Do you carry your own bags to the grocery store? I have done it (mostly) for over 20 years and it drives me crazy to see someone with their basket full of plastic bags. And I’ve received plenty of nasty looks from checkers as I’ve reminded them that I’ve brought my own bag as I unpack their plastic bag. Sorry! We’ve all heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch, that toxic soup of plastic in the middle of the Pacific that has injured or killed at least 267 species worldwide. Every gust of wind sends plastic bags blowing down the streets, blowing into storm drains, and making their way to the ocean.
In California less than 5 percent of all plastic is ever recycled. Almost every store I go into, with exceptions like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, the checker is pulling out the plastic bag; it’s so ingrained. Interestingly, plastic bags are banned in 20+ countries such as China, Canada, Ireland, Germany, and Italy. But few cities (54 at this time) in the U.S. have stepped up to ban plastic bags.
Plastic bags do not biodegrade; they photodegrade into smaller and smaller toxic bits that eventually enter the food chain and end up on our plates. According to the World Watch Institute, Americans throw away around 100 billion plastic bags every year. The cost to retailers is $4 billion. 60,000 plastic bags are used in the U.S. every 5 seconds.
And if you’re thinking paper bags, about 15 million trees are cut down to produce paper for paper bags. It takes almost 4 times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a polyethylene bag. Not only do both paper and compostable resin bags use far more fossil fuel in production and manufacturing, but they also use 20 times as much fresh water vs. plastic bags.
“‘There is a popular misconception that paper bags are more environmentally friendly than plastic bags,’ said a 2005 report for the Scottish government.”- Wall Street Journal, 2009
If you are one of the “bring your own bags” people, I salute you! This is the wave of the future. The move to banning plastic and charging for a bag helps to remind people to bring their own bag. If you love this planet, remember to bring your reusable bags to the store.