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Zero Waste Centres

(A Programme undertaken by THANAL)

Profile of Partner Organization

Submitted By

Harambee Group
(Nicholas Kimuyu & K.R.Raja) e-mail id:

We wish to thank the following persons for their incredible and Invaluable support in the process of producing this document. We wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Mr.C.Jayakumar Founder Member of Thanal and Renowned Environment Activist who spared his time to give us the history, story and activities of Thanal. We also grateful to Mr.Shibu.K.Nair, the Programme Director of Zero Waste Centre at Kovalam who gave us valuable insight on Waste Management such as Recycling process of Plastics. We also thankful to Mr. Baby Chand, The Programme Director of Organic Bazaar Thanal, Who took us to meet Farmers practicing Organic Farming, Roof Gardening, Bio-Gas Unit, In addition, we also appreciate Ms. Seena and her colleagues who introduced us to the Thanal Management Team. Finally we convey our special thanks to Our IISE Fraternity including Catalysts, Participants, and Administrative Team for their support and encouragement in the pursuit of this task.

The International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE) in Kerala (South India), the IISE is an Institute that operates under the umbrella of Braille without Borders (BWB) The IISE focuses on leadership training in order to create social changes in the world through Innovative social projects. The participants are inspiring visionaries who mainly come from developing nations such as Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Tibet, USA, Thailand, German, India and so on, we are third year batch of participants, All of us have overcome significant life challenges ranging from vision impairment, disability, poverty, war, discrimination and exploitations. We have a passion to make the world as a better place and the strength to be forces of good rather than victims of circumstance. Throughout IISE's 11-month programme, participants develop all the necessary skills to succeed as social innovators/entrepreneurs. Here, we are learning Social Entrepreneurship; learning modern ways of Community /Social Development and Innovative Business techniques, the aim is to establish us as astute Social Entrepreneurs. After the course each of us is expected to go back to our various countries to establish a viable Social Enterprise (Social Project & Supporting Business) Out of 21 participants, We Mr.Nicholas Kimuyu from Kenya and Mr.K.R.Raja from India, formed group called Harambee. Harambee is Swahili word. It means pulling together or Unity. We chose Zero Waste Centre of Thanal as our partner Organization to apply the Harambee philosophy in dealing with Waste Management and Environmental Issues. We will be working together from May to July in the advancement of better bags campaign and related activities.

Deepen our skills by implementing everything we have learned. Understand the challenges and opportunities of working in an NGO in

Understand how to create effective and divergent campaigns. Experience the power of passion while creating positive social change in

our local community.

Learn how to work across cultures and with diverse teams in

challenging and low resource situations.

Learn how to start up and/or improve an NGO or a new activist group. Get in the habit of creating reasonable budgets, doing accounts, writing

progress reports.
Create action plans with clear defined outcomes/deliverables and


Profile of Zero Waste Centre Name of the partner organization: Zero Waste Centre Thanal. Address: Zero Waste Centres, RB Towers, Azhakulam, Kovalam P.O., Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala - India. 695 527 Tel: +91 471 2487139 Email: Web: Legal entity: Thanal Conservation Action and Information Network, working since 1986 and now the members of this network have registered itself as a Public Charitable Trust in December, 2003. Legal status of Thanal: Registered under the Trivancore Charitable Trust Act1955. Governance system of Thanal: Board of Directors, Advisory Board and Programme Management Team Director Ms. S. Usha, Thanal Board Members: Mr. Harish Murukanandan. Bengaluru, Ms. Daisy Thampy. Kochi, Mr. Jayakumar C. Thiruvananthapuram,

Programme Management Team Ms. S. Usha, Ms. Sreedevi Lakshmi Kutty, Ms. Lekshmi B. Kannan, Mr. C. Jayakumar, Mr. Babychan T.J., Mr. Sridhar R. Mr. Shibu K. Nair Thanal Advisory Board Dr. Santhi S. Thiruvananthapuram, Dr. Sharadini Rath. Bengaluru, Dr. Sukanya. Bengaluru, Mr. E.S. Jayachandran. Thrissur, Dr. G. Nammalvar. Trichy, Dr. V.S. Vijayan. Thrissur, Mr. Devinder Sharma. New Delhi Dr.Narasimha Reddy. Hyderabad, Dr. Ramanjaneyulu. Hyderabad, Dr. Chandan Mukherjee. Kolkotha, Mr. A.V. George. Kottayam Thanal have legal and financial advice: Occasionally, Story: Save Silent Valley was a social movement aimed at the protection of Silent valley, an evergreen tropical forest in the Palakkad district of Kerala, India. It was started in 1973 to save the Silent Valley Reserve Forest in from being flooded by a hydroelectric project. The valley was declared as Silent Valley National Park in 1985. Nonetheless the controversy surrounding the valley is still on. Through this silent Valley campaign a group of young people including Mr.C.Jayakumar Renowned Environment Activist formed Thanal

The history of Thanal: From a Natural History learning Centre working on an informal way networking with organizations and individuals with common interests in protecting and nourishing the environment, Thanal has evolved into a publicinterest research, campaign and advocacy organization. In the last five years Thanal has started working on various issues, with Environmental Health and Justice as its foundation. It is in the process of institutionalizing the Trust and setting up clear processes for growth, capacity building among the staff and volunteers and also for bringing in visible accountability. Much of the organizational matters are still evolving and we see the next two years as period of maturing. Members: Thanal has no criteria for membership, who have commen interest and compassion with Thanal can become members even volunteering. Profile of the main contact person: The contact person for Zero Waste Centre Mr.Shibu.K.Nair Program Director, who is expert in Research, Analysis and Advocacy. He has handful field experience and enormous knowlege in waste management. He has travelled all over the country to propogate the concept of waste management. How is the organization structured? Board of Directors, Advisory Board, Program Directors, Program Managers, Office Managers, Campaigners, Production Unit members, Stake holders.

What roles and responsibilities do the members carry out? Meeting, Decision making, Organizing events such as clean up beach, World Plastic Free day, Awareness, Research on Environment, Pest control, Agriculture, Marketing through Organic Bazaar, Networking, Campaigning, Monitoring, Vision: Let us work together for chemical safety and Toxic free world. Mission: Gather for All Beings, Alternative Farmers Direct Retail with Environmental Stewardship and Accountability. Environment Education in Understand and Involve. Sustain Agriculture. Food Safety and Food Security for All What are the long-term and short-term objectives? Thanal has the following objects declared in its memorandum of declaration as a trust. 1. To carry out research, on matters pertaining to environmental health, environmental justice, biodiversity, natural history, sustainable agriculture, social justice and public health and to advocate on the same and plan and implement action programmes for the effective dissemination of the findings, in public interest.
2. To carry on educational activities among the public for creating

environmental awareness by conducting educational programmes and through publication of printed materials , production, screening, exhibition and broadcasting of audio-visual materials.

