During the fall of 2011 I decided I would make 2012 the year I would bring home no plastic shopping bags! I had seen plastic bags floating way out in the Pacific back in the 80s and couldn’t miss them wafting down almost every street I traveled.
I also was aware, in a vague way, that they are made from petroleum and that sea life often ate them only to die as they twisted up their guts.
It turns out the problem is way worse than I thought.
Recycling plastic bags isn’t working because there’s no market for that kind of plastic (PE). Sure, when we put plastic bags in a recycling container outside our grocery store, they get picked up and taken somewhere, but it turns out they are just stored. While that’s better than letting them blow into our waterways and decorating our landscape, it’s a non-solution.
5Gyers.org, named for the huge geyers or ever turning circles of trash driven by the ocean currents, spells out the problem clearly. Yes, there are currently 5 gyers of trash in the world’s oceans – those are our oceans and we’re ruining them. Much of the problem is caused by plastic shopping bags.
BagMonster.com is a site devoted to both education about the damage plastic bags do and to banning them. You can learn and participate there.
Learning to stop using plastic shopping bags
The secret, of course, is substituting reusable shopping bags for the plastic ones.
Learning to actually use the reusable bags I’d been given and bought along the way turned out to really be about forming a new habit. Sometime in early November I made the commitment and practiced getting those bags from the car to the grocery store and from my house back to the car.
What initially stilted me was how to handle my own trash. I couldn’t remember what I had done with trash cans before plastic bags. So I asked someone. The answer turned out to be dirt simple – I no longer line them with anything.
Sure, the kitchen trashcan gets messy – in fact the first week I didn’t line it it got flat gross.
Composting makes handling garbage a lot easier. I also learned to rinse out, even wash, any container that had meat in it of any sort.
Besides, the trashcan is washable – what a concept!
I discovered that without the plastic bag lining it I got more trash into it, meaning fewer trips out to empty it, a small plus.
I’ve also been seen coming out of stores juggling un-bagged items because I’d forgotten my reusable bags, and once I had to buy yet another reusable bag because mine were already filled up with groceries in the car. But when I’ve told the clerks that I haven’t used any plastic shopping bags for all of 2012 they seem pleased. One even said he might do the same thing.
According to various websites, the average person uses 500 plastic bags a year. Subtracting my contribution by itself means nothing. Added to yours it starts to mount up. At the moment about 100 people see this blog – if we all stop using them that’s 50,000 bags. If all of you show one other person… and so it goes.
Finally, what about the companies that manufacture plastic shopping bags and the people they employ? It is possible to make bio-plastic bags out of corn. Not totally problem free, according to Smithsonian Magazines, they are a partial step in the right direction. The real answer is just to quit using the darn things.
Will you join me in giving up the plastic shopping bag?
Love, blessings and abundance,