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Giving Plastic Bags the Flick

Every year, I say NO to hundreds of plastic bags.  I’d like to share with you how I do it and why I do it.

shopping_bags

Many years ago, the revelation of how devastating plastic rubbish is to wildlife, particularly marine life, became public knowledge.

In case you’ve forgotten the facts (or haven’t heard) here’s a few to remind you:

  • Approximately 500 billion shopping bags are consumed each year around the world. It takes about 500 years for a plastic bag to degrade. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the land and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them.
  • Plastic bags are now amongst the top 12 items of debris most often found along coastlines. Animals and sea creatures are hurt and killed every day by discarded plastic bags, mistaking plastic bags for food is commonplace amongst marine animals. Plastic clogs their intestines and leads to slow starvation. Others become entangled in plastic bags and drown.
  • Every year, a million seabirds and 100,000 sharks, dolphins, turtles and whales die from swallowing plastic waste. Currently, there is six times more plastic than plankton floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

These sad truths lead me to decide to take personal responsibility in my generation of plastic waste. Previously, I like most people, I just accepted the single-use plastic bag as “normal” and convenient, and while I was always careful to dispose of used bags, I never set myself the goal of minimizing my acceptance of them from retailers.

Armed with a new determination, I purchased a couple of non-woven polypropylene bags (the “green bags” common in the supermarkets) and stuffed some old plastic shopping bags inside one. My initial efforts to (a) remember to put the bags in the car and (b) to take the bags out of the car and with me at the shops were sporadic. However I persisted, and learned a few tricks to both remind myself to take the bags into the car and into the shops.  

It’s important to establish a routine for the movement of your bags from house to car (assuming you’re driving) to shops. When the bags are in the house, after unpacking, place them at the door where you’ll have to notice (and pick them up) them on your way out. When you get to the shops, get in the habit of taking them with you. Perhaps have them beside you on the seat, or if they are kept in the boot, leave your wallet/purse there so you’ll have to go to the boot before entering the shops.

Over time, I’ve organized my bags in a way that works well for me (see photo below) and it is a rare thing for me to ever have to accept a plastic bag now. I encourage you to find what works for you and your circumstances.

enviro_bags

The polypropylene bags can be recycled now, and you’ll get a heap of use out of them before they need discarding. As we inevitably seem to acquire some plastic bags, we can at least reuse them as much as possible before putting them in the recycle bin outside supermarkets.

Obviously there will be items (such as bread or pre-bagged veggies) which you will have to accept in plastic bags if you really want or need the item. It is these types of bags along with my Freggie sacks, that I re-use to pack my own fruit and veg in at the shops. And yes – I do wash out (when necessary) plastic bags to re-use them. My small drying rack outside the kitchen frequently has plastic bags securely pegged to it. Once the bags have holes or rips, they get recycled.

Another tip I’d like to give (to anyone who carries a purse/handbag or similar) is to always have one or two pre-used plastic bags tucked into your purse. That way, if you make a purchase or two and don’t have your contingency of shopping bags with you, you at least have something to put your goods into without having to take another new plastic bag.

I trust you’ll have a go at reducing your plastic bag waste too. Good luck!

This article was previously published on the Green Earth Group website.

Genavive_St_ClairGenavive has had a love for animals and a keen interest in food, health and the environment for most of her life. She believes that although efforts to transform old paradigms based on power, corruption and greed at times seem futile, the sincere efforts and intent of relatively few people will eventually transform our future to one based on respect and compassion for all life, including our wonderful planet.

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