3. To conduct national and international campaigns on matters of

environmental justice and environmental health so as to build public opinion for a clean, healthy and safe environment.
4. To

plan and implement action programmes focusing on environmental education, conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, natural history, sustainable and poison free agriculture, toxic free production and clean industries. adverse impacts on environment and humanity, and to intervene in such matters immediately by taking appropriate and effective measures includig legal action, to prevent such destruction and to protect the public assets and natural heritage.

5. To build up public opinion against activities, this has long-term

6. To start institutions to undertake and encourage programmes and

research projects to achieve trust objectives.


To develop and implement schemes for environmentally sound policies, guidelines and practices. affiliate organizations and provide technical support for conservation programmes. production of ecologically and economically sustainable products.

8. To

9. To provide support for those groups and individuals engaged in

10. To facilitate capacity building and impart training for the weaker

sections in the society with special emphasis to help begin and run sustainable employment generating activities.
11. To provide a platform and to form a collective network of individuals

and institutions with a mission "Gather for all beings."

Current activities: Zero Waste Zero Waste is a unique way one looks at resources one of the most futuristic, current and profound ways that modern societal change is envisaged in the world today. It is based on three fundamental principles ethics, efficiency and economy. It is a total systems approach that goes beyond just segregate reuse reduce-recycle. Hence it is a logical planning approach incorporating principles of effective human and material resource utilization to avoid the conversion of discards into waste in a manner that revitalizes the local economy. Zero Waste Kovalam Zero Waste Kovalam is an attempt to implement zero waste concepts at a tourist beach destination in Kerala, India. The project was conceived and launched as a fall out of an anti waste incineration campaign launched by Thanal in 1996. The project was drawn in 2001 focusing on building capacity and relationship among the local community for lobbying for better resource management policies, generating clean and sustainable employment through discards recovery and material substitution. Zero Waste Centre Zero Waste Centre, a part of the Zero Waste Kovalam programme was established in April 2003, as a Resource Use Education Centre with the objective of product design and development, imparting training and building awareness about resource use. The Centre evolved from the need to complement the effort of the Zero Waste Kovalam Programme which demands ideas, products and designs that are diverse and eco-friendly. It has been able to share the lessons learnt in economical and ecological way of handling waste with local self governments, Institutions and the local people and has helped build relationships and partnerships among various stakeholders. Environment Leadership Training Environment Leadership Training provides opportunity for people to perceive the local environmental as well as development issues and to encourage them in timely interventions to correct the situation. The content of the training varies depending on the nature and role of the people from

sensitization to highly technical sessions. This programme builds capacity in the community which enhances public participation and contribution in local planning, development and conservation activities. Community Action for Pesticide Elimination CAPE evolved as a network in October 2002, when farmers, activist groups, public health professionals, researchers, voluntary organizations came together with many pesticide impacted communities and formed a platform the Community Action for Pesticide Elimination to take forward the joint struggle to keep our fields, food and lives free from pesticides. It was launched on a workshop on Pesticides and Health organized in Bangalore. Pesticides and its impact on the system have become too ominous and threatening in the country and yet little considered when matters of health and environment are discussed. In the last two or three years we have seen that many communities all over the country have realized that they have been enslaved by pesticide use and driven to suicides or have been living contaminated lives. Pesticides as a major source of health crisis came to be seriously recognized with the tragedy in Kasaragode due to Endosulfan spraying, and now we see such poisoning happening in other areas as well. Even while the food safety, the life of the villages and the future of soil and water in the country is being affected, it is quite an irony that the environment and health planning in the country do not consider pesticides and its impact. Save Our Rice. Rice is the most important crop for Asians. Rice means not only food, but also culture, livelihood, nature, art, education ... everything. For us in India, especially in the south, east and north eastern regions, rice is the staple food and it decides the landscape and rural economy. It is our heritage. It is our identity. Unfortunately in the last 10-15 years, all the possible threats we can imagine, are making rice cultivation unsustainable. Unpredictable climatic changes, new trade policies, dismantling of support systems, loss of soil fertility, pest outbreak, loss in biodiversity, increasing cost of labour and other inputs, decreasing gross returns, etc. have created a situation where farmers find it difficult to sustain rice cultivation. Along with these, changing agriculture policies and campaign on the advantages of other uses of rice fields

have attracted farmers and in many areas rice fields have given way to horticulture, urban development, development of landfills and industrial expansion. This is threatening the very existence of our culture and rural economy, relationships and ultimately ecology. Most importantly, this is threatening our food security and livelihood security. This campaign is an attempt to bring in and network everyone interested in sustaining rice cultivation - farmers, consumers, NGOs, students, children, teachers, leaders, policymakers, media, academicians, scientists and in a broader sense, the general public to explore the chances of sustaining rice and rice-culture. Rice and rice-culture is just not an agricultural affair. So the whole society, whose culture and identity is linked to the rice-systems, should come together, talk, experiment and find ways to save rice from being pushed into oblivion. The campaign covers the whole of Asia, connected and coordinated by various organizations and groups. We at THANAL propose to introduce the campaign in South India, West Bengal, Orissa and Chattisgarh. Natural History Studies Thanal sees that life's basis is ecology and hence its activities, however diverse and human-oriented, are based on conservation where protection of the environment is primary to sustain life. Most of the members in Thanal are nature enthusiasts and nurture a passion for the wilderness and wild life. Many of our members who grew up with the Nature Club movement are in their own ways bird lovers and we participate in bird surveys and also organize awareness camps. We were associated with the publication of the very popular book - Kerala Birds - by the renowned ornithologist K K Neelakantan. We also organize bird surveys and have some studies to our credit. In the last five years (since 1999), we have organized Bird Surveys at Aralam wildlife sanctuary along with the Kerala Forest Department. Tourism is a growing industry in the Kerala State and the coast and backwaters are much affected by the pollution and negative effects of construction, development and waste. A preliminary compilation was done on the impact of Tourism on the wetlands for Equations, Banglore (2000). The coast which adorns the State in its west dips into the Arabian Sea

