The #BanTheBag Campaign is Exploding as a Worldwide Trend

In 2000, Mumbai, India imposed a ban on plastic bags after facing an urban litter crisis and intense flooding. In 2002, Bangladesh also banned plastic bags.  These bans were the first to be highly publicized, not because of the environmental benefits, but because eliminating plastic bags provided disaster mitigation and prevention.  The situation arose because plastic bags held no recycling value so garbage pickers would not even pick them up.  Instead people turned to shoving the bags into nearby sewers which resulted in the floods.  After the ban went into effect, city officials in Mumbai were quite diligent in their enforcement efforts, even going as far as raiding, fining, and seizing plastic from dozens of shops suspected of non-compliance. 

A similar situation occurred in Taiwan during 2002.  After an outbreak of Hepatitis during the 1990s, the country turned to disposable food packaging and cutlery as a solution to impede the virus.  This increase in plastic waste from the food industry, combined with the 2.5 bags citizens used on average daily, created an enormous waste disposal issue.  As the new millennium rung in, the county’s recycling facilities were overloaded, and their landfill space was running out.  The government responded with a ban on disposable plastic. 

A year later, in 2003, the Australian township of Coles Bay, a tourist town with a population of 175, began the online campaign which is now known as #BanTheBag.  As a community dependent on ecotourism, #BanTheBag aligns perfectly with their mission to protect the local environment from litter.  However, Coles Bay decided to take #BanTheBag detailing the ban which quickly gained coverage within the global environmental community, particularly in Africa. Almost immediately after the Coles Bay announcement, throughout the globe, bans, restrictions, and taxes were levied on plastic shopping bags. 

The first city within North America to ban plastic bags was San Francisco in 2007.  Since then, this has become a hot topic. Many non-profit groups have arisen to support the cause, most notably, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, and 5Gyres.  Legislation has been proposed for the entire state of California, and many other US municipalities have passed bans including Aspen, Marshal County, Brookline, Austin, Santa Fe, Portland, Seattle, Laredo, East Hampton, Honolulu County, Hawaii County, Sonoma County.  Toronto, Canada put the legislation up for an unsuccessful vote in 2012.  Montreal, Canada, is now considering a ban which, if successful, will be the first Canadian metropolis to achieve a ban.

Proponents of plastic bags are not giving up easily, however.  A ban for the entire state of California was passed only to be delayed right before the planned implementation date July 1st, 2015 to allow for a referendum vote to take place in 2016.  Major players for the plastics industry have formed their own alliances and organizations to counter the efforts of environmentalists.

The Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, announced just last month that he will be open to a debate on the subject of whether to ban the bags outright, or to “look at an in-between situation”.  Leading the opposition to the ban in this debate will be Pierre Dubois of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.  Although Mayor Coderre has made his pro-ban position on the subject clear, Dubois is hoping to persuade him otherwise with the following argument:

“We think a ban is probably the worst way to solve environmental problems,” he said.

Dubois said a bag ban would create other problems. If consumers forget their reusable cloth bags, paper bags and their larger carbon footprint would be the likely option at stores. Consumers who use shopping bags to dispose of waste would in turn have to purchase more bags.

“Exchanging one type of material for another is not necessarily a panacea,” said Dubois, who supports education on recycling and reusing.

Dubois argued that statistics suggest about 59 per cent of Quebecers reuse shopping bags at least once or twice, and that more than one-third recycle them. Approximately 7% are guilty of putting them in the trash.

“I agree with you when I see a bag flying along the road, I cringe,” Dubois said. “That person could have put it in their blue box and it could have been used by someone to make something else.”

The flaw with Dubois’ argument is that the bags are not being recycled at any rate comparable to that which they are being produced.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 9% of plastic is recovered in the United States, a country known for having above-average recycling practices.   The percentage of plastic that ends up in the ocean every year is a difficult figure to calculate, however, many environmental research groups have speculated that between 5% – 10% litters the world’s oceans.  That is nearly equal minority amounts of plastic winding up on the opposite extremes of the disposal issue, with the vast majority of all plastic still ending up in landfills.

