As I finished up a telephone call in my car in the Stop and Shop parking lot the other day, I observed a young woman unload her cart, filled to the brim with groceries, all bagged, maybe even double bagged, in plastic. I was really taken aback! With that many groceries, wouldn’t larger paper ones be better if you didn’t have reusable ones?
I mistakenly think everyone is aware of the problems with plastic bags. Change in attitude is happening for sure, but we are clearly not there yet. Below are some startling facts about plastic bags compiled from a previous post.
- The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store, just one of many stores we frequent.
- According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil or natural gas, both non-renewable resources, are used to make these bags.
- Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. At this time roughly only 5 or 6% of them are recycled. Millions end up in the litter stream outside of the landfills, either in the oceans or on land where aquatic life and animals, mistaking them for food, are poisoned. The rest end up in landfills. It can take centuries for them to decompose.
Though they are inexpensive to produce (therein lies the problem), easily reused as trashcan liners or lunch bags, and can be recycled, there are still too many plastic (and paper) bags. They seem to multiply – a direct correlation to the amount of stuff we consume!
Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. Fortunately, the movement to bring reusable bags to the grocery store is catching on and many stores now give a $.05/bag rebate. Whole Foods stores no longer carry plastic bags -100% biodegradable bags are now available.
Alternatives are there. It’s time for all companies and consumers to get on board!
List of towns in the US that banned plastic bags:
- San Francisco
- Portland, OR
- Falmouth, MA
- Provincetown, MA
- a few other towns in MA
- Austin, TX
- towns in the outer banks of North Carolina
List of countries with cities that banned plastic bags:
- Mexico (Mexico City)
- Rwanda (reputed to be one of the cleanest nations in the world)
Countries where plastic bags are taxed, but not banned:
- Ireland (where plastic bag use dropped by 94 percent within weeks of the 2002 ban.)
Countries where plastic bags come with a fee:
Some information compiled from: http://people.howstuffworks.com/how-many-cities-have-a-ban-on-plastic-bags.htm
For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.