and is one of the States great boons. The coast is intensively active with fishing. But indiscriminate fishing, trawling, development activities, especially for tourism, harbours and even mining have affected life here. Marine Turtles have been of great concern for us, and another of our founder members and the Director, C Jayakumar has been working on Marine Turtle conservation for nearly a decade now. He has done studies to map the marine turtle landing sites in the State. This study was supported by the Wild Life Institute, Dehradun and also by the Kerala Forest Department (2002). Kerala Research Programme on Local Level Development ( KRPLLD) also supported a research on the community participation in marine turtle conservation(2002). Most of this research work is completed and we are in phase of action to identify conservation spots and work on community leading the action for protection. Of late some of our members have felt the need to study Butterflies, Reptiles, Amphibians and Insects especially with the role that the beings play in supporting our life systems. These are some of the areas that have been identified for future work, but much depends on the interest that the young members of the team who have propounded them can sustain. Material Substitution Material Substitution focuses on phasing out materials and products which are unsustainable and toxic like plastics and replacing them with economically viable and ecologically sustainable materials, products and services which have minimum impact on environment and health. Material substitution encourages responsible resource use and mindful consumption. The Material Substitution programme has trained both women and youth to produce Environment friendly products using local materials. The project has created more than 100 new jobs in the first three years. The Centre runs free vocational training on production of eco-friendly products, conducts periodical design development workshops and facilitates network of individuals and enterprises engaged in the business of eco-friendly products and services. Entrepreneurship Development Programme Entrepreneurship Development Programme helps local entrepreneurs develop skills in writing proposals, budgeting, pricing, marketing and business management for running and managing small enterprises. The Centre

maintains a constant relationship with the small enterprises and extends the support for procuring raw materials, production, quality control, pricing and marketing. Organic Farming Organic Farming promotes environment stewardship among farmers by giving them technical assistance and training for toxic free agriculture. Local women prepare processed food with organic produce. Inspiringly womens participation is dominant in both the production and marketing sectors. Marginal activities have now become a mainstream sustainable business which yields them decent profits. Product Gallery Coconut shell based curios and utensils Cups, mugs, containers, bowls, oval dishes, pen stands, flower vases, jewellary Paper based products Paper bags, file folders, note pads, photo frames, curios and jewellary Discarded cloth based products Pouches, bags, banners, wall hangings, mats and cushions Terracotta products Utensils and curios Natural fibre based products Screw pine leaf based file folders, baskets, bags, boxes etc. Banana fibre based bags, baskets, table mats Bamboo based curios, utensils, pens, stands and jewellary Jute based bags, file folders, pouches etc.

The ongoing projects: Clean-up Kovalam Beach, Organic Bazaar, Production of eco-friendly items,

List of services offered by Thanal: Capacity Building. Training, Organic Farming, Awareness Campaign, Bio-gas unit, Clean up programmes in beach. Target group: Self help groups, Small & Medium Enterprise, Policy Makers, Panchayat, Farmers, General Public, Students from schools and colleges, Who are the beneficiaries? All section of people Current beneficiaries, Student Community from 6 Govt High Schools, 30 women Self Help Groups, Farmers Tourist, Hotels, Families, Villages, Who are the stake holders? Farmers, Government, IISE, Coastal Guards, Schools and Colleges,

What has been achieved so far? Instrumental in Banning Endosulfan in India. Genetically Modified food Crops control in Kerala. Capacity building training for Women and Youth. Set up Organic Bazaar and Organic farming in Kerala. Introduced Cheap sources of energy, Organized occational clean up program in the Beech. Which tools are used to spread the message, to market their products, to carry out their activities? Print Media, such as Daily National and Local News papers, Electronic Media such as Online Petition to Top Government Departments, Natural Clubs in Schools, National Service Scheme in Colleges, Publication and Research Reports, Posters, Leaflets, Newsletters, Books, What are the current Challenges? Negative Attitude from People, who wish to continue using plastic bags rather than Cloth bags, Manufactures who produce plastic bags and bottles in large scale, Big shopping Malls who wish to continue to distribute the Plastic bags. Inadequate Funds to carry out the activities, Short-term and long-term needs of the Organization: Long-Term Needs They wish to clean environment and free from plastic items, Toxic free soils and food items, Preservation of endangers creatures such Turtles, birds, sea animals. They want to build capacity of other NGOs in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and north India. Short-term Needs Funding for extending their programmes,

Cooperation: Who does the organization network with? Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Mr.Jayakumar is a founder of Thanal, a GAIA member organization that has initiated and sustained a highly successful zero waste project in the tourism town of Kovalam. A leading zero waste visionary from the developing world, He brings to GAIA his grassroots appreciation of how society can benefit from alternative approaches to building healthy and sustainable communities. Thanal in January 2007 hosted the GAIA Waste Not Asia Meeting in Thiruvananthapuram. He is also a partner of the Pesticides Action Network Asia-Pacific and the International Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Elimination Network. Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific Pesticide Action Network North America Grassroots International Association for Indias Development EED Global Green Grants The New World Foundation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad Vanagam Tamil Nadu CREATE Paramakkudy, Tamil Nadu Sahaja Samrudha Living Farms

Deer Park Institute In which areas does the organization cooperate with other NGOs or governmental departments? Policy Making, Education, Research, Resource Mobilization, Campaign, Budget: Since Thanal does not have regular funding, It was difficult to establish their butget. On the other hand some of the program directors commit their finance, time and expertise to run the program. Does the organization have an accountant? Yes, How much of the funding is coming from donations? We couldn't establish Who are the donors? Non-Residential Indian What were the fund raising activities? They haven't organized fund raising activities. Can the NGO receive funding from abroad (FCRA)? No. It does not have FCRA Does the NGO have other sources of income? Personal donation from directors and Managers


SWOT Analysis of Thanal Strengths: Dedicated Members and Groups, Diversified Services and Products, Powerful tools of disseminating Informations Proper Networks with State and National Level, Weakness: Inconsistent of funding, Lack of professional in some areas, Limited resources, Lack of participation from communities Opportunities: Innovative Ideas and Services, Research based solutions, Representing and Participating in National and International Conferences, Threats: Negative attitude from Common People, Manufacturers of plastic bags and bottles, Shopping malls packing plastic bags,

Action Plan for Act 2 Phase I Goals: To familiaries with Thanal. Visiting to different program run by Thanal. Researched on other models of waste management across the globe. Producing profile of Thanal. Create Media tool for Awareness. Activities Visiting Thanal, website,Interacting with Thanal team. Meeting with stake holders and farmers. Googling the internet. Interviewed Thanal directors and secondary research. Create accounts in e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, Owners Harambee (Nicholas & Raja) Timelines 9th to 23rd May 2011 Outcomes: Learned more and builded rapport with Thanal members and beneficiaries Visited Organic farm land, Bio-gas unit, roof gardening, organic bazaar and main office. Found out some partner organization on waste management in Ghana,UK, German.

