It’s time to sack plastic bags. There are numerous reasons for passing on plastic. I pondered the plastic problem just recently whilst queued in a quaint grocery store line. While stacking my stuff onto the checkout conveyor I couldn’t help but notice the woman ahead of me double bagging her groceries into 20 plastic disposable bags.
My brain was boggled by this bag woman for so many reasons. My first thought was cash related. At 5 cents a sack, she spent a buck on bags! My second thought was of shock. If this bag lady shops 4 times a month, that’s 80 additional plastic bags filling our landfills every 30 days. My third thought was of horrendous horror when I figured this single bag lady is probably responsible for disposing of at least 960 plastic bags a year, just grocery shopping!
Now I’m no plastic-free angel. I’ve done my bad bag bit over the years while shopping for food. I once thought paper would be preferable over plastic, but have recently learned that pulp isn’t preferable to reusable. Now that I know better I’m determined to be better. I’ve discovered that going green by using reusable shopping bags, food bins, and baskets is simple and fun. I’ve also discovered numerous additional benefits to switching to reusable bins and bags.
Here are 50 reasons to go green and switch to reusable shopping bags and bins:
- Consumer Cost. At 5 cents a bag in many North American shops, the bucks add up! Ireland pays a hefty 15 cents per bag Plastax tax. Buying a bin or reusable bag can save you hundreds over the years. While keeping costs down is a concern for many, there are more pressing plastic matters at stake!
- Production Cost. The production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas, both non-renewable resources that can cost big production bucks over time.
- City Cost. Both paper and plastic bags costs our cities millions. From recycling costs to processing in landfills (source).
- Disposal and Litter Cost. In a landfill, plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photo-degrade, breaking down into smaller toxic pieces. Continuous management of the disposal and growth of the waste is an expensive business.
- Ubiquitous. Everyone. Everywhere. Plastic and paper bags are everywhere. Nearly all of us use them, all the time. They are pervasive. Out of control. Disposable bags are a powerful symbol of consumerism gone mad. The over consumption of plastic and paper bags is ubiquitous.
- Global Warming. Manufactured plastic and paper bags contribute to global warming. Paper bag production delivers a global warming double-whammy since forests (major absorbers of greenhouse gases) have to be cut down, and then the subsequent manufacturing of bags produces greenhouse gases.
- Petroleum Depletion. It takes 0.48 MJ (megajoules) of energy to produce a plastic bag. An average car consumes 4.18 MJ in driving 1 km, or the equivalent of 7 plastic bags. We’re bagging the oil (source and source).
- Loaded Landfills. One bag doesn’t take up much space, but millions do. Many cities are already having problems finding space for all their garbage. Reducing the volume of waste we produce means less new garbage dumps. I do indeed prefer parks over mounds of plastic.
- Wildlife. Plastic bags are light, and can blow in the wind. They fly into trees and into wildlife habitat. Animals can consume these plastics, and perish. Plastic bags are a deadly killer to wildlife.
- Marine Life. Over 100,000 marine animals are killed each year from plastic bags (source). Sea turtles, water birds, and other creatures mistake them for food or become entangled in them (source). In some parts of the ocean, there are six pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton.
- Litter. We may think we’ve thrown out a plastic bag. Albeit, many blow out of trash cans and become litter. Some are carelessly tossed. They are an eyesore and scar the landscape.
- Recycling not financially feasible. Apparently, only 1 to 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled. It costs a whopping $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold for a meager $32 (source). This business model is a financial failure.
- Recycling contamination. Of those bags that do reach recycling depots, the risk of plastic contamination is high. Melting the wrong plastics together can render the batch contaminated and unusable.
- Flooding. Plastic bags littering our cities can end up blocking storm sewers. This contributed to recent flooding in Bangladesh and western India (source).
- Dependence on foreign oil. Plastic bags are made from oil, much of which is imported from overseas. Not depending on something coming from thousands of miles away is better way.
- Carbon footprint. Producing plastic bags requires energy. Transporting bags to the store burns through more energy. Much of this energy is obtained by burning hydrocarbons, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
- Plastic is forever. Almost every plastic bag you have touched in your lifetime still exists in some shape or form. With few exceptions, plastic bags will take thousands of years to break down. The bag my first pair of shoes came in a couple decades ago is out there, somewhere.
- Bag production releases pollution. In addition to petroleum, the manufacture of bags uses dyes, plasticizers, and other toxic chemicals. Many of the byproducts of their manufacture ends up in the environment as pollution.
