Humor by Chason Gordon. See below.
Hello there, welcome to this week’s episode of “What’s Seattle Banning Now?” In today’s article we’re going to look at plastic bags, those thin, stretchy contraptions that carry your groceries all the way home. Some say they’re the scourge of the environment, others say they’re the pinnacle of efficiency. After the break, I’ll say some stuff as well.
Over the years Seattle has put the kybosh on many things that were beloved to me, including honking, Styrofoam, and wastewater discharge. How am I supposed to throw a party? What am I supposed to give kids on Halloween? And what about my latest art installation: Honking Styrofoam Car in Wastewater? I thought this city had taken all it could from me, but I was wrong.
In 2008, the City Council attempted to place a 20 cent fee on disposable plastic and paper bags at grocery stores, but it was later overturned by voters with a little help from the plastics industry, who spent over $1.4 million opposing the law (“There’s a great future in plastics”). This angered the City Council, or the Ephors, as I like to call them. They returned to their mountaintop to consult the oracle, and in December passed Ordinance 123775 (that’s my birthday!), which bans plastic bags, effective July 1.
What was supposed to be the first day of summer is now the beginning of the end (or the ending of the middle, however you phrase it). The law bans thin disposable bags at stores throughout the city, including plastic bag stores, which will surely go out of business. Specialty plastic bags are still permitted for meat, produce, newspapers (yes!), dry cleaning, and take out food, so if you can limit yourself to those items, you’ll be rolling in plastic. Customers who choose a paper bag will be charged a fascist 5 cent fee, while those with reusable bags will be patted on the back and given a ribbon.
My sources tell me this is all related to something called the “environment.” In case you don’t know, the environment is that empty space adjacent to you at all times. It often refers to forests and oceans and all the places where you can’t get a Reuben sandwich. According to City Council, Seattle uses approximately 292 million non-biodegradable plastic bags annually (is that bad?), and only 13 percent are recycled (that number is shocking to me, because I had no idea you could recycle plastic bags). It’s even been reported that in 2010, a beached gray whale was found with 20 plastic bags in its stomach (I bet it was the 20th bag that killed him).
That’s some pretty damning evidence, but is this a smear campaign against a defenseless inanimate object? Critics of the ban think so. They cite studies showing that paper and reusable bags use much more energy in production, how plastic bags tend to be reused for household chores, and that unwashed reusable bags often carry bacteria (I’ve also been told that whale was an asshole). In either case, it’s safe to say that people who keep statistics are annoying, because they’re like that friend at the bar who counts how many beers you’ve had.
This ban doesn’t really affect me, because I shoplift, but I’m still going to miss the cute little things. I love throwing them in the air like a balloon, and languidly pulling off those tiny loops underneath the handles. I love the way the bags swing from my hands and how they quickly unravel when I wind them up. Paper and reusable bags certainly have their purpose, but they have no grace. They are creased industrial monsters, all right angles and harsh edges. Think of that plastic bag scene in “American Beauty,” and then try to imagine it with a paper or reusable bag. That thing wouldn’t get off the ground.
There is also, of course, the issue of dog poop. Trying to pick up feces with a paper bag is a hell I don’t want to imagine, and I worry that many dog owners will simply leave it on the ground. If a few whales have to die for me to step on less dog shit, then that’s just the way it has to be (what?). Besides, if you carry dog poop in a plastic bag, it looks like you cleaned up after your dog, but if you carry dog poop in a paper bag, it looks like you bought it (ewww).
None of this ultimately matters, because Sunday is looming. I urge all plastic aficionados to stock up now and never give in, even if it turns out they’re wrong. This is America! If you want my plastic bag, you’ll have to pry it from my cold dead hand. It won’t be hard, because they rip pretty easily.
Originally appeared in The Capitol Hill Times, Seattle, June 28, 2012
image: Kate Ter Haar