Plastic Bags and The Environment
How to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Plastic Shopping Bags
San Francisco was the first to ban their use, back in March of 2007. Shortly after, cities around North America have begun to implement either a complete ban on plastic bag usage, or have decided to put in place a fee for their use (often 5 cents).
Origins of Plastic Bag Fee:
Plastic bags arose in the 1970’s as an alternative to the paper bag. They gained popularity due to their durability, light-weight, and re-usability.
Yet despite these benefits, the environmental impacts of plastic bags are devastating: these small items alone represent 1% of all trash in landfills, mostly due to their one-time use by many customers. The plastic in these bags can take up to 1,000 years to be broken down and re-introduced into the environment, and the little plastic bags have begun to litter beaches, parks, and even our oceans. San Francisco implemented their band after realizing that the city of 740,000 people send over 2 million bags per year into landfills and the environment.
The Consumer and Plastic Bags:
As the consumer, what can be done to reduce the numbers of bags used? Perhaps the easiest way, is to buy and use a reusable cloth bag. Most grocery stores sell these bags now, and often for as little as $1 or $2. And if the store charges 5 cents per bag, as many do now, these cloth bags easily pay for themselves just after a few trips to the grocery store.
Reduce the Number of Plastic Bags Used:
Perhaps the easiest course of action for most consumers is to simply reduce their reliance on plastic bags.
• Don’t take a bag when offered unless you need it.
• Make sure that each bag holds at least 8 items.
• Don’t double bag.
• Don’t bag large items.
• Use size appropriate bags.
• Take bags to the store; just carry a few in a pocket or purse.
• Buy in bulk to reduce packaging.
• Use other options provided by retailers, such as cardboard boxes, bins, or heavier reusable bags.
Reuse Plastic Bags:
Many North Americans already reuse their bags at least two times, and the reuse possibilities for bags are nearly endless thanks to their durability and perpetuality.
• As lunch bags
• For storing items on the shelf
• As carrying bags – jam a few in a pocket to use the next time you shop
• To cover food in place of plastic film
• For packing when travelling to protect your clothing
• To carry books when it’s raining outside
• As paint aprons and “bibs” for youngsters
• As kitchen catchers/garbage bags
• As a craft table cover
• As dog clean-up bags
Clearly, the main goal of society should be to completely rid itself of the harmful and environmentally dangerous plastic bag, yet in our modern society that may prove to be difficult. Therefore it may be more reasonable to try and encourage others to reuse the bags as much as possible, and to reduce their reliance on them.
The role humans play in their daily interaction with the environment has been studied extensively, and there is a clear and inextricable link between human actions and their negative repercussions on our surrounding environment. This is important to keep in mind during the day-to-day activities of the average citizen. Everything humans does has an effect on the world around us.
Early Results of the Plastic Bag Fee:
While it may be too soon to still know the exact success of the plastic bag fee implementation in grocery stores, Loblaws and Metro stores are reporting that plastic bag distribution has dropped by approximately 70% over the same time in the last year.