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Environmental connections to public health >>

Paper or plastic? Never mind

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's a question that may soon be irrelevant in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Last week San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to ban plastic checkout bags at large grocery and pharmacy chains, starting next year. The stores will have the option of using either recycled paper bags or compostable corn starch bags.

Not to be outdone, this week the LA County supervisors directed the public works department to study the problem of plastic bags and within three months recommend an option, including the possibility of an outright ban.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Charlie Goodyear says:

Fifty years ago, plastic bags -- starting first with the sandwich bag -- were seen in the United States as a more sanitary and environmentally friendly alternative to the deforesting paper bag. Now an estimated 180 million plastic bags are distributed to shoppers each year in San Francisco. Made of filmy plastic, they are hard to recycle and easily blow into trees and waterways, where they are blamed for killing marine life. They also occupy much-needed landfill space.
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