Be Drastic, Don't Use Plastic

Lindsay Sagarang
October 13, 2008

Final Project Introduction:

Since the third grade I have been not using plastic bags, all because of what a teacher has said. We did a survey about who recycled in their homes and that’s when it all hit me, we were in a crisis and no one took it seriously. Plastic bags are ruining our lives and no one is trying to do anything about it. Plastic bags get stuck in the throats of tons of sea animals, but when we throw one away, all we think about is getting it off of our hands, we don’t think about how it can fly away and kill an innocent sea animal. GD6421801@Green-Sea-Turtle-and--3423.jpgLiving on an island, we have to realize how much of a difference all of our actions cause. We make bigger indents on our living areas because where we live is so small and limited with resources compared to places such as the mainland. Is it really that hard to not use a plastic bag? Costco doesn't.external image costco-2008-new-members-001.jpgcostco-2008-new-members-001.jpg

Comments from Ms. Y (re: Step 1):
Lindsay-This is a good start. I can see that you care about this topic (I do too!). I just have a few suggestions: 1) You might want to clarify "rejecting the assistance of plastic bags". Since this is your first sentence, you want to be sure to be clear to your reader. Also you might want to add the connection between "recycling" and plastic bags as this might not be apparent. Also, you say "all I want to know is, ..." It seems you might go further. I think you want to know more than this, such as "why do others not use cloth bags?" "What can businesses do to help this problem?" and maybe "What can I do to help others understand and not use plastic bags?" I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it isn't a simple question/problem thus your project will need to go beyond one question. Also, did you look for a graphic/media to accompany this intro? You're usually good about finding resources online, so I'm a little surprised here...

San Francisco’s Plastic Bag Ban Interests Other Cities.

The article starts in April of 2007 when a town in Canada stops using plastic bags and may charge up to 1,000 Canadian dollars if anyone uses one. A little more than a month afterwards, San Francisco banned plastic bags from the city. In January, New York said that big businesses have to recycle plastic bags. Texas, California, Connecticut, Oregon, Phoenix Arizona and Maryland are all thinking about banning plastic bags. Some of the other countries that are thinking about this-or are doing something about it-are: Germany, China, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Ireland, Modbury, and Sweden. In San Francisco a plastic bag making company offers thicker plastic bags for reuse, or thinner plastic bags for recycling. You can also get a “ChicoBag” which is a reusable bag that stuffs into itself and is around 3x4 at the smallest and gets up to 18x14.5 and can hold up to 25 pounds.

This article helped me to understand how many people besides us are being involved in this issue. There are many alternatives out there but the plastic bag companies don’t want us to ban them because they’ll have no jobs. Maybe, they could open their own reusable bag business or maybe with a new president, there will be possibilities for new jobs. Losing jobs seems to be the only problem stated in this article but I don’t think that’s a good reason to just not pass a bill. In the end, when we all die because of plastic bags, it won’t matter that there were jobs for the people who were causing our problems.
Will My Plastic Bag Sill Be Here in 2507?

In this article it shows much about how long plastic is supposed to stay around for. How crazy is it that your plastic bag will outlive you? We have no exact measurement because plastic bags have only been created for 50 years. The scientists put stuff like plastic, banana peels and newspapers and speed up the decomposition process in an experiment. The banana peel takes a few days to decompose and the newspapers take about 2-5 months. However, the plastic-they suppose-will last for about 500 years. The reason for this is because of the things that help decompose things. In plastic is something called polyethylene; something that the decomposers think is not food. So seeing that they don’t decompose the regular way, there is a way to decompose them; UV rays. UV rays make the fibers in the plastic weak and they start to fall apart.

This showed me that plastic bags are a real problem because of how long they are expected to last. They take up space in landfills where other things could be and we have no room to make more landfills; we already have one floating in the middle of the ocean. I also learned that there is something similar to biodegrade; photodegrade and it’s when something-like plastic bags- gets exposed to the sunlight and the fibers break apart.

Landfill in the Sea

There is a landfill the size of Africa; the weight of a million elephants in the middle of the Pacific Ocean 80% of it being plastic. The ocean has become some “plastic soup.” The trash comes from stuff that drifts into the ocean and gets caught in the North Pacific Gyre, which is a place where there is surrounding currents so that things-such as trash- don’t escape. Tons of sea life is caught in these pieces of trash and birds are eating it thinking it is food. As plastic breaks down, it gets really small and there are worries of plastic shaping the diets of things in the ocean.

All I can say is, have we really stooped to that level? Apparently, yes and there is no hope. Getting rid of the floating million-elephant-pound-Africa-sized landfill is too expensive for any country to do. We have to stop making plastic bags period. The only hope for the landfill is to stop making it bigger. The North Pacific Gyre is not that far from here, as it is between us and Japan, it is only a matter of time before we get sucked in and are a part of the trash heap too.
Plastic Bags Could Be History In Maui and Hawaii Counties

Recently in Maui they passed a ban on plastic bags that won’t take place until 2011; to prepare for the change. 92% of the stores on Maui said that they’d accept the bill and not use plastic bags. Another bill-for Hawaii- was tried, but failed. Many companies are selling reusable bags for customer’s use. There is talk about using paper bags, but paper is worse than plastic, the best solution is reusable or recyclable. Paper bags use up too much energy and are flimsy when it comes to wet things from stores.

