Plastic Bags Take Another Hit with Puma

Puma has dealt the latest blow to chemical industry lobbyists fighting to keep the plastic bag alive. The company recently announced that it has started using bags for shoppers that are fully compostable. For a fun party trick, you can also submerge them in water and watch them disappear in seconds.

I live in Hawaii, the state closest to the giant Pacific garbage patch known as the Pacific Gyre. Twice the size of Texas, the Gyre’s actual density is hard to measure, but some estimates put it at around 335,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer, roughly 7 times as many particles as zooplankton. You would think that a state so dependent on tourism as Hawaii would be the first to proactively ban plastic debris like those painful-to-watch single use plastic shopping bags. They litter beaches, flutter about on even gentle breezes, and quickly escape tourists too busy to keep an eye on their stuff while enjoying our beautiful sunsets.

Recently, Maui and Kauai made strides in the plastic bag ban, but Oahu, the island with by far the largest population and highest number of tourists, had its plastic bag fee (fee, mind you, not outright ban) derailed last year. The American Chemistry Council (ACC), the lobbying front group for many chemical manufacturers, had a large part to play. The ACC keeps Hawaii’s State Representative Joe Souki on retainer with a “consulting fee” of $24,000 per year. Not surprisingly, Souki helped derail Oahu’s attempt to add a plastic bag fee (and another bill that would have banned styrofoam from Maui, but that’s another story).

The ACC can continue to fight the patchwork regulatory environment around this issue. It’s not just San Francisco anymore…China, Mexico City, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda and many more have bans in place. They’d need to keep fighting each municipality and putting legislators on “consulting retainers”, but the bottom line is the ACC SIMPLY…CAN…NOT…FIGHT… PUMA!

The ACC and other lobbying groups for petrochemical companies need to take note: you’re fighting a losing battle. Get on the bandwagon and figure out how to make money in the green economy.


Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill), and covers green business strategy on

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Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

5 responses

  1. I always appreciate these types of efforts as it clearly shows so much more is possible than we actually endeavor to put into motion. I am critical of the use of food-based solutions to problems that really demand of us a more cradle-to-cradle approach. These bags are temporary storage units that go directly into the waste stream, unless, of course, one composts them. The other problem is that, being made from corn starch, it is almost certain that large swaths of GMO corn are being planted to supply this type of demand. That brings with it a myriad of environmental problems we know of and also many we may soon suffer the consequences of. I do hope these types of creative solutions continue to be developed and I extend a challenge to these companies to look further down the line for more long-term solutions as it is better for the environment and better for their bottom line.

    1. I agree with ecoentrepreneur. Shopping bags are temporary storage units that our current shopping system supports when they hand out any type of single-use bag. Why should Puma be in the bag business at all? I bought a big over-sized canvas bag one Christmas for $5 from Bath & Body Works. This bag is my mall bag – I go to the mall and carry home all my purchases in this great, stylish, sturdy bag. I’ve used it for about five years now. I challenge retailers to stop offering bags, period. If an entire mall were to accept this challenge and join together – offer some cool oversized totes the first year, stores can brand them, etc. – think of the reduction in waste without any reduction in consumption (I’d love for us all to consume less too – but maybe let’s start with generating less single-use and packaging waste!).

  2. While my husband and I vacationed in Arizona last year, we were shocked to see the sheer number of plastic shopping bags that littered the landscape as far as the eye could see from the road. Bags were stuck on fences, in trees, on shrubs, on the ground, and blowing in the wind. The problem was more evident in wide-open, flat spaces, but it made us realize there is a huge environmental problem. Having a biodegradable solution for the plastic shopping bads is genius because of its simplicity. The downside would be for example carrying a jug of cold milk that “sweats” inside the biodegradable plastic bag, which then disintegrates and plunks the jug to the ground. There needs to be a balance between durability and biodegradability. I have confidence in the scientists and engineers.

  3. This video is so exciting, it make me happy to see new innovations(or old ones that haven’t been implemented) used to better the place we live in.

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