More and more of us make sure to bring reusable shopping bags to pack up our groceries at the supermarket. But what about when you’re in the produce aisle and buying a dozen apples, a bunch of asparagus or kale — how many single use grocery bags do you pull out, only to discard them once home?
Writing on Good, Sarah Lawkow notes that a movement to stop using single-use plastic bags for produce is in its infancy. But all those filmy plastic bags add to the more than 31 million tons of plastic waste the U.S. produces in a year, according to the EPA. In 2010, only 12 percent of plastic bags, sacks and wraps was recycled: We can do better.
Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op has called on customers to stop using the bags while some farmers’ markets offer biodegradable single-use bags. In most places, customers are on their own to forego produce-aisle plastics. There are many options: Laskow lists quite a few (many via Etsy including several made from mesh), as well as some retailers that offer produce bags. Some bags are made from cotton and others from starch from plant sources so they can be composted (noted by Green-Mary). Rodale also suggests turning “retired bed linens, thin tea towels, and mismatched cloth napkins” as well as old t-shirts into reusable produce bags.
There is also the simple option of just putting produce into your reusable grocery bag. After all, the produce needs to be washed once you’ve unpacked it in your kitchen (as does the reusable grocery bag itself).
Plastic bags were only introduced in the 1970s. In 2008, Americans used some 102 billion according to the United States International Trade Commission (a small improvement: in 2006, some 109.8 billion bags were used). But I still remember a time when no store clerk ever asked “paper or plastic” in the checkout lane because paper was the only option. In just about three decades, we’ve gone from using just a few plastic bags to billions. Surely we can find other ways to bring the vegetables home, as generations before us once did.
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