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Plastic Bags

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300881.  Sun Mar 23, 2008 1:29 pm Reply with quote

Not sure about this one: the 'myth' is that lots of wildlife is killed by plastic bags when the 'truth' is apparently that there isn't any evidence for that, although it is the case that there are lots of casualties from other forms of plastic litter such as discarded fishing nets.

The trouble is that 1) this may be a slightly footling point and 2) given the propensity for misinterpretation displayed by our viewers it's likely to come across as "Stephen Fry says it's OK to throw plastic bags in the sea".

Plastic bags ... kill 100,000 marine mammals and millions of birds a year. That's what we're told, but there is no evidence to back it up. The source of this claim is a 1987 study which found that 100,000 animals had been killed by discarded fishing nets between 1981 and 1984. A decade and a half later, this study was cited in an Australian government report, which mistakenly replaced "plastic litter" with "plastic bags". The erroneous detail was picked up by journalists, and has been doing the rounds ever since. The truth is that although marine mammals have been found with bags in their stomachs, no one knows how many creatures have been killed by them. Environmentalists, however, say it's unlikely to be a large number. "I've never seen a bird killed by a plastic bag," Professor Geoff Boxshall of the Natural History Museum told The Times. "Other forms of plastic in the ocean are far more damaging."

The Week, 22 March 2008, p19

301150.  Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:41 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
and 2) given the propensity for misinterpretation displayed by our viewers it's likely to come across as "Stephen Fry says it's OK to throw plastic bags in the sea".

As a matter of quite serious principle, Flash - albeit speaking as one who doesn't have to reply to the letters - I really don’t think that should be a factor. “Don’t say anything because thick people might misinterpret it” is one of the things that is currently bringing our civilization to a very imminent end.

301153.  Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:45 am Reply with quote

Anyway, here’s something which might make two halves into a whole question: I posted it during series D, but the rest of you - mistakenly, it has to be said, though I say it kindly and without wrath - did not find it as fascinating as I did ...

In a town newspaper recently, the “waste management officer” of Mendip District Council was responding to readers’ accusations that the reason the council provided kerbside collections of food waste, but not of plastic, was because food waste is heavier and therefore more quickly adds up to the tonnage demanded by Whitehall and Brussels targets.

Not so, says the man: “The fact is that biodegradable waste, if landfilled, causes a far greater environmental impact than plastic. I take the point that plastic does not rot down and therefore fills up landfill sites, but it is because it is inert that it causes minimal environmental problems compared with biodegradable waste. Biodegradable waste in landfills accounts for up to eight per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions as well as producing leachate, which needs to be treated, and if it enters water systems it can kill aquatic life and poses a very real hazard to public health.”

Source: Frome & Somerset Standard, 2 February 2006.

So, plastic waste is less harmful than food waste precisely because it doesn’t biodegrade - wouldn't you have assumed it was the other way around?

301156.  Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:52 am Reply with quote

While on the subject of witches’ knickers ...

This moronic, plastic-bag-banning bandwagon leaves another loose end: how do householders pre-sort waste for collection by the recyclers, without (as at present) putting different waste in separate plastic bags? Now, if this meant that the recyclers would have to take on more staff in order to sort the stuff themselves, that would be great news - but it won’t. What it’ll mean is less recycling. Another victory for reformism.


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