The other night at dinner my husband and I were talking about plastic bags and he was telling me how ingenious the invention of the plastic bag actually was. I had never really thought about it that way. Plastic bags are very light in weight yet able to hold up to 75 pounds. They are also very inexpensive; grocery stores pay less for plastic bags than paper. It truly is a great invention, but the long term effects weren’t thought through. I now have an appreciation for the cleverness of the idea, but I still want to get rid of them. I don’t like that fact that they are single use and then discarded; it’s so wasteful. Sometimes they are used a second time for trash or pet waste, but I don’t believe the end justifies the means. Lots of plastic bags get washed out to sea and breakdown into tiny pieces, making it hard to cleanup and easy for sea life to mistake as food. And I constantly see plastic bags floating across roads and parking lots.
Not only do I hate the environmental impacts, but also the toxic chemicals in them and the fact that they are also not accepted at curbside recycling. I have a drawer in the garage where I keep them and when it gets full I take them to Target’s recycling station where they have a bin specifically for plastic bags. The WalMart near my house use to recycle them, but for some reason the bin is no longer there. I did see a plastic bag recycling bin at SaveMart recently and I think Winco has one as well. See my previous post on What can be Recycled…and Where?.
My family used paper bags growing up and in the past 15 years or so, reusable shopping bags started to become popular. I can’t remember too many times where I used plastic bags to carry my groceries out of the store. I was able to accumulate a lot of reusable shopping bags from races, various events around town, or given away for free as marketing material with the company’s logo printed on it. My favorite reusable bags, like the one on the left, stay open like a paper bag. It is the easiest to bag groceries in. I keep a stack in my car and another stack in the garage for any other time I may need a bag.
I did accumulate plastic bags from retail stores until the past 5 years or so when I was finally able to eliminate them as well. I would forget the larger reusable bags in my car or didn’t want to carry them around with me in the store. Then I bought a couple small squish-able reusable bags to keep in my purse for this particular use. Some stores will even offer a discount if you buy one of their reusable bags and use it each time you shop there. For instance, I bought this bag at the Gap Outlet and now get 10% off each time I shop there and use the bag. However, I still find the cashier asking me, “are you sure you don’t need a bag?” or “do you want a bag for this one ____ item”?
Even with eliminating these I still found I was filling up my plastic bag drawer quickly. A lot of the bags in there were plastic produce bags. I didn’t have a good alternative for these. They needed to be lightweight so you are not charged extra as produce is typically charged by the pound. They also needed to be see through or transparent so the cashier knew what to look up. I found these Flip and Tumble Produce Bags on Amazon which satisfies both; they come in a set of 5. I purchased one pack to begin with to make sure I liked them and then ended up purchasing another. Two packs is usually all I need.
What suggestions do you have for reducing plastic bag waste?