One of the most powerful symbols of our wasteful lifestyle has to be the plastic shopping bag. It’s made from non-renewable fossil fuels, is completely non-biodegradable, and just take a moment to think about this, now is made to be used once, and thrown out.
Sure, the occasional plastic bag might get reused once or twice, and some municipalities’ recycling programs will collect them, but the vast majority of plastic bags end up in landfills, at best or worse, end up clogging natural ecosystems and posing a major threat to wildlife.
Governments around the world have realized the threat the plastic bag culture poses to the environment, and several countries have implemented or are considering plastic bag taxes or bans. In 2002, for example, Ireland implemented a 15 cent plastic bag tax which has been credited with reducing the use of plastic bags by a staggering 90 to 95 per cent, depending on which source you consult. Whatever the case, it’s a testament to just how much we overuse them and, more importantly, just how little we actually need them.
It’s easy to make a difference pretty quickly. First, reduce. Ask the clerks at the stores you visit to keep their bags unless you really need one. Think about how often you walk out of a store with a book, a CD, a carton of milk do you really need a bag? Bring cloth bags or a knapsack with you for your bigger trips.
For those plastic bags that do sneak their way into your home, hang on to them. Use them as garbage bags. Why pay for garbage bags when you’ve got a closet full of plastic bags already?
Most importantly, be conscious of the effect of a plastic bag culture. Next time you’re asked paper or plastic, pick a third option. Just about anything else is greener.