Efforts to Reduce Single-Use Plastics are Put on Hold During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(Via Flickr)

Nicole Welle | May 18, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused states to suspend bans on plastic bags, and some grocery stores are no longer allowing customers to shop using reusable bags due to public health concerns.

States like California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Hawaii, New York, Vermont and Oregon have all moved to ban the use of plastic bags in recent years to reduce plastic waste, but they are being forced to reconsider these bans as COVID-19 has made shopping with reusable bags unsafe. Because the virus can live on surfaces, contaminated reusable bags could become a health risk to store employees and other shoppers who come in contact with them or the surfaces they are placed on, according to an npr article.

Many stores that have not provided customers with lightweight plastic bags for years have had to begin stocking them again. Stores in California are also no longer charging 10 cents per bag as was required by law before the pandemic started, according to an article in The Mercury News.

Much of the personal protective equipment, like gloves, masks and other face and body coverings, required during the pandemic also has plastic components. As more businesses are allowed to reopen, the use of PPE by the public going out for the first time is likely to increase. Many businesses are now requiring customers to wear a face mask before entering, and many of the plastic face coverings used by the public are being discarded improperly.

Public health is a top priority during a pandemic, and these changes were necessary to maintain safe environments for shoppers and store employees. However, the increase in plastic bag use and improperly discarded PPE may take a toll on the environment. According to an article published by Environmental Health News, plastics are toxic to marine animals that ingest them, plastic in landfills can leach harmful chemicals into the groundwater, and plastics floating in the ocean can even serve as transportation for invasive species that disrupt habitats. Plastic production is also responsible for a large percentage of the world’s fossil fuel use.

Lawmakers are hopeful that these rollbacks on regulations regarding single-use plastics will be temporary, but they are unable to establish a timeline due to the uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last.

City, county officials to study possible ban on plastic bags at Iowa City landfill

(Kate Ter Haar/Flickr)
(Kate Ter Haar/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | July 1, 2016

Over the coming months, officials with the City of Iowa City and Johnson County will conduct research to determine the potential effects of a plastic bag ban at the Iowa City landfill.

Plastic bags account for about 360 tons – or 0.3 percent – of the Iowa City landfill’s annual intake. As part of the city’s Waste Minimizing Strategy, officials aim to not only reduce the number of plastic bags in the landfill but also cardboard and electronic devices.

The idea of a plastic bag ban has been floated in Iowa City multiple times in recent years. The Iowa City Council discussed a plastic bag ban in 2008, after San Francisco implemented a first-in-the-nation ban, however an Iowa City ban was never implemented. 100 Grannies for a Liveable Future – an Iowa City-based advocacy group – supported a plastic bag ban in 2012, but efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. Another unsuccessful attempt to ban plastic bags in Iowa City occurred in 2014.

Marshall County was the first and is currently the only place in the state that has banned plastic bags after a 2009 decision by the Marshall County Board of Supervisors.

To find out about plastic bag legislation in your area, visit www.bagtheban.com/in-your-state.

Happy Earth Day!

Photo by Cornelia Kopp; Flickr.
Photo by Cornelia Kopp; Flickr.

How are you celebrating Earth Day 2014?

Apple is flaunting a new video, “Better,” that emphasizes the company’s commitment to going green. The video introduces a new electronic recycling program, where customers can take any old Apple product to any Apple store (or send it in the mail) and the company will either give money back  to you or properly recycle the product to keep it out of landfills.

In the Des Moines Register’s Iowa View, Tom Brooks suggests making the switch to biofuels. Biofuels are renewable, sustainable, and are produced locally as well for a great way to promote Iowa jobs as well as our environment.

Or, take your plastic bags to the Iowa City Ped Mall between noon and 4 p.m. for the Reusable Bag Campaign, by the UI Environmental Coalition. Reusable bags will be handed out in exchange!

For more information on Earth Day and how you can participate, click here.

On the Radio: No plastic bag ban for Iowa City

Photo by heal the bay, Flickr
Photo by heal the bay, Flickr

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses a decision by council members to allow the continued use of plastic bags in Iowa City.

Council members have decided not to ban plastic bags in Iowa City.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

Iowa City wont ban plastic bags

Photo by heal the bay, Flickr
Photo by heal the bay, Flickr

Council members have decided not to ban plastic shopping bags in Iowa City.

The council members felt that recycling and education efforts are working, and they didn’t want to put Iowa City at a competitive disadvantage compared to nearby communities.

Read more from The Gazette here.

100 Grannies group works to ban plastic bags

Photo by Idiolector, Flickr.

A new environmental group has emerged in the Iowa City area: 100 Grannies.

This group of about 30 local grandmothers is currently working on reducing plastic bag waste. They are pushing local officials to ban plastic bags in Iowa City with the hope of then expanding the ban to all of Johnson County.

On Sunday, 100 Grannies will host a Ban the Bag event in downtown Iowa City. For the event, 100 Grannies are asking community members to bring their plastic bags. They will then tie these bags together to give a visual demonstration of how many bags are wasted. All the bags will then be recycled.

Read more from the Press-Citizen here.

Waterloo students promote recycling

Photo by Kevin Krejci, Flickr

Students at Lowell Elementary School in Waterloo took part in a series of projects to highlight the negative environmental impact of plastic litter.

One project involved collecting 600 old T-shirts and stitching them into reusable grocery bags. The students also wrote a book tracking the journey of a plastic bag as it travels from the grocery store to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The book and bags will be sold at a community event next Saturday. The proceeds will go towards ocean clean-up and marine animal rescue.

Read the WCF Courier’s full article on the students’ efforts here.

Reusable bag use on the rise

Photo by MD Anderson's Focuse on Health, Flickr

Iowans are using reusable bags more than ever before, but some U.S. cities are showing Iowa that there’s room for considerable improvement. The Press-Citizen reported yesterday that, based on non-quantified information, more people in our state more people bring reusable bags to grocery stores than ever before. Additionally, some grocers are creating incentives to encourage customers to bring these reusable bags: Continue reading