- Chemical leaching. Dyes and other chemicals found in plastic bags contain lead, cadmium, and other toxins that leach out into the environment (source).
- Suffocation Hazzard. Ever read the warning on plastic bags? “This bag is not a toy and can cause suffocation of small children.” I’ve never seen this warning on a canvas reusable bag.
- Paper bags consume more energy than plastic. It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag (source).
- Paper bags consume forests. Most paper comes from tree pulp, so the impact of paper bag production on forests is enormous. In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone (source).
- Paper bags do not degrade any faster than plastic. Paper in today’s landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In modern landfills nothing completely degrades due to lack of water, light, oxygen and other necessary degradation elements (source).
- Paper bags require more landfill space. A paper bags takes up more space than a plastic bag in a landfill, but because paper is recycled at a higher rate, saving space in landfills is less of an issue.
- It just keeps piling up. Every minute, every hour, every day. The the consumer baggage keeps adding up. Going with reusable bags can help stop the needless plastic and paper bag pileup.
- Cost. Buy a few reusable bags or bins once. Reusable bags are inexpensive and last for many years, saving you money over the long haul.
- Durability. Bins and reusable bags are strong, and can endure many shopping trips over the years.
- Less landfills. Bins and reusable bags are not quickly consumed and disposed of in landfills.
- Shopper incentives. Many stores offer shoppers discounts and program points for bagging with reusables. Small cents add up to big dollars over time.
- Faster bagging at checkout. Stuffing groceries into sturdy reusable bags and bins is faster than bagging with plastic. Reusables keep their shape, can stand up, and don’t require fumbling and picking apart, like plastic.
- Efficient transport. It’s quicker to load your car with a few bins than with numerous plastic floppy sloppy bags. It’s also more efficient to carry a few sturdy canvas bags home. Just throw then over your shoulder!
- Comfortable to carry. Carrying a canvas bag or bin home or to your car is easier on your hands. No more plastic bag handle welts!
- No more split or ripped bags. Plastic bags can split open, leaving a mess in the car or on the sidewalk.
- Less food damage. Bins prevent food from rattling around in the car. Canvas bags hold their shape and keep food nestled safe, better preventing squished salad and broken eggs.
- Hygienic. Expose yourself to less germs by using your own bins and bags.
- Easy to clean. Reusable bags and bins can be washed and wiped clean.
- Avoid spilled milk. Got leaky milk or defrosting ice cream? Bins keep the mess contained, and keep your car clean.
- Keep frozen food cold. Place all refrigerated and frozen foods in one bin, stacked tightly. This keeps perishables from perishing or defrosting on longer trips home.
- Easier sorting. At checkout, place cold items in one bin, vegetables in another. This makes unpacking foods at home quick and easy.
- Perfect fit. Some grocery items are too big for plastic bags. Use bins or bigger canvas bags for milk, laundry detergent, and other larger bulkier items.
- Laundry. Use bins to move the weekly laundry to the washer, and then back to the bedroom.
- Recycling. When not grocery shopping, use bins and recyclable bags to cart cans and containers to the local recycling depot.
- Kids stuff. Use bins to carry kid’s sports gear or toys easier in the car. Bins keep kid’s gear more stable in the car.
- Multipurpose. Bins and reusable bags can be used for tasks beyond grocery shopping. Cart gardening gear, sort clothing, move to a new apartment – the options are endless.
- Visually send a message. Bringing reusable bins and bags to the shops educates other consumers on better ways to carry stuff.
- Save 25 cents per shopping cart. Pass on sticking a quarter into the grocery shopping cart and carry your wares in a bin with handles. Super easy to cart around the store, and saves you more money along the way.
- Stackable. Bins can be easily stacked and stored in the car or in the home. Keep them out of the way until your next shopping trip.
- Easy to stuff. Canvas bags are easy to stuff into a purse or pocket. They are easy to carry to a store or on person for quick grocery trips.
- One less bag. By using recyclable bags and bins, you actively contribute to solving the problem by using less plastic bags. One less bag, people.
- List your own reason. This last point is for you to decide. What have I missed? What are your reasons for saying “NO” to plastic and paper bags at the grocery store?
Do you shop using reusable bins and bags? Any challenges? Any advice? Are you more of a plastic person? Would you consider making the switch? Share your littered thoughts in the comments below!