This article helped me see the two points of view of the people here in Hawaii. At first I could not see any bad things for banning plastic bags. Now I see that if we were to use paper bags then the tax for them would be higher and would not thoroughly be “green” because of all the trees that would have to be killed. I realize that some of the companies don’t want to put more taxes on the people because it will make their sales go down (or so they think.) The best solution for all is to use reusable bags because the people won’t be taxed more for anything, and stores won’t have to pay for plastic bags in the first place. I think that people don’t want to buy reusable bags because they are too expensive, but if you think about it, when you use a reusable bag nowadays, you get some money taken off your bill. If you save all that money from the using a reusable bag, it will pay itself off in time. We could also have a “give a reusable bag away” one per family sale where each household would have one so they couldn’t complain. They probably have a website where you can design your own reusable bag if you don’t like the plastic bags. It really isn’t that much to ask.

Message in the Waves

Video quotes:
“if you have the privilege of enjoying something, you also have the responsibility to protect it.”
“the ocean is our life, as Hawaiians,”
“our islands are now facing a problem so large, that we Hawaiians can’t solve it alone.”
“these birds are giving their lives to show us what we’re doing to the oceans.”
“it will require all facets of society to solve”
“we just need to work out what’s important to us.”

Yes, I agree with this video. We need help, and soon. If we want to protect our sanctuary, we are going to have to take drastic action quickly. Pollution is not only a problem to those who care, but those who don’t either. Why would you live in Hawaii, and not have an ounce of love for the ocean? The ocean is our way of expressing ourselves, a place of recreation, a family, a home. How can we do this to one of our own? The ocean gives us so much, but we only take and disrespect in return.

Whole Foods

Plastic Bag

Paper Bag

Reusable Bag


Name: Michael Molina
Workplace: Maui County
Title: Maui County Council Member

1) What motivated you to choose this issue?

2) What have you done to try and solve this plastic bag problem in your community?

3) How do plastic bags specifically affect our ecosystem?

4) How much of a difference does one person using a reusable bag make?

5) What problems have you run into given the solution you've proposed?

6) How can we solve this problem?

7) Could we possibly use the same solutions that other countries have used?

8) What do you think is a good alternative to plastic bags other than a ban on them?

9) What would you hope to see happening with this issue in the future?

10) What is a simple step someone could take in their daily life to help this problem?

Comments from Ms. Y (re: Steps 2 & 4):
Lindsay- Outstanding work! You have found relevant and intriguing articles, starting with your very first one. It is so important to see what can be done and following other city's examples is a good place to start. They're even farther ahead of us on Maui! Why do you think this is so difficult on Oahu? You also did a great job with posting your questions and responses from the council member. This is a model project so far. Let me know if you need help with your Action Plan...

For my action plan, one of my ideas is to wrap my Christmas presents in reusable bags from Whole Foods. This is to reduce the amount of paper thrown away each Christmas. I've convince my mom to wrap her presents in reusable bags too. I could put some facts on the Christmas card that I give to them to inform them more about plastic bags. For the class, I can bring them reusable bags with the info cards on it too.
I wrapped all of my Christmas presents in these bags and convinced my mom to do so also. Here are my pictures:

I also connected a little piece of paper that had the following information on it:

be drastic, don't use plastic;

“if you have the privilege of enjoying something, you also have the responsibility to protect it...the ocean is our life, as Hawaiians,”
•The average person uses 300 plastic bags per year
•North Pacific Gyre is the size of Africa, the weight of a million elephants in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and 80% of it is plastic.
•There ARE simple steps to take: ChicoBags, simple Reusable bags, not using a plastic bag, bringing the cart to your car to load, or combining your groceries in less plastic.

Final Comments:
Lindsay- You have done a fabulous job with your project, from start to finish! Each step of the way shows thought and that you were truly applying yourself. I especially loved your idea for your Action Plan (and also impressed that your mom did this too!). This way, you took your learning beyond students and our class, but also to people in your lives, such as family and friends. Plus the bags are so cute and the information you attached is right on target. It is important to stick to a few facts to try to reach out to people and the facts you chose are compelling indeed! And then, you didn't stop there, but also did two more things that I was amazed by: you bought bags for all of your classmates. This was thoughtful and generous of you and continues to promote this cause beyond the presentation day. And also, even your presentation was incredible.You were prepared, clear and again made smart choices in what it is you needed to communicate. I hope that laws get passed on Oahu in the near future to ban plastic bags- perhaps you will be the one to help make this happen! I'm very proud of you and hope you are too.