I’m sure you’ve all been inundated (hopefully) with the horrors of what happens to your plastic bags, and equally so what happens to your reusable bags as they get stuffed in a closet somewhere.
While this topic has been rightfully blown out, keep in mind it’s probably because it’s the most consumed item in the world…crazy, right? 500 billion per year.
I think it’s a good time to ask yourself the question- are you still accepting plastic bags? The other day, I felt like such an idiot when I received one- I wasn’t asked, it just happened.
I’ve been trying to sell food service vendors on it to no avail-
“You know, if you just asked if someone really needed a bag instead of automatically placing their styrofoam clamshell in one, you’d save some money and look a bit more reputable as a result.”
Maybe that’s too snobby, but it’s hard not to be pissed off about it. No one feels offended if they don’t get a plastic bag, period.
I guess the problem also lies with the people accepting them, too. How long does your bag live for? Ten minutes? Could you really not carry your styrofoam clamshell, fork and bottled water with one hand? How many times have you seen a full trash can with bags gushing out all over the place?
Bags get loose into the environment all the time, never hitting that landfill or worse the incinerator to make zero megawatts of “clean energy”. They just blow away, downhill, into the gutters, into the trees, into the water, to get suntanned to the point of becoming little fish for the birds and other fish to eat.
What really bothers me is the plastics industry response that it’s your fault- clean up after yourself. Of course, there’s no mention that the plastic bag recycling rate is in the single digits.
Lately all I’ve been thinking is screw the numbers. While they are of course important, and you can’t manage what you don’t measure, the majority of us aren’t scouring the web looking for recycling data and then basing a decision on it.
For just a second, think about when it is exactly that you receive a plastic bag. I’ve learned that if you try to change everything all at once, it’s annoying and within a short amount of time you revert to your old ways.
Therefore, let’s take a look at the following situations, and chip away one at a time:
-beer store take-out
-take-away meals (lunch, late-night, whatever)
My answer for the grocery store and the beer store: use a backpack. That’s it.
For the lunch or dinner take-out scenario: refuse the bag, then ask them why the hell they wanted to give you one. if you must, have a reusable bag ready.
Personally, I hate the standard reusable bags and I don’t use them. A lot of the polypropylene bags have been found to contain lead, and simply don’t hold up for very long. This is why the backpack is my top option, but for those situations where you end up going somewhere don’t have one, there’s the Chicobag.
Full disclosure: I am not an affiliate, salesman or connected in any way to the company…I simply feel like they are the best option I’ve seen. The owner has even beat the plastics industry in a lawsuit…more on that in a moment.
A few months ago, I got one as a gift- if you’re not familiar with these and you’re looking to finally stop using plastic bags once and for all, this is a big step in the right direction.
While they’ve created several different models, the “micro” model is smaller than your fist and is attached to a carrabiner so you have it wherever you go. You could wear it on your belt loop, although honestly it bounces around a little too much for my liking. Some other spots for it include in your car’s glovebox, or attached to your bike saddle.
They’re nice because they’re made from durable polyester and expand to be just as big as their non-woven polypropylene lead-containing made in China counterparts.
While they are synthetic, the company accepts their bags back if they get damaged to recycle them into new products, which is better than sending it out for recycling and hoping something good happens to it. If they’re still functional, they’ll donate them.
One last thing about the Chicobag- they recently were involved in a lawsuit in which plastic bag manufacturers sued them (in South Carolina, where no anti-SLAPP laws are present) for “irreparable harm” to their companies.
A SLAPP suit basically would allow for the plastic bag companies to outspend them in court until the opponent gives up.
Miraculously, Chicobag ended up winning, which is pretty amazing but of course the only possible result here. Learn more about that lawsuit here:
If you really want to get annoyed, check out what one of the losing companies in the lawsuit did: http://www.bagtheban.com . While I shouldn’t be giving them any attention, I can’t ignore something this outrageous. Contact them and ask how they can live with themselves: firstname.lastname@example.org .
While the problems of the world are not just plastic bags, phasing them (and other plastics) out of your life is substantial for making an impact. Further, it’s like any other change- once you really go for it, within a few days you don’t even notice it. Be sure to follow it up by reducing other plastic consumption patterns you have going, BUT- take your time.
I had a few challenges along the way, but at the end of the day it just came down to breaking habit and changing behaviors once or twice. After that, I never thought about it anymore.
Plastics really are the enemy when it comes to material choices- no one even knows fully what’s in them due to trade secrets and all that business B.S. that won’t be put aside in favor of human health.
While it’s hard to imagine a life without any plastic whatsoever, I know that you can drastically reduce the amount you take in by simply refusing a bag and identifying the situations where you consume plastic, eliminating them one at a time.