Hi MLE, Now that we have a climate change denier in the White House, it seems timely to report on my correspondence with UNICEF regarding responsible use of plastic bags. It was disappointing and frustrating.
They told me that it is okay to manufacture, and then discard tens of thousands of unused plastic bags for a few seconds of publicity at a tennis championship, even when many alternatives were available. The first photo above shows the audience at this event holding up these bags for a few seconds of television coverage. The second image shows all bags that were discarded afterwards.
Sure Donald Trump and governments around the world initiate environmental policies, but we all have to do our part for these to be effective. Unless individuals, corporations (not just groceries stores), and organisations (yes, even non profits like UNICEF), change the way they use plastic bags, this will remain a serious environmental issue.
I believe that we need to consistently speak up against such behaviour, if we want to see change. If we don’t say anything, it sends the message that we're okay with it, and such behaviour will likely continue on and on and on.
So I wrote UNICEF a letter. And they replied, with a very defensive letter stating they did nothing wrong:
- The bags were “low density polyethylene” - but most plastic bags are made out of this material. LDPE is non-biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.
- The bags could be reused as a plastic ‘bag for life’ - but this is a familiar argument. One of these thicker bags need to be used at least 7 times to justify replacing a thinner bag. The 15,000 ‘bags for life’ used at this tennis tournament are about the same as 105,000 thinner plastic bags. Importantly, no one ever asked for these bags, no one wanted them, and hardly anyone took their bag home with them to reuse.
- The bags are recyclable - but UNICEF never ensured that there were any recycling facilities available for us to put these bags for recycling. And of course, the solution is to reduce plastic bag consumption, not recycle. This is why many governments, including the UK, have imposed a charge for plastic bags in shops in an effort to reduce their numbers.
Yes, UNICEF's reply was disappointing and frustrating, especially as I am a UNICEF supporter. I admit that I expected that they would at least consider making even some small change... But I am happy I took the time to write to them, as I remain convinced that when people speaking up, with time, sometimes change can occur. It was better than doing nothing.
- The U.S alone uses 12 million barrels of oil every year to make plastic bags.
- 70% of marine pollution is caused by plastic.
- Because of the environmental damage they cause, many governments have banned plastic bags completely, including Mexico City and Italy.