1 small thing we can all do is bring stylish reusable bags to the grocery store and ditch those nasty plastic ones.
I’m sure by now you have heard that it can be beneficial to reduce or stop the use of plastic bags all together. Some people have already taken small steps towards this change. But how many plastic bags are actually surfacing? What are they really doing to our planet and the living organisms living on it? Will the ban on grocery bags solve everything, or do we need to look at all types of plastic bags? Let’s learn together and find out the what, where and how’s of plastic bags.
I don’t believe banning plastic grocery bags alone will solve our issue but it is a huge, huge help. 500 billion to 1 trillion (that’s this many zeros 1,000,000,000,000,000,000) plastic bags are used and thrown out worldwide each year. There are;
1. Grocery bags 2. Produce bags 3. Prepackaged food bags (bread, cereal, fruits and vegetables etc.) 4. Garbage bags (both large and small) 5. Shopping bags (the thicker fancier ones when purchasing clothing) 6. Sandwich, freezer and snack bags 7. Plastic bag type wrapping on products (papers, beads, small items etc.)
Now I’m sure there are a ton of other plastic bag type items that I just can’t think of right now. So if you think of some I’d love to add them to the list. You can send me an e-mail just click on the “contact” link in the menu above.
So now that we know where the most of our plastic bags are coming from, what effects are they having on our planet? How much pollution is really being caused by plastic bags?
Plastic bags use about 8% of our oil and the process used to make them is toxic and releases harmful chemicals into our atmosphere and environment. Plastic bags never biodegrade and are on this earth for life. They only break down into smaller particles.
As I said before between 500 billion- 1 trillion plastic bags are used and thrown away every year. Imagine the toll that takes on the environment. Especially on our wildlife which can get caught in the bags, or mistake them for food. Many birds especially those living on the coast will mistake plastic for food and ingest it. Sometimes the plastic will press into or cut the intestines or other vital areas of the bird’s internals. This can cause internal bleeding and death. Other times the bird fills its stomach but gets absolutely no nutrients from the plastics. They don’t degrade in their stomach cause malnutrition and death. See any patterns yet? Sea turtles will sometimes mistake a plastic bag for a jelly fish or other sea creature. Some will try to eat the bag, causing to it suffocate and die, others will become tangled in the bags either keeping the turtle from being able to move freely, or tangling around its head. There has even been instances where people have freed birds whom have becomes completely tangles in a plastic bag. This means the bird can no longer use its wings to fly, it can’t eat and soon dies from undernourishment or being killed.
When plastic is left floating in the water it can soon be covered in algae this algae smells like food to many sea creatures. Fish, birds, turtles, dolphins, whales, sharks to name a few. Some crabs have been seen using bottle caps and other garbage items as homes instead of the proper tough shells that it needs. Some countries have completely banned the use of plastic grocery bags. Leaf Rapids (Manitoba), San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Some states in Australia, and India, as well as a few Countries that have completely banned disposable plastic bags, like; Italy, China, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Kenya and a few more not mentioned. Some countries are even handing out finds to people using, selling or producing single use plastic bags. This may sound extreme but the water ways and environment is becoming cleaner and clearer. If you would like to see plastic bags banned in your community, start a petition or find one for your area online.
“500 billion to 1 trillion (that’s this many zeros 1,000,000,000,000,000,000) plastic bags are used and thrown out worldwide each year.”
So how can we take action to stop this single use plastic bags problem? Let’s look at 10 ways we can start today, to reduce the amount of plastic we use.
1. REUSABLE GROCERY/PRODUCE BAGS -Keep a stash of reusable preferably, cotton, hemp or canvass grocery bags in your car. You can also purchase small reusable bags that fold up into a pocket to keep in your purse or on a key chain. - Bring reusable produce bags with you to put your fruits and vegetables in. These are usually very light with a fine mesh to allow air flow. The light weight won’t add anything when your apples or pears are weighed at check out.
2. REUSE DISPOSABLE BAGS -If you do have disposable plastic bags, use them as trash bags, or for storing stuff. Don’t just throw them away.
3. GLASS JARS - When shopping try heading to the bulk store for nuts, seeds, grains, noodles, tea, coffee and other things often found in plastic packaging. Not only will this save the amount of disposable plastic packaging you will also save money. Just ask the cashiers to weigh your jars first empty with the lids on. They will put a sticker with the weight on the jar and when your jar is filled the will subtract the weight from the total.
