Monday, February 18, 2008

The Poop On Plastic Bags

This one has been on the back burner for a while and I'm finally getting around to it. It seems like a pretty simple one, but old habits die hard sometimes, so here goes.

Plastic Bags Blow!

There I said it. It's really amazing how prevalent these things have become in our society. Around the world we go through about 1 million of these little lovelies every minute (that's right, every minute) and roughly 90% of them end up in landfills. Now some of them claim to be biodegradable but unless they are truly biodegradable (made of corn or some such thing), than they are photodegradable, which is great, unless they happen to be 20 feet underground in a landfill. If that is the case, which often is, than they are NON degradable. They'll basically sit there for 1000 years or so and muck up the works.

Plastic bags litter, they use an incredible amount of petroleum that is already running out, and it takes a tremendous amount of energy to create them.

The amazing thing though is that there are so many good alternatives. For starters, China and Taiwan have outlawed them to get things under control. Ireland added a Plastax on them and eradicated 95% of them in a year. And NYC...well NYC has passed a law to strongly urge the recycling of the bags!!!! For some reason, in this country, we are not recognizing the problems that these things cause. And when you think about how they are used, it's generally for transporting something from the store to your house and then it gets thrown out. Incredible.

The simple solution is that you can buy a cloth or other re-usable bag and get years worth of use out of it. Whole Foods is selling really good cheap ones now and with 5-10 cents back per bag from most chain super markets, they'll pay for themselves in no time and then actually make you money.

A lot of people complain that they always forget their bags, which was a problem that i had at first. But in all fairness, this is just like breaking yourself of any bad habit. You don't forget your wallet when you go to the store do you (well if you do, maybe you have a point to stick on with the bags)? If you promise yourself that you will never take another plastic bag, trust me, it only takes one time of having to juggle everything out of the store to make you remember to bring them with you next time. And once you train yourself, voila, your good to go.

On another note, produce bags, those little ones that hang above the produce aisles. My suggestion for these is that most items don't need them. Do you really need a bag for apples that will then go in your fridge before you chuck that bag? Sure it's easier to carry, but throw them in your cloth bag while you are shopping. As far as certain things like bulk and wet stuff, just bring the bags back to the store the next time you go and re-use them. It sounds like a hassle but it really isn't.

And for those things that you can't get around, like dog poop, there are truly compostable bags you can buy. Yes, they cost more, but in the case of the dog, you've accepted the responsibility to pick up after them right? Than why should it be ok to send plastic to the landfill in doing so?

So there you have it. Not pretty or truly well thought out, but come on, does anyone really think these things make sense anymore?

Live Sustainably


1 comment:

Prabha said...

It helps to leave the bags near the door or in your car (if you drive).
It also helps to tell the baggers to load the canvas bags as full as possible, since a canvas bag is so much stronger and thus can often hold more than a paper bag of the same size.
Also, those large LL-bean-style canvas bags with the colored straps work really well. I used to tote three weeks worth of groceries in just two of those bags (back when I was single). The only drawback to using the big bags is that you have to convince the baggers that you can lift the bag least you do if you're like me(i.e. 5'4" and apparently frail-looking?!)
I've been using canvas bags for over 10 years, but I haven't yet figured out a good system for skipping the produce bags, so thanks for the suggestions, Dave. I've thought about using mesh bags but haven't happened on a good source. Any thoughts on those?