Rates of Biodegrading
Brown paper bag: 1-5 months
Cigarette filter: 12 years
Plastic bag, cap or lid: decades
Aluminum can: 2-5 centuries
Styrofoam clamshell: virtually forever
- According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion)
- Aside from energy used in production bags cause enormous environmental issues. Next time you’re in a park, or drive down the road, notice how many plastic bags you see stuck in the trees and shrubs, even along a beautiful creek. This isn’t just an issue of destroying the beautiful scenery. This is dangerous.
- Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
- Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.
- Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photo degrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest them.
So, what can we do?
- Reduce. Don’t automatically take a plastic bag — when asked “Paper or Plastic??” say “neither.” Carry small items or use a reusable bag. Have a few with you in the car; get in the habit of taking one into every store you go into. Not just super markets, but the Wawa, CVS, etc. Some grocery stores even give a cash credit for using your own bags.
- Reuse. the plastic and paper bags you have. Take your own into all the stores you visit.
- Recycle.You can recycle all the plastic bags you’ve collected at your local grocery store.This includes newspaper sleeves and dry cleaning bags.
Tip: If your market doesn’t have a bin to collect and recycle plastic bags, talk to the manager and encourage them to!
COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHTBULBS/CFL’S
- Use 75% less energy and last up to 10x longer than incandescent light bulbs
- Cost more ($4.48 vs. $0.42) but ultimately save $30 each over their long lifetimes because they use far less electricity.
- The EPA says that if every home replaced 1 incandescent light bulb with a CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of 800,000 cars.
Tip: Visit the EPA online for more info (why use them, mercury content, clean up and disposal) http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/
PLASTIC-WRAPPED ADVERTISEMENTS that get tossed onto our yards every week:
- Recycle the paper advertisements inside
- Recycle the plastic sleeve at the grocery store
- Call the telephone # in fine print on the sleeve and stop delivery. It really works!
Prepared by Barbara Silzle, Lansdowne Borough Council, Chair of Environmental Committee, 6/6/09