Prepared a comprehensive Thanal profile and created Facebook and Twitter on Phase II Goals: Food Forum for youth festivel organise by Thanal. Organising Awareness campaign for Local Communities in Vellayani. Conducting survey in schools and colleges. Activities: Preparing for the visit. Discussion with Panchayat Board Members. Visiting schools and meeting with Teachers and Natural club members. Owners: Harambee (Nicholas and Raja) Timelines: 30th May 2011 6th to 27th June 2011 Outcomes: participate in the forum. Meet and sensitize local communities. Conduct betterbags campaigns

Phase III Goals: Organise Public fair in Trivandrum, Activities: Working with Thanal Consulting with Catalyst and Participants Preparing for events. Owners: Harambee, IISE and Thanal Timelines: 1st to 23rd July 2011 Outcomes: Successful fair in Trivandrum Appendix Research on Harmfulness of Plastic and Alternative solutions Plastic Bag Reduction
One of Planet Ark's most successful campaigns has been the national 'Plastic Bag Reduction' campaign. During its time, the campaign achieved great results including an agreement between governments and retailers to reduce the use of plastic bags. The campaign highlighted the need for people to start using reusable bags and since 2002 more than 10 million of these have been sold. This has led to an agreement between governments and retailers to reduce the use of plastic bags. Around 5 billion plastic check-out bags are still currently used by Australians every year, however since this campaign began in 2002, more than 10 million reusable bags have been sold.

Plastic Free Kanyakumari: When was the last time you carried bag from home when going out for shopping? When was the last time you stuffed your purchases in a cloth bag instead of the plastic one? When I was kid, the shop keepers use to wrap grocery items in paper and we used to carry cloth bags (bright yellow bags in particular) when we go shopping. Things have changed drastically in short span of years. Now we are so used to plastic bags in life that for even small petty purchases, the shop keepers provide us the plastic bags. It has become integral part of our life.
Have you ever thought about how many plastic bags are in usage everyday? Every year, around 500 billion (500,000,000,000) plastic bags are used worldwide. Imagine the quantity of bags that would be in use in a growing economy with a billion populations. Why do we need to say NO to plastics? Plastic is forever and they litter the landscape. Plastic is poisoning our food chain Plastic affects human health Plastic bags kill animals

Inspite of this hard facts plastic usage has become almost indispensable in our daily life and one cannot even imagine a life without them. But then for the larger interest of Planet Earth strong action has to be taken. Our previous generations have managed their life without plastic bags, so can we all that needs is an effective discipline on the part of the Government as well as the public to curb this practice. Couple of weeks back when I visited Kanya kumari, I was pleasantly shocked. The plastics carry bags and cups are banned in the entire District, consisting of 1057 rural habitations, 56 Town Panchayats and 4 Municipalities. The ban has been welcomed by the public and it is hugely successful. How did this happen when this idea failed in the neighboring district of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala? Yes, the public do have the practical difficulties. Shift from plastic bags to non-plastic mode is not that easy but the people of the district have got used to the change in life style. Yes, it is a change in life style. One has to carry cloth bags when going out to make small purchases, you need to carry utensils when you plan take-away food parcels. Inspite of these small inconveniences the no-plastic momentum has sustained and well received by public. The credit for the Plastic-free Kanyakumari goes to Rajendra Ratnoo, the District collector who started the campaign and makes sure it is effectively implemented through three prong strategy. This is how Rajendra Ratnoo and his administration made the change happen. In his own words: What made us to succeed is that we did almost a six months long campaign and this campaign had some specific strategies, such as

1. Campaign had three components- Awareness generation, Training for behavioral Change of all stakeholders and Enforcement from a preannounced date i.e. 1st April 2. Focus in the trainings beyond knowledge i.e. on change in attitude and behaviour 3. Leading by example before preaching i.e. before launching the campaign in Public Domain, First Collector and his family stopped using plastics, then entire Collector Office Staff and District Level Officers said NO to it, then we targeted the Leaders and opinion makers, including Honourable Minister for Tourism, MLAs, Municipal and Town Pt Chairpersons and gradually we went down upto ward members, SHG leaders, Traders, and sanitary workers! 4. Multiple Channels of Communication, including vernicular media, Schools, Colleges, FM Radio, SMS,Voice calls from District Collector to all citizens, through religious leaders i.e. both mass media, and interpersonal communication strategies were used! The results of our team work are very encouraging and we are following and monitoring the Enforcement!Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board provided good support in the campaign. Have we not heard for umpteen times the phrases charity begins at home, be the change, well here is an administration and the administrator who lead by example and then implemented the change very effectively. The administration and the public of Kanyakumari deserve a big round of claps and cheers. During my stay I did find a couple of small restaurants packing the sambars and chutneys in plastic bags. When I found that the there is an official Facebook page by name Plastic-free Kanyakumari, I joined and pointed it out. Immediately next day, I came to know that the shops were raided and action taken. Can you believe it? Visit Plastic-free Kanyakumari face book page :

Planet Earth's new nemesis?

British shoppers get though eight billion a year, but elsewhere the humble plastic bag has become a menace, with one country even banning them outright. Could the UK follow suit? Supermarket shopping in Ireland is much the same as anywhere in Europe, or indeed the rest of the world. But one element British shoppers would find distinctly foreign is the need to pay for plastic bags at the checkout. Since the beginning of March, supermarkets have been forced to charge shoppers a 15c (9p) tax on each new plastic bag. The idea was introduced as an attempt to curb the litter problem created by so many bags. And anecdotally, at least, it seems to be working. Within a couple of months, shoppers have switched to re-using carrier bags. Customers now routinely turn up "pre-armed" with a clutch of polythene and one of the biggest chains, Superquinn, says the number of bags it distributes has dropped by 97.5%. Being thoughtless Now there is speculation that the UK could follow suit. Environment minister Michael Meacher is said to be interested in the scheme and the environment department says it has "concerns about the number of plastic bags that are routinely handed over by supermarkets". It's not just litter that is the problem. Environmentalists decry our thoughtless reliance on plastic bags - Britons get through eight billion a year, equivalent to 133 per person. Made of polyethylene - more commonly known as polythene they are hazardous to manufacture and are said to take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Elsewhere in the world, their role in environmental destruction is even more drastic and so, it seems, a revolt has begun against the humble plastic bag. In March, Bangladesh slapped an outright ban on all polythene bags after they were found to have been the main culprit
At 9p a go, would you bring your own? We get though more than 130 each a year

during the 1988 and 1998 floods that submerged two-thirds of the country. The problem was that discarded bags were choking the drainage system 'Plastic flower' Taiwan is moving to ban the free distribution of plastic bags, while, next month, the government in Singapore will launch a campaign to discourage their use. In India, cows are ingesting plastic bags as they forage for food on the street. They then end up choking or starving to death. The same happens to turtles, which commonly mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, say environmentalists.

