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The Truth Behind Plastic Bags

The Truth Behind Plastic Bags

I’ll be the first to admit that between my multiple jobs and busy family life I often find it difficult to lead a completely healthy and sustainable lifestyle despite my altruistic intentions.  I have learned however that in spite of my active barely-have-time-to-eat-lunch lifestyle, there are hassle-free actions that I can integrate into my daily life that will reduce my carbon footprint and improve the quality of Mother Earth.  One such action is to eliminate (or at least decrease) plastic bag usage.

If you’re on the fence about eliminating plastic bags from your life, take into account that Americans use approximately 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps per year.  That comes out to about 1,200 bags per resident in any given year.  Typically, plastic is made from oil, which is a non-renewable energy source. In order to produce this staggering number of plastic bags, approximately 12 million barrels of oil is needed for production.  In addition to plastic bags contributing to energy consumption and air pollution, they are detrimental to our wildlife.  Because plastic bags are not biodegradable (they are made from polyethylene, a non-biodegradable product), they often find their way into our eco-system and into the stomachs and entangled in the bodies of wild animals.

In recent years, city governments have taken the steps to pass laws that impose taxes on plastic bags or eliminate them altogether in order to significantly decrease plastic bag usage.  In Washington D.C., the city government imposes a five cent tax on plastic bags.  In one month alone in January 2010, plastic bag distribution dropped from an average of 22.5 million bags a month to 3 million bags a month.  The $150,000 derived from the plastic bag tax was used to fund the clean up of the Anacostia River.  Across the pond in Ireland, the government saw a 90% reduction (over 1 billion bags) between 2001 and 2011 after imposing a plastic bag tax of thirty-seven cents.

A great alternative to the plastic bag is the reusable shopping bag, which is available to purchase at many grocery outlets and drug stores.  Reusable bags can be made from hemp, cotton (ideally recycled cotton) and recycled polyethylene terephthalate, a long-lasting and durable recycled plastic.  Keep the shopping bags in the trunk of your car, in a visible place in the garage or near the front door.  Just remember to periodically wash the reusable bags to eliminate any mold or bacteria that may grow inside.

While I’m certainly guilty of using my fair share of plastic shopping bags, I’ve come to realize that eliminating them from my life was surprisingly easy.  Doing away with plastic bags is an effortless, yet foolproof action that will allow you to maintain a more eco-friendly existence.

Photo credit:  Zainub via Flikr


Read more: Conscious Consumer, Conservation, Green, Home, Household Hints, Nature, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, Smart Shopping, , , ,

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5:04AM PST on Dec 21, 2011

Super article. Thank You

1:31PM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

Thank you

7:17AM PDT on Jul 19, 2011

I reuse everything I know to as often as I can. I had a 100% reusable bag average for well over a year, went back to school and got super busy and that fell to 50%, I am embarassed to say, just because my systems of keeping them handy fell to pieces with the added stresses on my life. Time to get that back in order. Thanks for the reminder:-)

3:45AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

i keep a reusable bag in my purse.
And a lot of these bags in my car.

6:53PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

I have some reusable bags just for groceries, and a couple of other types for trips into other stores. It took a year to really remember to grab the bag before leaving my car. Just keep trying! I also wish everything didn't come already packaged in plastic.

11:03AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011


9:59PM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

I am getting better at remembering to take my reusable bags into the store! That was the hardest part of a commitment to x-ing plastic.
I am gently trying to encourage others to carry reusable bags with them. I keep a look-out for good looking bags with flat bottoms that stand up by themselves. Then I buy 1 or 2 and keep them on hand to wrap gifts in.
I have the same problem as Shelly though, what about kitty litter? Any good ideas out there?

3:26PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

A lot of stores here now sell their own reusable bags and have them near the checkout lines. The plastic bag tax sounds like a great idea, too.

8:14PM PDT on Jul 7, 2011

it's so difficult to get baggers to use only my bags and not any plastic. i like the plastic bag tax, i hope more states do that and then maybe there will be an incentive to get baggers to slow down on the bags.

11:45AM PDT on Jul 7, 2011

I think they started marketing plastic bags, etc., due to becaue people complained that too many trees were being cut down to make paper bags, etc. Maybe a better alternative is to use cloth bags instead, that way the dump sites are not loaded with plastic and trees are not being sawed down.

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