It’s in the bag

Thank you, Mayor Cashell. Your idea of looking for ways to recycle trashbags is an excellent way to help improve the quality of life in the Truckee Meadows.

According to a story in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Cashell has asked “the Reno City Council to explore alternatives, including recycling barrels at stores, requiring retailers to use only biodegradable plastics or banning stores from using petroleum-based bags.”

There are many other alternatives for the little killers and resource-wasters, including reuseable shopping bags. Most stores have recycled versions of the square-bottomed bags for about a buck. The now-sold-off grocery store Albertson’s used to give a 10 cent discount per reusable bag used. Even the paper bag they give you when you correctly answer the question “Paper or plastic?” is a better choice than plastic bags. Lately, though, some stores have developed the annoying habit of saying, “Is plastic all right?” rather than offering the more sustainable choice (or not asking at all).

But why be pretentious? Cardboard boxes, beach bags, gym bags, suitcases, backpacks and old milk crates can all be used to tote groceries home. And admit it, the way Americans shop, often a bag is unnecessary.

Still, those little bags are serious business. According to an article, “How to live without plastic bags,”, that culled information from and, some 500 billion to 1 trillion bags are consumed worldwide. Of course, we only use about 100 billion of those in the United States, at a cost to retailers of around $4 billion.

One of the most serious effects of the bag epidemic is that the things are so lightweight, they end up sailing in the wind to land in water resources. They’re one of the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanup, and it’s easy to find them along the banks or stuck to a rock in the Truckee River. Many animals die every year from ingesting the things.

According to another article, “The Bag Beast,”, taxing the use of plastic bags is a very effective method at decreasing their use. There might even be enough money in the tax to help fill in the funding holes if a contractor for the new baseball stadium is found. (Just as an aside, was union labor used at last week’s ceremonial groundbreaking?}

“In March 2002, the government of Ireland imposed a 15-cent tax on each bag to control the country’s consumption of 1.2 billion plastic shopping bags per year,” the article said. “The consumer was charged at check out and behaviour changed immediately. The tax resulted in a 90 to 95 percent drop in consumption and more than a billion fewer bags consumed annually.

“The so-called ‘PlasTax’ also raised $9.6 million dollars in its first year that the Irish government earmarked for a ‘green fund’ for waste management and environmental initiatives. Retailers in Ireland, many of whom are now selling reusable bags, are also happy since they were spending $50 million a year on single-use plastic bags before the tax.”

There are a lot of opportunities should the city of Reno take the sustainable step of decreasing the use of plastic shopping bags in our community, and Mayor Bob Cashell is to be commended for his foresight. Our community should move swiftly on this issue.