week #13 use less plastic bags

bags_nostalgiaAs you may know from week #1, one of my real bugbears is the rate at which plastic is produced and used globally. I have successfully eliminated bottled water from my life but I know that I do still contribute to the plastic ‘pandemic’ in other ways. This is such a vast issue in terms of environmental damage that the statistics are just too vast to grasp. The real trouble is that we simply do not really know what happens to our waste. How many of us actually have an in-depth knowledge of where our rubbish goes after it is collected? It’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. If I remain ignorant I can continue doing things habitually in a blissful state of naivety.

Warning for those who wish to remain oblivious: stop reading now.

An article in the Independent claims that there is a ‘plastic soup’, maybe twice the size of continental United States, floating in the Pacific Ocean. An oceanographer describes how they were surrounded by plastic for days on end while they were thousands of miles from land. Scientists believe that these plastics are causing a new type of chemical pollution which has devastating affects on ocean life. We can read something like that and think, ‘Poor fish. Poor environment’, but if this continues, it will be, ‘Poor us’; limited fish supplies, toxic oceans and other severe environmental consequences.

Realistically, we are all going to produce waste. We live in a society where fruit and vegetables are conveniently packed, our milk does not come directly from the cow but from a plastic bottle and as John Mayer sings, ‘How come everything I think I need, always comes with batteries’….and nicely packaged. One way I can reduce my contribution to the ‘great garbage dump in the ocean‘ is by limiting my use of plastic bags. Reuseit.com has some jaw-dropping statistics. For instance, one million plastics bags are used every minute around the world and a single plastic bag can take up to one thousand years to degrade. Many countries are establishing laws to counteract the liberal use of plastic bags but the responsibility also lies with individuals. Do I really need a plastic bag (or ten!) every time I go to the shops? Not if I take my own bag. It really is quite simple. If I keep a reusable bag in the car or in my handbag I have no need to use the nasty plastic one that sits conveniently at the till. Admittedly there are those trips to the shop when it is unplanned or I am unprepared and in these cases I am committing to dispose of the plastic bag responsibly. Larger supermarkets have bins where you can deposit your plastic bags for recycling. If I am feeling creative, I might opt for creating something crafty out of plastic bags. I know…great idea; however, who really has the time? My aim is to accumulate less than five plastic bags per month. If I can achieve this, I am still using sixty bags a year but it is significantly below the average. I am also going to opt for degradable bin liners at home. What is the point of all my efforts if I add another plastic bag to the environment unnecessarily along with all the other waste I amass?

It is hard to believe, but there was a world before plastic. And it was in a much better environmental state than it is now. So I think I will still exist quite happily without using so much of it.


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