{jb_quote}Don't blow it - good planets are hard to find.{/jb_quote}

~ Quoted in Time

Greenrock began the No Thanks! project in 2012. The project is aimed at reducing the consumption of single-use bags in Bermuda, as part of an on-going campaign to convey the environmental implications of overuse and waste, and to empower consumers and retailers to adopt positive alternatives.

Greenrock hopes the project will encourage the community to use re-usable bags and say "No Thanks!" to single-use bags.

Most of us use lightweight plastic and paper grocery bags every day when we go shopping. They are convenient, but they pollute our land and our oceans, use valuable resources, and cause a human health hazard. That's an extreme price for 10 or 15 minutes of convenience.

In July 2013 Greenrock and KBB presented a position paper to the Minister of the Environment and Planning, the Hon. Sylvan Richards, asking him to consider a 'bag charge'. While he expressed personal support for reducing bag usage he said that he favoured a ban on plastic bags. We believe that both plastic and paper bag usage needs to be reduced and that a charge is the best option (see below). 

 

throwaway-lifeImage from a 1955 issue of LIFE magazine with the caption ‘THROW AWAY LIVING’. The story heralded a new era of disposable living.

The Need

We have a choice. Most grocery stores provide alternative bags which are sturdy, inexpensive and can be used multiple times. There are lots of varieties of attractive, strong bags made out of recycled materials which can be folded up and kept in a purse, bike or car. We can choose to say "No Thanks!" to single-use bags.

 

Our Approach

What can you do?

  1. Sign Petition! Click here to view our petition which closed on 30-Dec-2013.
  2. Encourage others to Sign Petition!   Click here to view our petition which closed on 30-Dec-2013.
  3. Say "No Thanks!" when offered a single-use plastic or paper bag and bring your own bag.
  4. Write to the Environment Minister to express your support for a bag ban or charge. Here's a docxsuggested letter template. Send by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by snail mail to the address listed on the letter template.
  5. Donate or volunteer to support this campaign.
  6. Ask your local store to stock re-usable bags.
  7. Ask your local store to openly charge for single-use bags, and to itemize that charge on your receipt. As consumers, we are already paying for every 'free' bag we accept. It's time we insist that this hidden charge be disclosed and are given the choice - to buy or not to buy. A clear charge for bags would make people stop and think "Do I really need it?" and has been shown to cut demand by up to 90%. One in four countries charge for single-use bags - Why don't we?

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is wrong with plastic bags?
  2. What about 'biodegradable' plastic bags?
  3. Are paper bags just as bad?
  4. What about recycling?
  5. Why is plastic bad for the ocean?
  6. Is plastic bad for my health?

 

What is wrong with plastic bags?

The average useful life of a plastic bag, from the store to the garbage bin, is ·estimated to be 10 to 15 minutes. In stark contrast, the same plastic bag may take anywhere from 10 to 100 years (estimates vary) to degrade if exposed to the sun – and its environmental legacy may last forever.

Why? Most single-use plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which does not decompose or biodegrade. Instead, polyethylene goes through a process called photo-degradation. When exposed to sunshine, polyethylene's polymer chains become brittle and crack, eventually turning what was a plastic bag into microscopic synthetic granules. Scientists aren't sure whether these granules ever decompose fully, and fear that their buildup in marine and terrestrial environments -- and in the stomachs of wildlife -- portend a bleak future compromised by plastic particles infiltrating every step in the food chain.

Plastics, like diamonds... ARE FOREVER!

Visit the Algalita Marine Research Foundation website for more information on ocean plastics.
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What about 'biodegradable' plastic bags?

Many stores are trying to do the right thing by buying 'biodegradable' plastic bags; bags which have an additive which helps them break down in a controlled composting environment. Bermuda does have a controlled composting facility at Marsh Folly, BUT it currently only accepts horticultural waste. This means that 'biodegradeable' plastic bags don't fulfill their promise in Bermuda. Plastic bags that biodegrade in a marine environment (i.e. in water) have yet to be invented.
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Make_this_bag_lastA paper shopping bag, issued by Eaton's during the Second World War, urges responsible citizens to "Make this bag last!" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   

Are paper bags just as bad?

Paper bags, which many people consider a better alternative to plastic bags, carry their own set of environmental problems.

Paper bags are mostly made from virgin tree pulp because recycled pulp is not as strong, so their production inevitably begins with chopping down trees. Paper bag production is a dirty business which damages the environment in two ways:

  1. chopping down trees reduces the absorption of greenhouse gases, and
  2. the manufacture of the bags requires use of toxic chemicals that contribute to air and water pollution.