UK's plastic bags

32% come from Malaysia 24% from China In South Africa, they have been dubbed the "national flower" because so many can be seen flapping from fences and caught in 20% from Thailand
bushes. They are even big in America, despite all those Hollywood films featuring "moms", returning from the supermarket, overburdened with paper bags. Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic. From paper to plastic Yet this trend is a fairly recent phenomenon; the result of advancements in manufacturing. Thirty years ago paper still ruled. In the UK, the switch to plastic was a result of growing competition in the supermarket sector, says Dr Graham Godwin, a former technical executive at Marks and Spencer. "Plastic was the material of choice in those days and it was more hygienic, if for example something spilt as you carried your shopping home." It is also stronger and faired better in the damp British climate. Crucially, however, plastic bags have become cheaper than paper. The so called "T-shirt" bags that are freely available at supermarkets are made of lightweight, high-density polythene. 'A people problem'

A novel way of "recycling" your shopping bags

They cost and weigh a fraction of the older and thicker, stretchy polythene bag that shops used to charge for. So has the bottom finally fallen out of the plastic bag market? Not surprisingly, those with a stake in the industry deny reports of its demise. The fault is with human behaviour, not the bags themselves, says Peter Woodall of the Packaging and Industrial Films Association. "Lots of people recycle them as bin bags. If you make people pay for them, they will have to go out and buy separate bin bags," says Mr Woodall. "Plastic requires a great deal less energy in manufacturing than paper and because the vast majority of our plastic bags are imported from Asia, a switch back to heavier paper bags, means it would take more energy to bring them over."

Cows in India are mistakenly eating bags

So for the meantime at least, British shoppers will continue to see plastic as fantastic. A world drowning in litter

Overpackaging is adding to the rubbish mountain

By David Chazan
BBC News Online

As industrialised countries run short of sites for dumping waste, the need to recycle more rubbish grows increasingly urgent. Waste disposal is also a headache in developing countries with fewer resources to devote to collection and recycling.

If every human alive today consumed natural resources and emitted carbon dioxide at the same In countries such as South Africa or Bangladesh, however, plastic rate as the average bags are a major eyesore. Easily carried by the wind, they hang person in the in bushes, float on rivers, flap from fences, clog drains, choke developed world, then animals and blight landscapes. we would need at In South Africa, they have been dubbed least another two the "national flower". Planet Earths, if not Ireland introduced a 15% government three levy on plastic bags this week to
Ireland is the latest country to declare war on the ubiquitous plastic bag. In Ireland and other industrialised countries, the aim is to reduce the number of polythene or plastic grocery bags dumped in landfill sites. discourage their use - a move that may soon be followed by a number of other countries. Traditional remedy Bangladesh has gone further, passing new regulations aimed at banning polythene bags completely and reBags of rubbish in a London street introducing the more traditional - and eco-friendly - jute bag, thereby giving the country's ailing jute mills a much-needed boost.


South Africa's Environment Ministry wants to phase out thin, throwaway plastic grocery bags and introduce thicker, re-useable ones. Some shops in Ireland are replacing plastic bags with paper ones. In Britain and many other countries, new measures are being considered to increase the recycling of waste. Running out of land to fill Britain, France, Italy and Ireland are among Europe's "dirtiest" countries, with most municipal rubbish dumped in landfill sites. Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Canada and some parts of the United States, on the other hand, find ways to use a much higher proportion of their waste. In some cases about half of municipal rubbish is re-used, recycled or composted. Unsurprisingly, countries that achieve high recycling rates generally force or encourage households to sort their rubbish into different categories - such as glass, metals, paper, organic and food waste and plastic packaging. Commercial and industrial waste amounts to far higher quantities - but environmentalists say more of it is recycled. Britain, for example, produces about 77 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste a year, compared with 29 million tonnes of household waste, according to Paul Frith of the Institute of Wastes Management. Your weight in waste But Mr Frith says that some 27.7% of commercial and industrial waste is recycled, compared with only 11% for household waste. If you imagine collecting together everything you use in a normal day, the result might be a hill of rubbish. It would include plastic from shopping bags and the wrapping from the sandwich you might have eaten at lunch, the fertilisers, chemicals and pesticides used to grow your food and the wood from your newspaper. It might also include the day's share of the metals and plastics in your car and household appliances, not to mention the pollution they cause. "Every day, the average American uses 101 kilograms of stuff that's approximately the weight of a large man," said Payal Sampat of the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based environmental group. The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) says recycling is only one approach to reducing the waste mountain. "Overpackaging is a big problem, as is the fact that so many of the products we buy are short-life products and made of

synthetic materials which are difficult to recycle," WWF's Diana Brown told BBC News Online. "Consumers must make a link between buying and waste," she urges. "Everything you buy will end up as waste. Buy less and demand less packaging; buy products that can be re-used and recycled." Ms Sampat of Worldwatch would like to see more schemes that encourage manufacturers to recycle waste from their products. In Germany, carmakers barcode the different components so that scrap metal recyclers can easily identify the materials used in a given part. Ms Sampat says recycling can even boost profits, pointing out that you need 95% less energy to produce aluminium from recycled sources. But she stresses that "an ideal scenario is that we use less and consume less". Two more planets
It just keeps piling up

WWF says that if everyone in the world consumed as much as the average person in an industrialised country - and emitted carbon dioxide at the same rate - we would need at least another two planets. And waste is multiplying - more people in the developing world are consuming products and packaging once reserved for developed nations, while developed countries are generating larger quantities of waste each year. Add to that the increase in global population, and there can be little doubt that waste recycling has to be a top priority. If, that is, we are to avoid drowning in a sea of our own garbage.

by Jan Lundberg Northern Californians Against Plastic new report: plastics additive of great toxicity: deca-BDE

Plastic as toxic trash is barely an issue with health advocates, environmentalists, and even those of us looking toward the post-petroleum world. Instead, "recycling" and future "bioplastics" distract people from keeping plastic out of their lives. As the evidence from our trashed oceans and damage to human health mounts, plastic can no longer be conveniently ignored. The days of naive trust and denial need to be put behind us, and a war on plastics declared now.

