20 July 2012

5 reasons to stop using plastic grocery bags

It is easy to walk into a store and walk out with your groceries contained in more plastic bags than you can handle. Estimates show that over 100 billion plastic bags are used each year in the US. Worse yet, Loveyourearth.org reports that only 1 to 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide, and that less than 5 percent of US shoppers use canvas, cotton, or mesh bags.

It is time to make a change. Here are five reasons why now is a better time than ever to detox your life from those pesky plastic shopping bags:

1. It pays to bring your own bag- Many stores give you discounts between $.03 and $.10 for each bag you use. Target and Whole Foods are two of many stores that participate in such a program. Just ask at the checkout counter to see if the place where you shop offers an incentive for reusable bags. 

2. Reusable shopping bags are in style
- You no longer have the excuse that reusable bags are too ugly or too bulky. Small enough to keep in your car or purse, you can get reusable shopping bags that fold up into tiny pouches in many colors and styles. They are a great addition to keep at arm's reach, and can be used whenever you find yourself with too much to carry.

Next time you go shopping help the planet and avoid taking home those unneeded guests- use your reusable shopping bags. But, please realize that the key part of that last sentence is to USE the bag. Buying reusable bags and only using them once is worse than taking home a plastic shopping bag and throwing it away.

3. Plastic bags come with a price
- Why do you think that discount grocery stores refrain from providing free plastic bags at the checkout? To keep the costs down! The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually -- CNN states that number could be as high as 1 trillion. Depending on the color, size and print, a plastic shopping bag can cost retailers between $.01 and $.05 each; you do the math.

It’s not just at the store where you pay for plastic, your tax dollars are put to work too. Take a look at California. According to Californians Against Waste, The Golden State spends about $25 million per year to "manage plastic bag pollution."

4. Plastic bags don’t just appear- Plastic bags are made from either natural gas or oil. Additionally, since over 25% of the plastic bags used in the US are made in Asia, fossil fuels have to be used to transport the bags overseas (Livestrong.com).

The bags also don't just disappear either, ever. It takes an estimated 500-1000 years for a plastic bag to break down into smaller pieces of plastic. These smaller toxic bits can then seep into soil and water.

5. Count how many plastic bags you see on the side of the road today- Perhaps the number one reason to not use plastic bags is due to their impact on the environment and wildlife. The United Nations Environment Programme reports show that 46,000 plastic pieces are floating in every square mile of ocean. It is estimated that over 1 million marine animals and sea birds die each year as a result of plastic.

Let’s not forget the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is one of two ‘marine trash islands’ found floating in the ocean. Located between Hawaii and California, the island is imagined to be larger than the state of Texas and is still growing. I am sure that you can guess what material makes up over 90 percent of the debris.

You may be wondering about all of the household things that you reuse your grocery bags for. Don't worry, eliminating plastic shopping bags is much easier than you may think. I clean up after my dogs and cats with biodegradable doggy bags. I don't line my smaller trashcans with shopping bags any more either; I simply dump them into my kitchen trash before taking it to the curb. 

It is time to step up for the planet and get into the habit of letting your cashier hear 'no bag please.'

Stephanie Pania | Facebook | Blog | Pinterest
Philadelphia, PA Stephanie is an eco-conscious vegan from Philadelphia, PA. She has a degree in Communications and Technical Theater, and is currently the communications specialist at an area nonprofit. She recently finished a year serving with AmeriCorps, and spends her free time playing with her adopted dogs and her rescued cats.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/oparrish