ReuseIt.com busts the myth that paper is better than plastic: according to a 2007 study (funded by plastic bag manufacturers) it takes about 4 times as much energy and 20 times as much water to make a paper bag compared with a plastic bag. Additionally, the transportation of paper bags, which are bulkier and heavier than plastic bags, requires the consumption of petroleum, a non-renewable fossil fuel that causes further air pollution. In Bermuda, bags have been shipped at least 700 miles. Paper also takes more space to store, and there is more wastage due to damp and insects.
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What about recycling?

tynes-bayThe bunker at Tyne’s Bay with paper and plastic awaiting incineration. There is no recycling of paper or plastic in Bermuda.

In Bermuda, Government's Waste Management section is responsible for collecting garbage and recyclables from residents (excluding the cities of Hamilton and St. George's). Once every two weeks, blue bags filled with tin, aluminum and glass (TAG) are collected and taken to the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) for processing and either shipping abroad or use on island. ·

Waste Management do not recycle paper or plastic, because to do so makes no economic or environmental sense in a Bermuda context. Instead, all paper and plastic collected is burned in the Tynes Bay incinerator, which blazes through roughly 60,000 tons of waste every year. Our incinerator does generate energy from our waste, but incinerators release toxic pollutants into the atmosphere as they burn, which pose a threat to public health and the environment.

Waste Management have published an informative What Goes Where? guide which clearly indicates what is, and is not, recycled in Bermuda.
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Paper or Plastic? The best choice is simply to say "No Thanks!"

kbb-marine-cleanup-2012Seven tons of garbage were pulled from the Island's shoreline during KBB's 2012 Marine Clean-up Day. (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

   

Why is plastic bad for the ocean?

Most of our plastic is burned in the Tynes Bay incinerator, but some of it ends up on the Railway Trails, on our beaches, and in our ocean. Seven tons of garbage were pulled from the Island's shoreline during KBB's Marine Clean-up Day on 15th September 2012 — much of it plastic.

Approximately half of all plastic floats and contributes disproportionately to marine debris. The other half sinks and accumulates on the ocean floor where it remains hidden from the sunlight that would photo-degrade it. Either way, its bad news for the environment.

The Sargasso Sea, which surrounds Bermuda, is an oceanic gyre where circulating currents concentrate trash. The Bermuda Government is working toward having this area declared a Marine Protected Area because of the richness of the biodiversity and its vulnerability. turtle-eating-plastic-bagMarine life like turtles mistakenly ingest plastic bags or get caught up in them, resulting in a painful death.Plastics in the Sargasso Sea have not been extensively studied, but a 1987 report found plastic throughout the Western North Atlantic Ocean, with 100,000 plastic pieces and 1,500 plastic pellets per square kilometre in the Sargasso Sea.

Marine animals, particularly the filter-feeders at the bottom of the food chain, are heavily impacted by plastic fragments. Larger fish and turtles eat the filter feeders and plastic accumulates in their stomachs.

Birds and turtles become entangled in plastic bags, and are also known to eat plastic bags, causing them to choke or starve to death.

Even whales cannot escape. There have been reports from around the world - including in England and Puerto Rico - of dead whales washing up on beaches with massive amounts of plastic bags (and other plastics) in their stomachs.
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Plastic is bad for us too!

Plastics contain chemicals called "endocrine disruptors", which can be released when the plastics are ingested. The endocrine system produces hormones in humans and animals.

  • Hormones are amazingly potent. Estradiol, the body's key estrogen hormone, operates at a concentration in the parts per trillion range. One part per trillion is equivalent to one drop of water in 660 rail tank cars – a train 6 miles long.·
  • Changes to natural hormone levels cause a myriad of serious health issues in humans and animals.
  • In humans, the effects of hormone disruption run the gamut from enlarged prostates and cancer to early puberty in young girls, even mental retardation and propensity for violence.
  • In fish, it can cause males to become female or fail to produce sperm.

Studies have shown that chemicals from plastics have been found in human tissues, blood and urine, and a 2010 New York Times article suggested that our exposure to these chemicals may be significantly higher than was previously thought.

Because plastic is so ubiquitous it is not possible to pinpoint the source of the pollution in our bodies, but we know that plastic materials in the ocean accumulate and concentrate organic chemicals and environmental pollutants up to one million times their concentration in the surrounding seawater.
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Contact

For more information about the No Thanks! project, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Recommended Reading

About Greenrock

According to The Footprint Network, which measures the ability of the planet to produce resources and absorb waste, our resource use and waste production is 60% more than the earth can produce or absorb annually.

This overshoot is the result of decisions that we each make every day. We seek to generate debate and to influence people to change their behaviour.We strive to be catalysts: Success for us is when we can Change the Mindset so that sustainable use of resources is included in decision-making for individuals, government or businesses. ... read more


Where to find Us

Suite 324, 48 Par-La-Ville Rd,
Hamilton HM11, Bermuda

Telephone: 1-441-747-ROCK (7625)
Email: info@greenrock.org
Website: www.greenrock.org