You Can Stop Using Plastic Shopping Bags

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,

Anne Wayman: When Grandmother Speaks

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Hurley Hall November 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Way to go, Anne! We’re in a sort of halfway house – we use reusable bags for shopping a lot of the time, and reuse the plastic bags we do get. Many of the supermarkets use plastic that eventually disintegrates into a sort of dusty substance. I think it’s better than the regular kind but I’m not sure.

annew November 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Sharon, those bags that disintegrate are probably made of corn starch and are definitely a better option than the plastic ones. And what do you mean a half-way house?

Joni November 18, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Several stores in my area offer plastic or the old time paper bags. I take paper bags every time. I use them to line my kitchen garbage can. Of course, they do not hold as much trash but I don’t mind taking it out more often. When I ask for Gopaper bags every time they say, well you can just take some for free and still put your groceries in plastic bags. I tell them that is defeating my purpose. They can’t believe I don’t want the plastic. At one time when my kids were still home we had hundreds of bags….I hate them. Great post

annew December 16, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I know the feeling… when I turn down plastic I now tell them it’s been almost two years since I’ve taken one… surprise… and a few want to know more.

annew January 27, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Lori, it’s my understanding that the grocery bags really aren’t very recyclable… I don’t know why… I’ll have to do some more research. But recycling them is better than letting them loose.

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