Thursday Edition: Banning Plastic Grocery Bags

Will this catch
on in the States as it has in other countries?

San Francisco is about
to become
the nation’s first city to ban plastic
grocery bags.

The mayor is
expected to sign the ban into law after the city council passed the measure on
a 10-1 vote.

Large
markets and drug stores will have to offer customers a choice among recyclable
paper bags, recyclable plastic bags made of
corn byproducts
or reuseable cloth bags.

The Associated Press
carried a story that says:

“I think what grocers will do now that this has passed is, they
will review all their options and decide what they think works best for them
economically,” said David Heylen, a spokesman for the California Grocers Association.

[Mayor Gavin] Newsom supported the measure. The switch is scheduled to take
effect in six months for grocery stores and in one year for pharmacies.

Craig Noble, a spokesman for the Natural
Resources Defense Council
, said it would be disappointing if grocers
rejected the biodegradable plastic bag option, since more trees would have to
be cut down if paper bag use increases.

The new breed of bags “offers consumers a way out of a false
choice, a way out of the paper or plastic dilemma,” Noble said.

California already requires retailers
to provide a way for customers to recycle clean plastic bags. According to a 2000 Environmental Protection Agency report, Americans recycle
0.6 percent of plastic bags and 19.4 percent of paper bags.

The Film and Bag
Federation has some quick, interactive tips
on the plastic vs. paper debate. It points
out that plastic grocery bags are easily reuseable
(Hey, I bring my lunch to work in one every day.).

Here
is the history
of the plastic bag
.

Here
are some facts from the Web site for the paper-bag industry
(The Paper Industry Association
Council). Here is the
history of paper.

The
Environmental Literacy Council points out that the real question is not what
biodegrades in landfills, because pretty much nothing biodegrades well in tightly
compacted landfills. Plastic bags compress more easily and take up a lot less space
in landfills than paper does. But a big selling point in the San Francisco debate was the effect plastic bags have on wildlife — especially marine life.

That
is a fairly well-documented threat.

Plastic bags pose a threat to marine life, because, if ingested,
the bags can block the stomach and cause starvation. Sea turtles, for example,
mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. In 2002, a minke
whale that washed up on a beach at Normandy
was found to have 800 kilograms of
plastic bags in its stomach.

Stray plastic bags can also clog
sewer pipes, leading to stagnant, standing water and associated health hazards.
In 2002,
Bangladesh banned plastic bags
after drains blocked by bags contributed to
widespread monsoon flooding in 1988 and 1998. Ireland has decreased plastic-bag consumption
by placing a consumer tax on plastic bags. Perhaps the most strict plastic-bag
regulations are found in the Indian province of Himachal Pradesh, where people caught with
plastic bags are fined $2,000.

The Environmental
Literacy Council passes along this data
but unfortunately does not cite the
source:

It is estimated that somewhere between 500 billion
and 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed throughout the world each year. In 1977,
supermarkets began to offer plastic grocery bags as an alternative to paper
bags. By 1996, four out of every five grocery bags used were plastic.

Of course all of this debate is of little value when we load
our recycled-cloth grocery bags into our 15-miles-per-gallon SUVs.



New Inhalers Cost Lots More

By the end of
next year, all asthma
inhalers will have to use propellants other than the CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) that manufacturers
use now
. CFCs are believed to contribute to ozone depletion. The new
inhalers use hydrofluoroalkane (known as HFA),
and they will cost a lot more. The
American Lung Association says:

There can be a significant price difference between the CFC
inhalers and the new HFA inhalers, particularly if you currently use a generic
CFC inhaler. The HFA inhalers cost from $30 to $60, compared with $5 to $25 for
a generic CFC inhaler. The price difference is most likely to have an impact on
patients without health insurance.

“Depending on your insurance, these new inhalers may be more
expensive, but our hope is that as more people move to the CFC-free delivery
method that the price will come down,” says Norman H. Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.

If you have questions about the transition to HFA inhalers or to
learn about assistance programs that may help you pay for your prescriptions,
including a coupon offer, call the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at
1-800-LUNG-USA, and press “2″ to speak to a nurse or respiratory therapist.



Al’s
Morning Multimedia

This might make newsies squeamish, but I thought you better
take a look at it. It is the latest mixture of news and entertainment, only this
time in a Web environment.

CBS.com
has started producing and posting online so-called “Webumentaries,” which are meant to complement the post-nuclear-disaster drama “Jericho,”
which has a huge online presence.

Even
though they are linked to a fictional drama show, the five-minute,
online-exclusive stories contain interviews with real experts about disaster
readiness, radiation poisoning and similar topics, woven into a prequel about
one of the show’s characters. In other words, they look a lot like news.

The
Chicago Tribune
says:

In the mini-episodes — posted online Wednesday nights after “Jericho” airs on
the West Coast — Robert Hawkins, a shadowy FBI agent, researches how to
survive a nuclear attack in the weeks leading up to the blasts. While Hawkins
is on the run from unknown assailants, he gets video transmissions over e-mail
and on his cell phone that are actually reported pieces based on interviews
with government officials and academic experts.

The result is an unconventional pairing of fiction and news,
complete with product placement. (The logo of AT&T, which sponsors the
series, crops up every time Hawkins turns on an electronic device.) The unusual
hybrid offers a new model for “Webisodes,” a genre the broadcast
networks are scrambling to master in the YouTube age.

“A lot of the Internet stuff is a recitation of what we
already know,” said Ghen Maynard, the CBS executive vice president who
oversees the network’s new media programming. “To do it in a way that’s
really original to what is airing, but not a boring recitation of facts –
that’s really what we’re going for.”



Poynter’s EyeTrack07 Study Finds Online Readers Read Deeply

Make sure you spend time on the EyeTrack07 article we posted Wednesday with new results from our groundbreaking study about how people
read online and print copy, photos, headlines and such. Among the findings is
how surprisingly much readers actually read — especially online.

You can see
video of the findings, read the presentation and see the slides our presenters
used.

This is just the first slug of findings — more will follow
soon.


We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Editor’s
Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story
excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as
original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly
from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided
whenever possible. The column is fact-checked, but depends upon the
accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. Errors and
inaccuracies found will be corrected.

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