December 10th, 2012

Give the Gift of a Plastic-Free World By Using Reusable Bags

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Groovy Green Livin reusable bags

Reusable bags are where it’s at. Are you in? Have you committed to using reusable bags whenever you can? Making an effort to use reusable bags is a simple change we can all make which will have a big impact on our environment. These days it’s pretty easy to accumulate a substantial stash of reusable bags. Most business are readily handing them out with their logo proudly embossed on the side of each bag. My favorite reusable bags are small and fit easily into my handbag. That way I’m assured that they’ll be with me most of the time.

If you still haven’t jumped on board the reusable bag train it’s not too late. Check out these plastic bag facts to help bring you over to the world of reusable bags.

  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year worldwide.
  • An estimated one million birds and 100,000 turtles and other sea animals die of starvation each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags.
  • It’s not only the birds and turtles. In my friend Beth Terry’s book,  Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, she talks about how so many cows in India have died from ingesting plastic that many states in the nation have banned plastic bags altogether as a way to avoid it. Beth goes on to explain how in the United Arab Emirates veterinarians have seen goats, camels, sheep and other endangered desert animals dead because they’ve ingested plastic garbage.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, only 1% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide; the rest are left to live on indefinitely in landfills (or worse, in the environment).
  • Plastic bags don’t biodegrade and can instead photo-degrade and dissolve into toxic particles. Most often, when this happens, it happens in the ocean.  Toxic particles can enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals.
  • The United Nations Environment Program estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
  • Recycling isn’t the answer. The cost to recycle plastic bags so outweighs their value that most recycling facilities will not take them, leading more and more to just be thrown out with the rest of the trash. According to Beth Terry recycling should be a last resort after we have reduced our plastic consumption as much as possible.  Recycling is problematic because first, it doesn’t close the loop.  For example, a plastic bottle generally gets recycled into something like polar fleece or carpet or other polyester produce, so virgin plastic must still be used to create new bottles.  Also, most of our plastic recycling is shipped overseas to countries like China, where it is processed in some environmentally-unfriendly ways, and third, plastics can only be recycled so many times.  When plastic can no longer be recycled, those non-biodegradable molecules linger in the environment virtually forever.  Plastic recycling is necessary, but we should first focus on turning off the spigot of new plastic products and packaging.
  • It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the amount of plastic bags the US uses per year.

Did you know that the average reusable bag has the lifespan of over seven hundred disposable plastic bags? Check out this fantastic map which describes the evolution of various solutions to the plastic bag problem throughout the world.

After forgetting my reusable bags more times than I care to admit I finally figured out a simple solution for remembering them most of the time. I keep a few smaller bags in my purse and I throw the big, supermarket sized reusable bags in the front seat of my car.

What’s your trick for remembering your reusable bags?

photo credit: Mr. T in DC via photopin cc


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