Walking through the grocery store is like swimming through a school of fish: discombobulating, exhilarating, and colorful. Everything you can see is at your fingertips. But if there’s one thing that dampens the truly glorious experience of independently selecting all my favorite snacks and ingredients, it’s checkout. Or more precisely, when I see all the plastic being wasted as baggers bag and (oh-lord-help-us-all) DOUBLE-BAG the endless goods flowing down the conveyor belt. Then, it’s my turn, and the cashier asks, “Is plastic okay?” No. Plastic is not okay. And here’s why:
1) Plastic bags aren’t sturdy, often referred to as “single-use” bags, so most of the 1 trillion plastic bags consumers are using worldwide (nearly two million bags a minute!!!) end up being thrown away, creating over 800 million tons of waste.
2) The bags that are not thrown away are often littered, fouling the landscape and ending up in the ocean.
3) Plastic bags never fully biodegrade, so each year, turtles, seals, whales, and other animals get entangled in bags or mistake them for food. Ingesting plastic bags is toxic to marine animals due to the added dyes and synthetic chemicals, contributing significantly to animal death.
4) Plastic bags that get buried in landfills take up to 1,000 years to break down, and contaminate soil and water as they separate into smaller toxic particles.
5) The production of plastic bags requires a lot of energy. Reusable bags made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and non-woven polypropylene (PP) need only to be reused 4-11 times to have a lower environmental impact than single-use plastic bags.
Many cities worldwide have taken initiative on banning single-use plastic bags, and just a few months ago California became the first state to prohibit them. Hopefully more will follow their lead! Check out this cool interactive map to see plastic bag bans around the world: interactive map
In the end, it comes down the willingness of everyday citizens to adopt more sustainable practices, but switching to reusable bags is an easy adjustment that everyone is capable of! So next time you’re off to the grocery store, or anywhere for that matter, grab your reusable bags, and just say no.