If this sounds unreasonable, decide after reading this report. One recently discovered principle about exposure to toxic chemicals is that very low concentrations can trigger worse damage in many individuals than larger exposures, in part due to the sensitivity of our genes. Also, potency is not possible to predict when various plastics' chemicals combine in our bodies and cause synergistic reactions later on. One must acknowledge today's extreme dependence on plastics. They are pervasive, cheap, effective, and even "essential." The list of plastic types goes far beyond what we can start listing off the top of our heads. If a product or solid synthetic material is not clearly wood or metal, chances are it is plastic -almost entirely from petroleum. Computers, telephones, cars, boats, teflon cookery, toys, packaging, kitchen appliances and tools, and imitations of a multitude of natural items, are but part of the world of plastics. Living without them would seem unthinkable. However, these plastics are essential to what? Answer: essential to a lifestyle that is fleeting -- historically speaking. There are people who say they cannot live without something, and those who yearn to do so. People think it is a matter of choice. However, when the coming petroleum supply crunch hits and cannot be alleviated by more production -- world extraction is soon passing its peak -- a combination of factors will deprive global consumers of the constant flow of new products now taken for granted. Therefore, we will not have a choice when we must do without. Secondly, but not less critically, the ongoing use and "disposal" of plastics is a health disaster, because we are never rid of the stuff. All the plastic that's ever been produced is still with us today... unless, of course, it has been incinerated which spews a plethora of toxic substances into the air. But wait, hasn't there been progress? Plastic grocery sacks are 40 per cent lighter today than they were in 1976, and plastic trash bags are 50 per cent lighter today than in the 1970's. However, growth of the market cancels out any gains, and plastics' pollution just accumulates whether in the air, water or soil -- or our bodies. In the case of the picture at right, paradise is clearly trashed by modern "convenience" [source:] Most North Americans urinate plastics. Sperm counts are at an historic per capita low. Cancer is an epidemic. Birth deformities, sex organ abnormalities and eventual cancers are becoming more common -- all traceable to certain chemical exposures to the fetus. If the human race is not driven extinct by nuclear holocaust or complete distortion of the climate, it may happen through wonderful plastic and other petrochemicals. The foregoing is an "unscientific"

assertion, but later in this report we provide some evidence to give everyone pause.

Iraqis behind U.S. forces' barbed wire, petroleum bottle

The movement's first U.S. battle The current, high-profile battleground is San Francisco. Following the example of Ireland and other countries that have put a fee on plastic bags, the grocery shoppers of San Francisco may soon start paying a fee of 17 cents per bag. That figure is the cost that the citizenry is already paying in general taxes for some of the costs of plastic-bag trash, such as cleaning up the litter and unclogging the waste system. The American Plastics Council claims that the bag fee is a crazy idea, saying in the San Francisco Chronicle that "this will hurt those who can least afford it." Just the opposite is true. Northern Californians Against Plastic presented figures to show that if each of the 347,000+ households in San Francisco were to purchase a couple of cotton or canvas bags, over the approximate 10-year life of those bags the total amount saved -- compared to everyone using eight bags each week at 17 cents each -- by consumers would collectively be over $300 million. And, the bag fee would mean revenue to fund programs for the poor such as

free reusable natural-fiber bags. The Chronicle and the Commission on Environment (the San Francisco body putting the bag fee proposal to the Supervisors for an ordinance) have this new information. A movement to spearhead the fight against plastics is forming now. While there have been municipal bans of polystyrene (styrofoam), the plastics/petroleum industry has had a free ride at the expense of the health of the planet and our bodies. While endocrine disruptors and estrogen imitators have been targeted by researchers and public-spirited writers and health organizations, government has done next to nothing as it bows down to industry interests. The War On Plastic will encompass not just a few "problem chemicals" or "the worst plastics," because they are all bad in at least some single way. We must reject the entire toxic petroleum plague to our fullest capability, beginning now. In California, to complement the fledgling Campaign Against the Plastic Plague formed this year in southern California, we at Culture Change have joined this effort with a northern California emphasis. One of our first projects is to support the San Francisco bag fee. We are visiting more Californian communities as you read this, promoting bag fees and bans on certain plastics. Next, the whole state. We will face increasing opposition. But when our rationale and data are considered, almost no one will be able to turn away and ignore the issues. Waiting for technology to save the lifestyle of using unlimited plastics, by having bioplastics replace the petroleum, is no help. We find that after studying the problems with plant-based replacements (see end section), and seeing the examples of other environmental problems saddled with non-solutions, fundamental change is the only reasonable approach. Such change will address the whole -- our social system, the ecosystem and the economy -instead of spinning our wheels on the ineffectual reforms of mere symptoms of our extremely wasteful society. Science misleads in the cancer game The ubiquitous presence of plastics is already killing us. Exactly "how" is never going to be completely isolated. Eighty per cent of cancers are environmentally derived. When we wonder where the epidemic of cancer is coming from, can we say that plastics gave Ms. Jane Doe cancer? Perhaps, but cancer is coming from not only plastics and their associated toxins as well as from radiation sources, smog, the modern chemically tainted diet, household and workplace chemicals, etc. To say cancer is "genetic" is to put the onus on our intrinsic humanity, so as to ignore the 80% environmental-source principle. The absolute proof that a case of cancer came from a particular cause or chemical is usually lacking, except in the case of certain rare cancers from identifiable chemicals. Or, a massive exposure can be blamed for specific cancers when it assaults a community such as Union Carbide's mass poisoning of Bhopal, India. The lack of exact, causal evidence

clearly pointing to plastics, for example, when considering cancer, is most convenient for the status quo. This points up the faulty approach of focusing on a certain chemical villain, or set of bad chemicals -- as if the rest are safe and the technocratic bureaucracy will save us. The public is encouraged by industry to think a certain cancer is caused by overexposure to a certain chemical not yet regulated, so corporate profits can roll along in the context of technological progress that the public has been trained not to question. In reality, thousands of marketed chemicals and their combinations have not been tested to see if they are harmful. Whether or not scientists can measure a substance should not be the point. What we don't see or detect can be lethal enough. Migration and release of plastics' chemicals into our food, water and skin is of little interest to the government and its corporate friends. But certain principles won't go away:. For example, polymerizing does not perfectly bind the petroleum chemicals together, especially when substances such as carcinogenic plasticizers are added after polymerization. Did you think that cute "rubber" duckie in the bath tub was harmless? Think again.

The U.S. public is thus treated every bit as shabbily as the Third World victims of plastic pollution. In India, where much of Americans' plastic "recycling" (mostly trash) is sent, the authorities dismiss the sad public health impact there by asking, "How can you prove that these plastic and lead recycling factories are causing these problems?" [source: Plastic Task Force, Berkeley Ecology Center] In a land like India where biotech crops and corporate fast-food outlets have been sabotaged, it is possible that folks there may intensify their destroying whatever is destroying them.

When the environmental movement holds back forthright judgment, and the environment and our health are not protected, people do need to take on plastics and other threats personally. This is because the mainstream movement to protect the environment and public health is going practically nowhere. This is exactly what industry and its scientists want. It's as if industry is funding the environmental movement; in large part it is.

Your War on Plastics We all need to be awakened, as if a "Pearl Harbor" event suddenly was telling us that plastics threaten us. However, the prevailing attitude by those already concerned about plastics is that we must just focus on reducing the use of one or two key plastics while continuing to push recycling. This philosophy of compromise, without stating the whole truth that plastics must be eliminated as much and as fast as possible, is a deadly mistake. The funded environmental movement and public health officials are needlessly resigned to accepting a plastic world just because ignorant consumers have habits. The approach of promoting only the bringing of one's own bag for shopping, along with the recycling con game and waiting for bioplastics, has failed and needs to be abandoned publicly. Paul Goettlich is the director of, a nonprofit dedicated to exposing the effects and costs of technology on our bodies and society. The plastics section on is the most extensive wholistic set of documents and scientific data that exists on plastics. "There are no safe plastics," Goettlich says. "The tendency of environmental organizations is to proclaim what the worst or the best plastics are, so we can go on using them. It is ill conceived and does not address the relevant issues. All plastics migrate toxins into whatever they contact at all times. It does not matter if it is water- or oil-based; hot or cold; solid or liquid," says Goettlich.

