Plastic Bags..my pet hate.If you use a plastic bag in a supermarket to carry your shopping and particularly if you use it to carry one or two items, you will definitely be seeing me wishing for some karmic intervention. I honestly find plastic bag use pretty hard to take sometimes…and yes i have at times in the past used plastic bags when an impromptu shopping trip may occur and i have an armful of shopping. Generally (95% of the time) i will either use a reusable shopping bag, or if i happen to go to the shops under prepared and forget my bag, i will carry my shopping sans bag, which often means filling all my pockets to the max, and juggling the remainder like some amateur circus performer, but i get the job done. So it pains me when i see someone use a plastic bag just because they can, and only to carry one or two items….carry it in your hand!! its not that difficult! or at best either put it in your hand bag or backpack. I mean seriously is it that difficult to carry your carton of milk or block of cheese in your hand. I promised a shout out to a mate of mine, the T-Man, who literally yesterday used a plastic bag for one bottle of wine…
Me: “ Dude why do you need a plastic bag for that… you can carry that bottle or put it into your bag”
Him: “but he gave me a bag” – that was his whole explanation and justification..
so i guess its ok then, as long as he gave it to you…….WTF?! ‘he gave me a bag’ lets kill the world one passive gesture at a time (ok ok maybe slightly dramatic). Although i can imagine the comfort of that sea turtle as it gasps for its last breath ‘my life was sacrificed for the comfort of the T-man- lets hope he never has to carry anything without a bag again or ever be put into the uncomfortable position of saying he doesn’t want to plastic bag’.
To be honest that is generally how it goes.. its probably easier to accept a bag than tell the server “hey no bag please”. And although I’m picking on the T-man (which i promised him was his punishment for his indiscretion yesterday) its directed at the many (including myself at times).
So lets have a look at why plastic bags are so bad for the environment?
It is estimated that the European union alone throws away 4 billion plastic bags per year. That number is huge and imagine what that total would be if the rest of the world was also included in that figure!
Plastic bags are eaten by animals and can lead to illness and death. This is of particular concern to marine animals which can become trapped and end up choking or being strangled by plastic bags. Plastic bags are not biodegradable, and at best will break down into tiny plastic particles which are further digested by animals which will lead to poisoning at a primary level or further up the food chain.
There is also the trash vortex the size of Texas in the north pacific ocean with is also a concern. This is a collection of ocean rubbish, much of which is made up of plastics and particularly plastic bags. It has become a real threat to marine life and ecosystems due to its large size and toxicity.
The health of the oceans are particularly important as they are currently overfished and being exploited on a serious level due to the insatiable human desire for seafood, and thus it is imperative for us to think about the way we shop, and choose less packaged items and use less plastic bags.
It needs to be noted that the reusable bags one can buy are either made of plastic or fabric and can per unit have a larger carbon footprint then a single plastic bag, and will thus will need to be reused many times to justify its manufacture (on an energy per unit / carbon per unit scale)
What can we do?
Well we can start by using less plastic bags, and hopefully move on to using no plastic bags. It is also no use continuously buying fabric or plastic reusable shopping bags, unless you use them consistently, as the energy and carbon input is high to manufacture them. If you use them consistently, then that is a great way to reduce the use of plastic bags. Similarly use backpacks or baskets when you go shopping that many of us usually have sitting at home, we don’t need to buy a specific shopping bag (remember its not a fashion accessory but a practical accessory) , an already existent bag is perfect. If you do happen to use a plastic bag for whatever reason, reuse them again for shopping, or for bin liners or any other use, don’t just throw them away!
Here are some awesome uses for the collection of plastic bags that you may already have:
Making a basket out of plastic bags http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-basket-out-of-plastic-bags/
making a shopping bag out of plastic bags: http://www.instructables.com/id/Shopping-bag-from-plastic-shopping-bags/
Peace and sustainable shopping!