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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Ideas

The plastic bag wars

Light, sturdy, amazingly cheap—and banned. How the humble sack became a victim of its own success.

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, the people of Brookline picked a side in what has become a high-stakes war with fronts around the world. Their allies in the fight: an international movement of activists dedicated to the eradication of a global menace. Their enemy: the plastic bag.

As of December 2013, cashiers at supermarkets and other large retailers in Brookline will no longer be allowed to provide disposable polyethylene bags to their customers at checkout, under threat of a punishing fine. Instead they’ll use bags made from compostable or marine degradable material, including paper, or encourage customers to bring reusable bags from home. The ban puts Brookline at the vanguard of the anti-plastic-bag movement, which has succeeded in getting similar ordinances passed in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as in China, India, and South Africa. It also represents what is arguably the biggest victory the movement has yet seen on the East Coast.

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