According to the EPA, 3,960,000 tons of plastic bags were produced in 2008, and about 90% of those were discarded; some of this plastic even makes its way to the ocean, where it layers the ocean floor and degrades even slower than it would in a landfill.
Sound like exaggeration? Picture this:
You walk into a convenience store to grab a quick snack, some Tylenol for a headache, something small. You walk up to the counter with it, put it down, and stare at the magazines while the cashier rings you up. When they prompt you to pay, you realize your $2 purchase has been lost inside a plastic bag, idly sitting on the counter. Be honest, how many times has this happened to you this week? Month? Year? At times, it seems almost impossible to avoid getting a bag with your purchase – but in some states and even countries, the government is taking steps to enforce plastic bag taxes or even bans in order to help reduce the alarming number of plastic bags used and thrown out every day. In Ireland for example, the first country to tax plastic bags back in 2002, plastic bag use dropped an estimated 92% within weeks of the law’s passing. In D.C., a newly passed plastic bag tax has reduced the number of bags distributed from about 22.5 million a month down to 3 million – an 87% decrease that leaves no question as to the effectiveness of this method of resource reduction.
For those of us who don’t yet have a tax to motivate us, there are still plenty of ways we can reduce our plastic bag consumption. First off, get in the habit of saying “I don’t need a bag” as soon as you arrive at the counter, to prevent those awkward moments at
the convenience store and avoid the plastic bags you really don’t need.
Secondly, bring your own bag!
There is something for everyone in the new and exciting realm of reusable bags; for those of us who relish the idea of reusable bags and want to shop in style, many websites out there (including that one) have tons of fun and sustainable styles to choose from. For the minimalists among us, check out the natural cotton bags that stretch to carry extra groceries and get more bang for your buck. And lastly, for the forgetful or busy individuals who constantly walk into grocery stores only to realize they left their bags at home, try the practical and compactable ChicoBags or Envirosax, which fold up to fit in a glove compartment, purse, or anywhere else they may be useful. That way whenever you do need a bag, you have one on hand! No matter where you go always remember, BYOB!
- True Reusable Bags’ Erin Grande on Plastic Bags’ Impact (1800recycling.com)
- Effort to repeal plastic bag ban falls short (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- How many plastic grocery bags are used in a day? (greenanswers.com)