This movement is gaining momentum and expanding.  New non-profit organizations, and businesses are contributing to the solution by spreading the word and raising awareness.  Bans on plastic drinking bottles and Styrofoam are also gaining popularity around the globe, similar to the way the bag bans did.  Plastic waste has the potential to become a life or death struggle in the long run for all of us.  It is only through advocating for change and successfully implementing legislation that we can combat this issue and win.


Project Ocean Cleanup

It’s no secret that rampant plastic use for everyday consumption is transforming marine life in our oceans.  Every year a staggering 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans.  The majority of the plastic is concentrated by converging currents into 5 major spots around the world.  These trash hotspots are called gyres, and they are getting so big that they are affecting the health of animals and people around the world.

The toxins released by the plastic in the ocean are absorbed by all marine life and make its way up the food chain all the way to humans.  This causes increased cancer and birth defects in humans while killing approximately 1 million sea birds and over 100,000 marine animals annually.

With an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans, the idea of even attempting a clean-up seemed impossible until now.  The fact that a Dutch teenager could come up with a feasible solution to cleaning up our oceans seemed even more absurd.  But luckily for us this world is full of surprises…

Meet Boyan Slat, the founder and CEO of the Ocean Cleanup.  At age 16, he was shocked when he went scuba diving in Greece and saw more plastic bags than fish. This experience led him to develop a brilliantly simple solution to a complex problem.

Why go out and try to clean up all the plastic in the ocean when you can let the ocean’s currents bring the floating plastic to you?

Boyan started working on his hypothesis as a high school project before he went viral with his innovative idea. It received so much praise that he dropped out of his Aerospace Engineering study to found the Ocean Cleanup. At the age of 18 he hosted a riveting Ted Talk that presented his passive cleanup concept.  It exploded on the internet, receiving millions of views.

At the age of 19 Boyan lead an international team of over 100 scientists and engineers on a year-long study which came up with amazing results.  Not only was his idea possible, it could eliminate 42% of the ocean’s plastic in 10 years.  These results allowed Boyan to raise $2.2 million online to turn his dream into a reality.

In 2014 Boyan was awarded the 2014 United Nations Champions of the Earth award, further encouraging him to keep advancing his project.

Now the Ocean Cleanup is going full throttle and will launch their pilot program next year.  They will release a 100 km long floating barrier that will trap floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  The collected plastic will then be recycled into bio fuel.


If successful, this project has the capability to clean up our oceans and save millions of animal and human lives.  It is incredible that one teenager came up with an idea that could impact the entire planet.  This is the beauty of creativity and the fruition of Boyan’s dedication to making the world a better place.

Jarad Fisher Dispenser Amenities on laptop at office desk

Welcoming Jarad Fisher to the Dispenser Amenities Team

Our search for the perfect candidate to join our hospitality service team ended at a wonderful London, Ontario event: The Student 2 Business Networking Conference (S2B).  Dispenser Amenities’ staff Michael Faulds and Aja Lee attended as recruiters while, Western University soon-to-be graduate, Jarad Fisher attended the event in search of local employment opportunities.

After a fabulous evening which included a delicious snack buffet, and a presentation from keynote speaker Stuart Knight, representatives Aja and Michael entered the networking conference area which was quickly filling up.  While we found any number of people who would likely have been a great fit for the job, we were looking for someone very specific.

This is when we met Jarad Fisher.  At the time, Jarad was a 4th year history major at Huron College, which is an affiliate college of the University of Western Ontario.  He had a diverse employment history at various customer service positions.  His experience at Petsmart, in particular, really struck a note with us.  Dispenser Amenities is a pet-friendly office.  After learning of his experience driving a forklift and as a chef, we were convinced that Jarad would be the perfect fit.

Jarad’s love of history stemmed from his fascination with different cultures around the world and how they evolved to become the way they are today.  Entering the field of hospitality supply gives him the opportunity to meet individuals working in hotels around the world.  “Some of these establishments just fascinate me.  For example, while working with customers from Dispenser Amenities’ vast Starwood portfolio, I came across the Aloft David Whitney.  This hotel has transformed a historical building into a vibrant downtown Detroit hospitality location.  The whole situation is Detroit is just fascinating for me.  I’m really rooting for them to rebound from the bankruptcy and now, with a vested interest in the Aloft location, I really feel a part of it.”