4. STORAGE -Remember those glass jars? Well they make really cute storage containers. Mason jars work really well but feel free to mix it up with different shapes and sizes! If you have already started using them at the bulk store great! But you can also use them for storing left overs, or using them to pack a cute grab and go salad, or other lunch like pad Thai maybe?
5. FAST FOODS -It is probably best to avoid fast food all together, but really is that always possible? You can bring your own containers, and ask them to fill those instead, also say no to the bag and use your reusable one. You can also bring these containers to restaurants to fill instead of asking for a doggy bag.
6. STRAWS -Although I have covered straws in greater detail in my other posts it’s worth adding again as a small thing we can do to stop waste! Either say no completely to straws, or bring your own stainless steel, glass, or bamboo straw with you.
7. REUSABLE CUTLERY - Just like straws say no to disposable cutlery. They are pretty thick for their size and contain a lot of plastic, for such a small thing that is only used for 20 minutes. You can purchase bamboo forks and knives or reusable stainless steel carry packs. They are usually smaller than your normal kitchen set, some even fold to take up less room. Bring these with you to help save on the amount of waste you create.
8. CLEANERS - Cleaners can use a lot of garbage. Try using natural cleaners, or making your own. Opt for wooden, hemp, natural luffas or cloth scrub brushes and pads instead of using sponges, and throw away cleaning pads.
9. SANDWICH BAGS - When storing snacks and sandwiches in bags we forget how fast they add up. You can buy or make your own reusable sandwich and snack bags. Using a clean cotton material is best, opt for fabrics with natural dyes, or no dyes at all. You can sew a small square or rectangular pouch with a zipper, button, or that can fold into itself with a lip. These are perfect for bring in sandwiches and snacks, and can be easily cleaned. Did I forget to mention how cute they are!
10. CLING WRAP - Cling wrap is definitely easy to use, and to forget how much we are clinging. Pull, rip, tear, and stick. Did you know there is a really easy substitute for cling wrap? Beeswax coated cotton fabric. That’s it. If you are vegan you can opt for a soy based wax. You can usually find different sized cloths. They are basically cotton squares, soaked in beeswax and can be folded, shaped and stuck over your bowl instead of cling wrap. You can often find these online to purchase or try making your own. When washing, it is best to wash them in colder water as water that is too hot may melt the wax.
So what about reusable bags? There are so many different types of reusable bags now, it doesn’t make sense to use disposable plastic ones. If you forget your reusable bag in your car, you can often find paper bags at your grocery store that can be recycled or composted, score!
Some reusable bags are made from recycled plastics. These bags are a great way to use up the plastics that are already out there floating around. The problem I find with these bags is that they need to be hand washed as the washing machine destroys them. These are the bags often found by the check out at the grocery store. They also eventually rip and it can get confusing if the bags are recyclable after they have been used to the end of their life. Polypropylene (PP) is usually curbside recyclable but you may want to check with your local regulations. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) or (rPET) are also recyclable unless they are laminated.
Cotton and polyester can be recycled only at textile recycling plants. But cotton can also be composted which means it can completely biodegrade. Hemp and canvas can also be composted and completely biodegrade as well. These materials are all natural and great for the environment. They can also be washed without falling apart, they are all tough especially canvas and are all renewable.
For plastic garbage bags, try using any disposable shopping bags you have instead. You can also use a few layers or newspaper or paper bags as long as you aren’t throwing anything wet into your garbage. Wet things would mostly include food products which can be composted. Try buying less, especially things in packages, buy used, recycle more and try to make each garbage bag last longer if you aren’t ready to completely get rid of them.
Resources https://conservingnow.com/plastic-bag-consumption-facts/ http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/Plastic-Bag-Pollution-Facts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_pollution http://www.therenewableplanet.com/environmentally-friendly-products/reusable-products/reusable-bags.aspx https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-animals-wildlife-impact-waste-pollution/ https://www.torontoenvironment.org/where_else_in_the_world_have_governments_banned_plastic_bags https://foodrevolution.org/blog/single-use-plastics-problems/ https://gogreenbags.com/blogs/the-three-rs/are-reusable-grocery-bags-recyclable