Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Plastic Bags Blow

Since it is week two of the It's Easy to be Green Program, which focuses on thinking outside of the garbage can, I thought I would tackle a major waste issue: plastic grocery bags.

First, a few facts...
1. Well over a billion single-use plastic bags are given out for free each day.
2. The production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas, both non-renewable resources that increase our dependency on foreign suppliers.
3. In a landfill, plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to degrade. As litter, they breakdown into tiny bits, contaminating our soil and water.
(See a comprehensive list of facts about plastic bags at

So, what can we do to reduce our plastic bag consumption?

Open our eyes to how many bags we consume. For instance, if you have a giant plastic bag holding plastic bags in your closet, take five minutes and count how many you have. The results may surprise you.

Open our eyes to plastic bags littering our community. Take a walk or look out the window as you drive home and notice the number of plastic bags stuck to tree limbs, lining sidewalks, and flying in the breeze.

Refuse a bag. Cashiers are programmed to keep the line moving and don't always stop to think or bother to ask if you need a bag, or even ask if you would prefer paper. If you don't need a bag, don't take one. Choose paper when given a choice.

Reuse the plastic bags we have already accumulated. A common reuse is as a small garbage can liner.

Recycle the plastic bags that we cannot avoid using. Many area grocery stores have bins where you can drop off your bags. Currently only 1-3% of plastic bags are recycled.

Get Crafty. Turn your plastic bags into a reusable bag. The Memphis Botanic Garden is hosting a Recycled Tote Bag Workshop on March 1st from 9:30am-12:30pm. If you miss the class, you can still make your own bag. has a list of projects you can teach yourself.

Start using reusable bags when we go shopping.
Plastic bags have been banned in California and as a result, many retailers are now offering inexpensive reusable bags in their stores. Target just started selling bags made from recycled polypropylene fabric that are available in two sizes and self zip into a small pouch for convenient storage. The larger size sells for $1.49 and the smaller size for $.99. (I have also seen inexpensive reusable bags for sale at the Midtown Schnuck's. If you want something more substantial, or hip, has a very extensive collection of reusable bags for sale.)


Katie said...

Hey don't forget that all plastics bags can be recycled at our local Schnucks!

Kermit said...

Contact your local City Council member, and express your concern about plastic bags. If enough people contact them, a law banning the bags could be passed, as has been done in California and other areas. Which could have a larger impact in the long run.

Styrofoam (aka Polystrene) is a worse culprit even more so than plastic bags. Not only is it ever present in almost all take-out food containers, it takes around 500,000 years to decompose!

Styrofoam also contains carcenogenes that absorb in to your food and can cause cancer!

Question everything.

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