How Do We Solve the Plastic Bag Problem?

The European Commission is to publish proposals in the spring designed to reduce the number of plastic bags used in Europe each year. Most of the 15,000 people who took part in a public consultation favoured an outright ban – but what are the options?

Last year Italy became the first country in Europe to ban non-biodegradable single-use plastic bags. A number of countries have banned very thin plastic bags, including China, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh – in Bangladesh’s case, it was found that the bags had clogged up the drainage system, exacerbating deadly floods.

The Republic of Ireland introduced a charge of 15 euro cents (12p, 20 US cents) per bag in March 2002, which led to a 95% reduction in plastic bag litter. Belgium, Germany, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands are among the countries following Ireland’s lead.


If shoppers stop using plastic bags, they must start using other kinds of bags, but there is no perfect solution. Stronger, heavier bags, whether made of fabric or plastic, have a bigger environmental impact than standard supermarket shopping bags. For instance, if a plastic bag is used just once, then a paper bag must be used three times to compensate for the larger amount of carbon used in manufacturing and transporting it, a plastic “bag for life” must be used four times, and a cotton bag must be used 131 times.

Paper bags have been the traditional shopping bag of choice in the US, but while these biodegrade in landfill, the UK Environment Agency study points out that they have a higher carbon footprint than standard plastic carrier bags. It also says the available evidence suggests paper bags are not generally reused, either as bin liners – a purpose for which they are not well suited – or for other purposes.

Source: BBC News

Image: Packaging Innovations

Google Stalks You Online

When Google announced its new policy, lovingly explaining its reason as “our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google,” the authorities in Europe immediately told the Internet leviathan to put off its March 1 start date until European Union officials had a chance to review Google’s new quest for beauty and simplicity.

Europeans, it turns out, are much less trusting of invasions of our electronic privacy than Americans are. Americans have an intense aversion to government intrusion. But in the case of Google’s latest move to consolidate user’s data, however, most Americans paid little attention. Here’s what Google knows about you, what it stores right there on its servers, waiting for a hacker:

Google has every e-mail you ever sent or received on Gmail. It has every search you ever made, the contents of every chat you ever had over Google Talk. And so on. Google can even track searches on your computer when you’re not logged in for up to six months. You’ve Googled it. You can never undo it or unclick it. It stays there forever. Unless the people demand that government order a stop to it.


The European Commission has a new privacy proposal known as the “Right to be forgotten.” It would allow Internet users in 27 countries of the European Union to demand Internet companies delete their personal data.

Online hoarding of our private information is not something we can afford to “dismiss.” The only effective way to change the ways of these giant corporations — and the smaller ones following the same practices — is by pushing the government to make those practices illegal. We can start by following Europe’s example.

Source: CNN

Image: The Guardian