The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) states that humans produce 300 million tons of plastic globally every year. Half of the plastic consumed is for single-use. In 2016, the United States alone had produced 42 million tons of plastic waste—the most generated by any other country.
Unfortunately, humans only dispose of a tiny fraction of plastics the correct way. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that 8.7% of plastics were recycled, or 3.3 million tons, in the United States in 2018.
Plastic bags can take approximately 1,000 years to break down, in which the particles seep into and contaminate the earth’s soils and waterways. This requires extensive purification of our drinking water to keep humans from consuming plastics. Even still, scientists believe we ingest about 5 grams of plastic every day, about the weight of a credit card.
There are several valid reasons why plastic bags should be banned, including the harm it causes to humans, wildlife and ecosystems. Yet, you may be wondering how to use them less and what alternatives are available. Here are five effective ways to cut plastic bags from your shopping.
1. Use Reusable Bags
Reusable bags may seem like the obvious choice for reducing your plastic bag usage, but you’d be surprised how few people remember to bring them along to the store. In fact, less than half of respondents ages 18 to 64 used reusable bags in 2018.
You can buy reusable bags from the grocery store or find them online. You can even bring a tote bag from home if you have one already. Reusable grocery bags are sturdy and can hold a lot of items. Some are for carrying vegetables specifically, while insulated bags are practical for meats and frozen items.
To help you remember to bring them with you to the store, try the following:
- Make them visible near your front door, so you remember to grab them.
- Keep a few in your car at all times.
- Keep your car keys in one of them, so you know you’ll have to grab them on the way out.
- Add “bring reusable bags” to the top of your grocery list.
2. Reuse Old Plastic Bags
We tend to accumulate a lot of plastic bags when we go shopping. If you find them piling up around your house or garage, consider reusing them at the store.
They’re only wasteful if you use them once. As long as your plastic bags don’t have any tears or holes, there’s no reason you can’t bring them with you for more groceries.
Most curbside recycling doesn’t accept plastic bags. Yet, you may be in luck as some grocery stores have drop-off programs where you can return your plastic bags, film, and wrap. Consider reusing your plastic bags a few times and when they become worn, check to see if your store will take them off your hands.
3. Ask to Use a Box to Carry Your Items
It may not have been your first thought, but asking for a box to carry your items in is an excellent alternative to plastic bags. This is especially helpful if you forget your reusable bags at home.
If you think about it, the items at the grocery store have to arrive in something. Many products tend to sit in cardboard crates or containers anyway, especially in the produce section.
If you can’t find any boxes while roaming the store, ask someone who works there if they have any in the back. They often won’t have a problem giving one or two to you.
When you bring your groceries home, you can rest assured that your box is recyclable.
4. Go Bagless
Let’s say you’re only shopping for a few items. Do you need to have a bag at all?
If you carried what you purchased up to the cashier in your hands, you could probably take them to your car, as well.
Of course, be realistic. If you have too many items, it may be wiser to use the plastic bags and find ways to reuse them or take them to a designated drop-off location. You also want to keep your items from rolling around your car while you’re driving.
5. Support Legislation and Sign Petitions for Bans on Single-Use Bags
So far, eight states have banned single-use plastic bags, including California, which was the first state to do so in 2014. The other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont.
Although the U.S. is on the right track, plenty more states need to pass legislation on single-use plastics. You can play a critical role in the effort by signing petitions and supporting legislation on the local, regional, and federal levels.
Look up different organizations whose focus is on reducing plastic pollution. You may also come across local legislation and petitions for where you live by doing an online search.
Reduce Plastic in Your Life
For some, reducing plastic bag use is the first environmentally-friendly step towards a greener planet. You can do your part in other ways by also cutting out plastic straws, utensils, bottles and different types of plastic packaging. Find new creative ways to live a plastic-free lifestyle.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.
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2 thoughts on “Effective Ways to Cut Plastic Bags from Our Shopping”
It’s a good move. Thank you 😊🌍