The American Civil War was his favorite period of study at Huron College because it combined the political, social, and military aspects of history and how this materialized into a conflict which became the defining period of American history. “Two portions of one country that were so similar, yet over the course of decades slowly drifted towards animosity until the point of open conflict. The entire period is engrossing. I loved visiting the Gettysburg battlefield when I was younger and hope to visit more again in the future.”

Now in his role as Sustainability Advisor as a part of our Dispenser Amenities team, Jarad is undertaking a new study: sustainability within the hospitality industry.  Our thousands of hotel customers and the results of their switch to a waste-free amenities system provides Jarad with a vast archive detailing the eco-saving possibilities available for properties worldwide.

Welcome to the team, Jarad!

representative sam farr-D-CA addresses the innovation showcase attendees on capital hill dispenser amenities

A Letter to Dispenser Amenities from Congressman Sam Farr

Thank you very much Sam Farr for taking the time to learn about Dispenser Amenities’ efforts toward plastic pollution reduction, as well as the efforts of the other participants at the 2015 Innovation Showcase on Capitol Hill.  We received a letter yesterday (see below) from Sam Farr thanking Dispenser Amenities for participating, and informing us that he saw the entire showcase as a big success!

We were thrilled to be invited to this event, hosted by Daniella Russo, and taking place at the Rayburn House Office Building.  For us, as a Canadian company, to be recognized by a member of the United States Government for our contributions to help reduce plastic waste across the globe, reinforces everything we are trying to accomplish.  Green hospitality initiatives in our belief, are the key to the future of the industry.

Thank you to all of the other companies who participated.  It was so eye-opening to witness all of those ideas and people coming together to try to change the course of the plastic pollution problem we face.

Congress-Sam Farr Letter

members of congress michael honda of california hears the waste-eliminating impact of dispensers from ian wallace dispenser amenities

Dispenser Amenities Invited to Innovation Showcase on Capitol Hill

March 16, 2015 was a day created to focus the attention of Lawmakers in Washington on the crisis of plastic waste in our oceans and also a day for 20 Innovative Companies, including Dispenser Amenities, to demonstrate to those on Capitol Hill ways to reduce or eliminate that flow of plastic waste.

Daniella Russo and her organization, Think Beyond Plastic™, have been aware of the meaningful difference in plastic waste made by Dispenser Amenities and our Hotel and Cruise Line customers.  At the present time, our cruise partners keep more than 100,000 plastic amenity bottles out of the waste stream every night by using Dispensers.  Globally, our customers keep more than a million waste plastic bottles from the landfill each day.  Our invitation to take part in this important day was unique to us, as a Canadian Company and our President, Ian Wallace, was honored to participate.Sam-Farr

The presentation was organized and supported by the House Ocean Caucus and Representatives Michael Honda and Sam Farr of California spoke to the group of Innovators and attendees about the importance of plastic waste reduction and how innovation in design and material is required to change our disastrous course.  Dispenser Amenities was likely the member of the Innovation Group with the longest and widest market penetration.  Our twenty years’ experience in successful plastic waste reduction contrasted significantly with the majority of Innovators who are just entering the market or still working feverishly to get to market.

The massive nature of the problem was brought into focus by Professor Jenna Jambeck, an Environmental Engineer from the University of Georgia,
during a lunchtime panel discussion.  In a recently published study, she and her associates studied the waste production of the 192 countries with Ocean coastline in the world.  Through understanding of the amount of plastic in their waste streams and the ability of these countries to properly handle this
Think-Beyond-Plastic-Daniella-Russowaste, the group determined that 8.8 Million tons of plastic was added to the oceans in 2010, through littering and waste handling mismanagement.  She said, “That is equivalent to five grocery bags of plastic trash added for every foot of ocean coastline on earth, in one year.”  That defines a catastrophe.  And her study predicts this amount will double in ten years.

Obviously, our ability to reduce and recycle plastic cannot come close to solving this problem at our present pace of finding solutions.  That’s why innovative thinking and innovative product designs are so vitally important in this War on Plastic Waste.  Several Members of Congress and Scores of Congressional Staffers saw first-hand a variety of innovative ways to improve the world’s odds in winning the war.

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