A friend posted on Facebook how she loves the plastic bags her groceries are packed in each time she shops. She listed the various ways she reuses them and ended with the statement that she does not feel guilty about using plastic bags. Most replies were in agreement with the post. A few souls posted their love of reusable grocery sacks and the ways they’ve reduced their plastic bag usage at home.
It should come as no surprise that I fall in the ‘reusable bags are better’ camp. I have a few thoughts for those individuals who can’t seem to step away from the plastic bag addiction.
Veggies and fruits – we often gather those into clear plastic bags. For years I’ve used reusable mesh produce sacks for all my durable produce (i.e.- apples, potatoes, oranges etc.). They are quite sturdy, easy to wash, and eliminate a lot of waste. I haven’t figured out how to store my more delicate produce such as lettuce. I would like to find an alternative to the plastic bag for those items.
Small trash bins – Back when (yes I’m to the point in my life when I can say “back when”) I was a child, in the 1970s, our waste bins in the bathrooms and bedrooms were never lined with plastic. I do remember having to wash the bins every three to six month. So, today we can ditch lining every single bin in our house with plastic. Also, back when, our kitchen trash was contained in a paper grocery sack which is very biodegradable. Today, when we compost our fruit and veggie scraps the kitchen trash will stay “cleaner”. By making sure all recyclable items are recycled we will also reduce a big portion of our trash. With these two simple steps – composting and recycling –will greatly reduce what goes into a trash bag, we will need less bags, and therefore we will use less plastic to dispose of our garbage.
Pet waste – this is the biggest argument to the use of plastic bags. They are handy for cleaning the cat box or when the dog is walked. A better choice would be biodegradable bags. I get mine in the dog care aisle at Walmart. These sacks will biodegrade allowing the contents to also biodegrade. What if you have a hamster or other small caged animal? The litter and their waste can be put in with your compost.
Did you know – traditional plastic bags don’t biodegrade they photodegrade? This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily release toxins. They then contaminate soil and waterways, and even animals when they digest those fragments (Earth911).
An estimated 3,960,000 tons of plastic bags, sack and wraps are produced annually. Of those, 3,570,000 tons (90%) are discarded. (Environmental Protection Agency) Much of this discarded plastic, because of how light weight it is, ends up blowing away from the landfills. Many times I’ve been out in our amazing scenic world only to have the view marred by tattered strips of plastic blowing from branches or caught on shrubs – like ghosts made up from the short sighted choices of yesterday.
10% of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor (United Nations). An estimated one million birds and 100,000 turtles and other sea animals die of starvation each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags which block their digestive tracks.
Some argument against reusable bags and simple solutions:
They harbor germs. – run them through the wash.
When filled they are too heavy for me to carry. – buy smaller bags or ask the bagger to only fill them halfway
I forget to bring them. – keep them in your car, post on your list “bring bags”, you remember your wallet and keys you can develop a habit of bringing the bags.
My “small step” toward reducing my plastic bag use will be finding an alternative liner for the trash compactor (the house came with it) in my kitchen and for delicate produce storage.
What small step will you take to reducing your plastic bag usage?
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