Urban tumbleweed at risk?

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Elling Lien is bagged.

The plastic shopping bag had its moment of glory almost ten years ago in a particular scene of the movie American Beauty. A bag dancing in the wind in Ricky’s video appeared so full of life that it made him believe there was a higher force in the universe which was guiding things, and making sure everything was going to turn out okay.

Aside from that temporary blip, public perception of plastic bags has been steadily in decline for the past decade. They may indeed float gracefully in the wind, but they also clog up drains, wash up on beaches, get trapped on fences, and get eaten by leatherback turtles. According to reusablebags.com, approximately 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year—and those bags aren’t leaving this world any time soon.

Several countries, regions, and cities have been slowly trying to to reduce the number of shopping bags they use through a tax or an outright ban.

(…Where’s your god now, bag?)

Our drinking buddy Ireland is widely lauded as a world leader among bag-haters. Six years ago they introduced a levy on plastic bags. Customers who wanted them had to pay 24 cents per bag. Between that and a series of public education commercials, they have since reduced their use of plastic shopping bags by 90%.

That’s a billion bags.

The money collected went to environmental program funding, and 9.6 million bucks was raised in the first year alone.

Is it time Newfoundland and Labrador followed in their footsteps and became—for once—an example of environmental sanity?

Yes, we’re not going to solve the problem of waste by getting rid of plastic bags, but—like curbside recycling—it’d be another step in the right direction. And it wouldn’t be difficult at all.

(In the meantime, why not join the folks at Ocean Net who are launching their annual beach, shoreline and underwater cleanup program—plenty of plastic bags to collect—from April 19 to April 22? www.oceannet.ca)