Plastic Bags: The Final Chapter
While I have enjoyed this little series on plastic bags, I must say I am truly tired of talking about them and am eagerly anticipating the day when I have to explain to my daughters that there once was a time when stores gave away billions of plastic bags that then ended up leaching into some landfill or floating out to sea. I can just hear them now: “Sure Dad, whatever you say, hah, plastic bags!” Ahhh, to dream.
I had hoped to hear back from a number of folks on their progress, but I fear that the Internet is a fickle place, and the timing a bit off, so I did not receive many e-mails. Such is life, but I rest assured that many of you read the plastic posts and will take them to heart.
One intrepid reader, Sue, from merry ole England did send me an e-mail. She has been trying to go plastic bag-free for quite some time and ironically found that most grocers wouldn’t allow reusables since they lost out on the advertising their plastic bags offer them. I had honestly never thought of this aspect (I don’t think I’m your average advertising target to begin with), but it is a point to take to heart. That said, the stores pay for the plastic bags and give them away, right? This costs them money, right? With that in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to sell reusables with their name on it and tell customers that they will accept these? Is this too simple? Am I missing something? If you can, Sue, offer up that thought to your local gorcers in a helpful way and let us know how they respond.
Since I have all this free space that I thought would be otherwise filled, I want to throw out a really cool idea that a Care2 member sent me that not only helps fix the plastic bag problem, but also connects local communities and helps to reuse other items. Sheila from The Isle of Wight England (cool name, huh?) wrote me about something called Morsbags that she is involved with.
Morsbags are an international phenomenon. Local groups get together and make reusable cloth bags out of old shirts, leftover drapes, sheets, whatever they have, and then give them away to locals so that they can kick the plastic bag habit. How amazing is that? They give you all the info you need and have even set up groups that you can join or tell you how to start your own.
Sheila told me that since they began her local group, they have given away more than 1,500 bags to people in her town and they now see them all over the place. The thing that I love about this is that it not only offers a very concrete solution to a mounting problem, but in doing so it helps to create community bonds, and even more importantly, shows everyday folks that they can lead by example and show others a better way. It’s really great and I highly recommend that you check it out and get on board with a local chapter, or if you don’t have one, start your own!
Finally, for all those bags that are presently out there, there is a ray of hope, and ironically it comes not from some big corporation but from
a 16-year-old student who looked at the problem and thought “there’s got to be a way to deal with all of this.” Daniel Burd from up in Canada was tired of looking at all the plastic bags choking the closet and decided to do something about it. So he set about doing some experiments at home and discovered a microorganism that helps break down plastic faster. For his efforts he won the top prize at the Canada Wide Science Fair and some cash and a scholarship to go along with it.
While Daniel’s discovery is great and much needed, we shouldn’t think it is the answer though. There are already too many bags out there to deal with and more coming every minute. Scientists like him will be necessary to clean up the mess that we created, but first, we as individuals need to take matters into our own hands and make them obsolete.
The age of disposable plastics is over.
Dave Chameides is an environmental educator and freelance filmmaker. He writes alternative fuel articles for Edmunds.com and maintains the blogs 365 Days of Trash and Achieving Sustainability. While he is presently saving all of his trash for a year to better understand his environmental impact, his main focus is sustainability through education and believes that with knowledge all things are possible.