local control. I see it differently. A city that wants to ban the bag is a city that wants its entire community to be cleaner, with lower waste/cleanup costs. On the other hand, a city that wanted to use plastic bags when the state has banned them is a city that values an individual's convenience over the community's cleanliness. There's semantics involved, but I believe a city/town's rights are far more harmed when they're not allowed to maintain their community's whole environment than when they can't promote an individual's convenience.

    We might not agree in the end, and I respect that. But I hope that something of the above makes sense.

  3. If it is true all politics is local, then a town/city's will ought to go before the rest. How environmental do you want to be and why on this issue ought to be the questions. Rather than no bags or bags used at will, what about a compromise? I can still remember when bottles were returnable and you got a few cents each for doing so. Could there be such an incentive in place for plastic bags? What about bring us so many and we'll give you in it's place a nice cloth re-usable one? I mean come on, this isn't rocket science.

    1. I agree there should be compromises. Places like Washington, DC enacted small fees -- 5 cents a bag -- and saw bag use plummet by 80-90%! Sadly, the industry knows this too. They fight anything that smacks of compromise. In California, when towns wanted to put a fee on plastic bags, the industry held each attempt up in court, forcing towns to file very expensive Environmental Impact Assessments -- even though such info was already available generally. The industry says they want to preserve choice. But in truth, they're terrified of anything that reminds consumers that they have a choice. The tiniest fee or "bother" involved with a plastic bag, and consumers run toward other things. If you look across the country at every effort at reasonable compromise that has a real chance of lowering bag waste/litter, you'll see the fingerprints of the plastics industry trying to kill it.

  4. I like your blog post. Keep on writing this type of great stuff. I'll make sure to follow up on your blog in the future.
    Jay Katari