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On Plastic Bags

Yesterday’s Independent on a recent British Environment Agency report:

…an HDPE plastic bag would have a baseline global warming potential of 1.57 kg Co2 equivalent, falling to 1.4 kg Co2e if re-used once, the same as a paper bag used four times (1.38 kg Co2e).

A cotton bag would have to be re-used 171 times to emit a similar level, 1.57 kg Co2e.

The researchers concluded: “The HDPE bag had the lowest environmental impacts of the single use options in nine of the 10 impact categories. The bag performed well because it was the lightest single use bag considered.”

My grandfather is a registered plastic bag lobbyist in Ontario. This doesn’t mean that I’m in any way beholden to the plastic bag industry (it’s not his primary source of income so it’s not like he would be out shivering in the cold or anything if he stopped being a plastic bag lobbyist, and in fact I’ll be damned if I draw his attention to this study), but it does mean that I’ve had the opportunity to yell at him at the Sunday dinner table for being ridiculous on several occasions, only to have him, unscathed, throw the same boiler-plate arguments I’d just refuted back in my face. And from this experience, I’d like to think that I’ve refined my perspective on this topic, which is this:

  1. Yes, plastic bags are individually less harmful than either paper or (in all likelihood) cloth;
  2. Yes it’s dumb to ban them, BUT!
  3. Toronto’s decision to make stores charge $.05 per bag, which has reduced plastic bag sales by 70-80% in the city is still a massively good thing because…
  4. A nickel (if the plan to phase out the penny goes forward) is the least possible amount of money you can charge someone, and therefore…
  5. The charge is more a prompt to customers to assess whether or not a plastic bag (or 5) is even necessary or any more convenient than just putting the pack of gum you just bought in your pocket, and I’d contend that the biggest part of this 70 to 80% reduction stems from exactly this kind of optimization (recall that the first and greatest R is Reduce!);
  6. Paper bags seem no more popular than they were before the ban and I use my cloth bags for all kinds of things other than groceries that plastic bags would be useless for (an added value unaccounted for in the study), and haven’t bought a new one in over a year; and finally
  7. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. QED.

Also, paper and cloth bags are not the only alternative. No Frills (a Toronto-area discount grocery store), instead of recycling all the banana boxes their produce is shipped in, throws them into big bins near the check-out kiosks for customer use (recall that the second R is Reuse!). The bins are just there, and the conscientious among us are free to bring our boxes back with us on our next visit, and throw them right back into the heap. This is awesome, and what all stores should do.


Update: Oh man, I was on the bus yesterday night and totally realized I’d illustrated this post with the wrong bit of media. The right bit of media?


The Westboro Baptist Church is Probably Going to Have a Rough Couple of Weeks

So Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church of “God Hates Fags” fame, under threat of attack from “hacktivists” Anonymous, issued a brazen “come-hell-or-highwater” response yesterday. It was probably not the smartest thing they ever did?





*Here’s a copy of the Phelps letter:

Needless to say, their website is currently down. When you goad a group that successfully took down the websites of Visa, Amazon, and Paypal, you’ve probably picked a battle you can’t win — even if God is on your side! Because God is notoriously not tech-savvy!

Anyway, I encountered the lovely people from the WBC in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in the “free speech zone” and I’ve felt bad for their poor, poor children ever since. Here’s part one of a BBC documentary on the group. (Probably NSFW, what with all the “fags” being bandied about.) You will probably feel bad for their children, too!

(via Reddit)


A Warm Introduction from the Tyrants at Brutish&Short.com

So in 1993, noted fat person Al Gore invented the Internet, which everybody knows because everybody heard him say that in a debate with somebody or maybe George Bush said it or was that Swift Boating or was it ‘97 or even 2000? Something about black boxes, I think. Lockboxes? Doesn’t matter, it’s a stupid question that everybody knows is wrong because Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet; the Internet was just there from the beginning and everyone knows that so get over it already. I mean, Jesus.
Anyway, so the point of this website is that the Internet needs scrupulous and worthy and honorable guardians and gatekeepers, and since we’re not gonna be seeing any of those sprouting up like daffodils or blades of grass from, like, the ether anytime soon, or leaping to the defense of the Internet from the Internetty shadows — even though the Internet obviously needs all the help it can get because it’s like a guy holding up a convenience store, only reversed, where the guy getting held up is the Internet, you know? That’s what the Internet’s like right now! And we — the people of this website — are just here to be the good citizen in the convenience store who’s all like, “Hey, buddy jackass, hey you! Hey, guy holding up the Internet right now. You? Yeah, you! ‘Hey’ much? ‘Hey’! Knock it off!” and then we tackle the gun from the bad guy’s hands and smash into the rack stacked with 99 cent chips which explode (BOOMBOOMBANGclatterclatter) all over the linoleum, which will make it look cool on the YouTube video — from the surveillance camera, guys, never forget the surveillance camera.  Anyways. Then (getting back to the story), after all that, we get up — and we have the bad guy’s gun now, remember — and we say, “Hey, bad guy! HEY! Stay down! STAY DOWN! The police are on the way! THE POLICE! ARE ON! THE WAY!” And the bad guy does stay down! Because guns! And then, to top it all off, the Internet comes out from behind the deli counter and kisses us on the cheek and we blush and you can hear the sirens in the background and see them start flashing red and blue off the buildings and the camera fades out to a montage of skyline shots of the city you happen to be in. And all of that’s ALSO on the YouTube video! Or maybe it’s even on Vimeo, if the camera’s good! And there’s a really inspiring song playing right at the end — a really inspiring one, with maybe a piano or an organ or maybe a choir or something like that — and remember how the Internet is the girl/guy and in the end we get him/her — we get to win his/her heart?

This website is exactly like that.

Sincerely yours,

~The Editors

PS – If you haven’t already, check out our Inflammatory Writ.

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