Analogy:: When war is used as a solution in reacting to an alleged threat or terror, etc., (Saddam, Noriega, ad infinitum) we fail to focus on the real problem -- the cause of the war, which is usually corporate America. We are distracted by one alarm after another, while war profiteers and jingoistic politicians bleed us dry. Its the same with plastics -- the chemicals are the battles but the war is really about plastic and petroleum dependence. The focus of environmental organizations is the individual chemical, while refusing to promote real solutions such as reusable nontoxic, nonplastic replacement of containers and bags. Instead of wondering what plastic might be safer to microwave, we say "None. And don't microwave anyway. It creates free radicals -- the precursors to cancer -- in your food." This is war, and we've already been critically damaged. Join us! As discussed in "Plastics your formidable enemy," published last August in this column, the supply of petroleum products such as plastics will dry up thanks to the extreme market response that we can anticipate as soon as geologic reality triggers panic. The peak of oil extraction is imminent, with natural gas to follow soon after. Most plastic bags are made from natural gas (methane). A host of poisonous chemicals are imbedded in plastic that are unstable, causing genetic damage and resultant disease. To reiterate, as it is not possible to attribute most environmental diseases to specific chemicals or products, industry gets a free ride in killing people and the planet for profit. The reductionist approach of science, and the domination of research by corporations and corrupt government agencies, tricks citizens into ceding their power to specialists wedded to the economic/academic system and its inherent flaws. Here are a few of the critical, insurmountable challenges from plastic's production and disposal: Clear plastic food wrap contains up to 30% DEHP [di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate]. This substance is also in intravenous blood bags. This poison was identified by the State of California for its Proposition 65 list of carcinogens and mutagens, but industry pressure got the listing weakened.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it was found that 1,000,000 times more toxins are concentrated on the plastic debris and plastic particles than in ambient sea water;

Six times as much plastic per weight than zooplankton is in any given amount of sea water taken from the middle of the Pacific Ocean;

Triclosan, in plastics as well as antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, and fabrics, is shown to cause health and environmental effects and compound antibiotic resistance. Researchers found that when sunlight is shined on triclosan in water and on fabric, a portion of triclosan is transformed into dioxin.

Migration from all seven categories of plastic designated with numerals on packaging, including the recyclable types 1 and 2, are (partial list): Acetaldehde, antioxidants, BHT, Chimassorb 81, Irganox (PS 800, 1076, 1010), lead, cadmium, mercury, phthatlates, and the acknowledged carcinogen diethyl hexyphosphate.

Many more such additives are often present, creating in our bodies synergisms that can be 1,600 times as strong as an estrogen imitator/endocrine disruptor/single chemical may be.

The main issue surrounding the use of polyvinylchloride (PVC) is the impact of toxic pollutants generated throughout its life cycle. A Greenpeace (UK) study from October 2001 stated in its headline, "UK Government report on PVC misses the point, but still condemns PVC windows and floors." Unfortunately, Greepeace did not quite get it either when it advocated for plastic replacements seemingly less poisonous: "PVC should be phased out and replaced with non chlorinated materials - timber, linoleum, polyethylene, PET, polypropylene and others." Will Greenpeace declare War on Plastic?

Who is the enemy in this war on plastic, besides you and me? At the December 1, 2004 meeting of the Campaign Against the Plastic Plague, a spy from Dart packaging was present and kept entirely to himself. Dart touts its "single-use foodservice products worldwide." Another adversary is the American Plastics Council (APC) which has sent its "suits" to interfere in the city of San Francisco's process of cleaning up the plastic bag mess. APC has a website that promises to answer all your questions about plastics. But its search engine comes up empty for "migration", "endocrine disruptors" and "estrogen." Bioplastics? "A lot of bio-engineered row crops, using petroleum fertilizers and plasticizers to make the throw away society perpetuate itself, is not appropriate. A mess of slowly degrading rubbish on our fences and shores could be worse than non-degradables." - Captain Charles Moore, plastics pollution researcher. Because of our huge population size and high consumption levels, there would not be much arable land or species-diversity left over if the consumer demand for plastics, for example, were to come from agriculture (no matter if it were organic or GMO-maximum pesticide), even if it were possible to do this to the Earth and our communities. We cannot imagine a plant-based approach only for plastics and not expect that other fossil fuel needs would not be part of the same approach of agricultural strip-mining. There would be competition for land from many pressures and interests, trying in vain to replicate the petroleum economy with a plant-based one.. That is another reason the real solution comes down to just cutting consumption of petroleum to the max. How about no plastics -- not using plastics to the extent we can manage doing so. We will be forced to deal with virtually total shortage of plastic production due to imminent petroleum crash. So there goes bioplastics and other technofixes right out the window, because they will not be in place to ramp up. Better not to dream about them, but rather get on with preparing for a sustainable future based on reality. The promise of the technofix (bioplastics in this case) gives the consumer the idea that tomorrow and for some years one will probably do just what one did today as to consuming. The rationalization is that although we are doing wrong and it can't go on long, "human ingenuity" and "science" will "solve our problems" some day; as "they" will "think of something."

As we've seen with energy issues, this mindset of the technofix and "clean" energy down the road just puts off facing the fact that consumption must be slashed immediately, particularly when the infrastructure for the "green" Utopia for energy consumption would rely on the present petroleum-based infrastructure. The critical context is vast overpopulation, already achieved thanks to petroleum dependence. I would predict that plant-based plastics will be niche products and used very locally, similar to alcohol fuels which are only realistic for meeting very local, limited needs possibly, in certain parts of the world. Bioplastics would also attract toxins in the ambient sea water, as petroleum plastics do. All the more reason to declare War on Plastics. Period! The following is from a government analyst friendly to the campaign against plastics: "Biodegradable plastics are often (not always) made from soy and corn. Making plastics from agricultural products will encourage a massive shift of production from petroleum-based products to products that rely on petroleumbased pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers. So, we are not moving away from reliance on petroleum products, rather we would be encouraging the use of more toxic forms of them. Mass agriculture on the scale that would be necessary to produce the plastics to feed our consumer society will significantly increase the degradation already caused by industrial-style agriculture -- that is, the use of water, energy, the use of pesticides, the depletion of top soil, and the resulting sedimentation of rivers and nearby waterways caused by soil erosion. "If additional criteria were added to plastics that are biodegradable or compostable that made them sustainable, then I might feel more comfortable with the shift away from plastics made from hydrocarbons. Specifically, sustainable agricultural practices should be used with the development of any agricultural materials grown for plastic production (i.e. no GMOs, no pesticide/insecticide/ fungicide use, and other principles of sustainable agriculture that prevent soil erosion). Use of waste agricultural materials, such as byproducts from growing sugar cane, should be given a higher priority since it closes the loop on production. "Another concern is that the ASTM standards for biodegradable and compostable plastics do not address the issue of plastic additives. So, there is no reason to believe that the plasticizing additives that cause cancer and hormone disruption will not be used in these new plastics. Prohibition on the use of harmful chemicals additives should be added to the criteria for sustainable plastics. For example, Dupont is marketing "Greenpla." When you check their website about biodegradable plastics and see Dupont's "Biomax," we see its generic name is "Polybutylenesuccinate/terephthalate" [Note that the last phrase, phthalate, is in a class of highly toxic compounds. - ed.]

