I have an obsession with reusable recycled shopping bags. I love acquiring new bags either for very cheap but more often for free. It is hard to pass up another bag because you can leave them in your car, office, backpacks and have no excuse to not use them. Plus they are usually colorful and cute! The problem lies in the resources used to make the bag, and the transportation of that bag from most likely China to my possession. At some point collecting too many reusable bags becomes harmful for the environment. It just goes to show you “every little bit helps”. I don’t think I am quite at the detrimental point yet but it is looming close in the distance.
The way we, as Americans view and treat plastic bags and bags in general is also an issue. A bag should not be a one time use item. Really, if something has a one time use value, it is wasteful.
And WOW do we use a lot of plastic bags:
- Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide
- About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
- A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
- The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags. This costs retailers about $4 billion a year.
- Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
- Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
My concern lies in everyone’s ease of using a bag and then throwing it away. It starts at the store. It is now custom that store owners almost push a plastic bag on you asking, “Are you SURE you don’t need a bag”. Also it is the customer that requests a bag for something that does not require a bag. Most plastic bags are thrown away to end up in a landfill, river, or ocean where when they break down still contaminate the environment and then our drinking water.
There are many options and solutions to our one time use throw away society. Many stores now have recycle bins at the entrances to collect used plastic bags. They then recycle them into more bags, saving them from going into a landfill. But as of now less than 1% of bags are recycled!!
Also use a reusable bag! They are stylish and can be used over and over and you can wash them! What many cashiers don’t understand is that if the package of chicken leaks onto my bag, it can be washed! Many times cashiers insist that some items need a bag, but they misunderstand the purpose of reusable bags. It’s not their fault, it’s our culture, we just need to open up each others eyes to what is happening and the small things we can do to change and improve.
Check this out from Reuseit.com :
Plastic Tax: In 2001, Ireland implemented a plastic tax (or PlasTax); the first of its kind, this route acknowledges the fact that people will still occasionally use plastic bags. This market-based solution discourages daily, thoughtless use of plastic bags by charging a nominal fee per bag at checkout. In a study by the Irish Department of the Environment it was found that plastic bag usage had dropped 93.5%. This breaks down to a drop from 328 to 21 bags per person each year.
At the El Paso Zoo everyday we encourage people to keep our land and ocean clean especially during our California Sea Lion presentations. Educators link the sea lion’s playground in the wild (the ocean) to trying to play on the swings at a trash filled playground. Everyone wants a clean area so do your part and keep it clean! We all live downstream.
Do something Drastic, Cut the Plastic!