From Paul Goettlich, whose comments were directed, as were the above comments in this section, to the Campaign Against the Plastic Plague participants in early December 2004: "The concept of "biodegradable plastic" is at best a ploy by industry meant to divert our focus away from the real problem: single-use containers and packaging. "The concept that something can take on the properties required for containers to then be composted into its original components -- just as found in nature -- is a stretch at best. Engineers and scientists may come up with any number of standards that attempt to define nature, but what it conforms to is a reductionist model that does not work when applied to whole systems. "I am completely against promoting biodegradable products. They are the happy alternative that allows people to continue consuming without regard to many associated issues. PLA plastics utilize corn grown on corporate monoculture farms and will be some variety genetically engineered corn that will be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup. "This type of farming will never be sustainable. It uses more pesticides than normal conventional farming, and nearly 100% more than sustainable organic farming. Conventional farming uses pesticides because it is a monoculture -one crop is grown on thousands of acres. That fact alone is the very reason why pesticides must be used. Monoculture farming's lack of diversity is the chief cause of the pestilence require pesticides. "In genetically engineered crops such as Roundup Ready corn -- as opposed to normal conventional corn -- pesticide use is actually increased rather than decreased. Crop output is also reduced rather than increased. And it is impossible to contain the pollen from genetically engineered crops, making organic agriculture a doomed concept at best. Everything that the industry claims about its GMO crops is categorically false. "Industrial farms also destroy communities they are in. Unions are busted. Communication between farmers is destroyed. An adversarial mood is instilled in the community. The farmer is rapidly being disappeared by the likes of Monsanto. It will do anything and say anything to make a buck. Percy Schmeiser [sued by Monsanto for having Round-Up-ready plants inadvertently growing on his farm) is a perfect example. It is not wise to ignore the consequences of dealing with Monsanto, Cargill, and any of the other agribusiness giants. "Consolidation of farms is having an enormous effect on farmers. So many farmers have left farming that it is no longer a category in the US Census -disappeared on paper. And the ones that remain generally need to supplement

their income with one or more extra jobs, meaning that farming is almost considered a hobby rather than a profession. "The message I'd like to leave everyone with is "watch the doughnut not the hole." In other words, watch the real issues and don't be distracted by corporate smoke and mirrors. The hole is the allure of being able to maintain our current lifestyles while not causing environmental and social harm. But there is no easy way out. Consumption is consumption no matter what pretty picture is painted of it. Corporate America has many millions of dollars to invest in promoting products. "At first look, the concept of biodegradable seems admirable. But follow the links out in all directions until you think there are no more, and then dig deeper. It is not enough to merely see that a plastic degrades. What we don't see amounts to so much more and must be considered before any new technology is accepted." "Alternatives to (petroleum) plastics," according to the Berkeley Ecology Center's Plastic Task Force do not include bioplastics: Reduce the use source reduction. Reuse containers. Require producers to take back resins. Legislatively require recycled content. Standardize labeling and inform the public. Could it be that the solid waste nightmare precludes their embracing bioplastics? The Berkeley Ecology Center is the oldest and one of the most thorough recycling operations in the U.S. December 9-20, 2004, Berkeley/Oakland, California

Monday, 14 May, 2001, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK

Bombay gets tough on plastic bags

Market traders are not allowed to use plastic bags

By Lovejit Dhaliwal in Bombay Bombay is stepping up its campaign against plastic bags, with police raids on factories and shops that may be manufacturing or handling them. The council banned the bags last year, to stop them littering the streets and clogging up the city's sewerage system. At vegetable markets, traders now hand out recycled paper bags There is still plenty of sweeping and clearing up after the markets close, but where the ban has been strictly enforced, the amount of litter on the streets has been dramatically cut. 'No value' The municipal council is keen to see the same happen elsewhere in the city. "Plastic bags have been creating havoc," says Ajit Kumar Jain, one of the council commissioners. "Number one, it is adding to the garbage. "You know, they don't have much of a recycling value, therefore even the rag pickers, waste pickers, they do not pick those bags and they sort of dump it in the drains. "Now once they are in the drain, they completely clog the drains which contributes to flooding intensity, so that is primarily the reason why thin plastic bags are being banned."

Plastic bags have been creating havoc

Ajit Kumar Jain, Bombay council

People don't know what the plastic does With the monsoon season due to arrive soon, the council is keen when it leaks to avoid a repetition of last year's flooding. But this is not the
only problem caused by plastic bags. Professor Rashmi Mayur, an adviser to the United Nations on environmental issues, and head of the International Institute for a Sustainable Future, says the effects of plastic bag littering reach far beyond the city, and there are health implications for everyone.

Professor Rashmi Mayur

"Increasingly, all the farms are saturated with the plastic bags, and people don't know what the plastic does when it leaks," he says. "And they grow vegetables, they grow grains and it's all up-taken by the vegetables and grains and these chemicals have an enormous amount of neurological problems in the blood and so on."

Tough penalties A small municipal enforcement team carries out raids on innocuous-looking shops. The team watches suspect premises for days. "For 15 days, we are coming here... we are getting 100-150 cases of plastic bags which are very thin and coloured," said Pradeep Savan, the assistant security officer in charge of one raid. The penalties for handling or manufacturing these thin bags are relatively high. Shops and factories can be heavily fined and closed down for a month. The council says its campaign has been a success, pointing out that it has seized well over 2,000kg of plastic bags. "This has become an issue. I mean, people have started talking about plastic bags," says Ajit Kumar Jain. "You go to any shop and the shop people are also very cautious when dispensing the things, and everybody, by and large, has understood what exactly is the problem created or caused by the plastic bags. But despite the posters and notices, thin polythene bags still appear on the streets. It is clear that Bombay's people need to take this issue more seriously.