Reducing Your Plastic Bag Use

October 9, 2012 at 10:29 am Leave a comment

Between trips to the grocery store, gas station, book store, or the mall, plastic bags have become a common possession in people’s lives. And since they’re convenient, lightweight and inexpensive, it’s no wonder. However, plastic bags are hazardous to the environment and quite wasteful. While retailers are more commonly offering reusable bags, many consumers continue to choose single-use plastic bags. New laws being proposed nationwide may force consumers to rethink their plastic bag use, or pay the consequences. States across America, especially California, have put fees on plastic bags to urge consumers to think about the waste they create when purchasing single-use products. While Wisconsin doesn’t employ any of these rules yet, there are plenty of reasons to ditch the plastic bag and start using your own reusable bag while shopping.

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Photo: LA Times

Plastic bags have detrimental effects on our environment. It takes anywhere from 15 to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose and only 1% of plastic bags are actually recycled. The rest end up in landfills, oceans or somewhere else in the environment. Birds, turtles and other sea animals die from ingesting plastic bags.

Using reusable bags takes care of all of these issues and costs less than the fees being imposed across the country. Reusable bags can be purchased for as low as one dollar, and fees on bags are usually 5 – 10 cents per bag. This means using just 10 plastic bags would already cost as much as a reusable bag that lasts a lifetime. Grocery stores in the area are even offering financial incentives for using your own reusable bags. For example, Fresh Madison Market gives customers 5 cents back for each reusable bag they use.

While many people have decided to start using reusable bags, it’s sometimes hard to remember to bring them along when you go shopping. Here are some tips to help make remembering your reusable bags second nature.

  • Hang bags on the doorknob. After you unpack your bags, put all of them into one bag and hang it on the door that you most commonly exit from.
  • Put your bags in the front seat. If you put bags in the trunk or back seat, you’ll be more likely to forget them.
  • Write a note at the top of your shopping list. Writing a note is an easy, visual reminder.
  • Tough it out. If you forget your bags, load all of your items back into a cart, bag-free, and put them straight into the car.

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Photo: Low Impact Living

If you continue to use plastic bags, make sure to recycle them. Most curbside recycling collection programs in Wisconsin are not yet equipped to accept plastic bags, so the best option is to take them to a retailer who has a plastic bag recycling bin. Some Wisconsin retailers that have plastic bag recycling bins are Roundy’s (Copp’s, Pick ‘n Save, Rainbow Foods and Metro Market stores), Kohl’s department stores, Trig’s Foods stores and Walmart.

Next time you head out to do some shopping, I hope you bring your own reusable bag or purchase one so that you can start reducing your plastic bag waste. You can even learn how to make your own reusable bags with minimal sewing here:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/crafts/how-to-make-a-reusable-shopping-bag

http://www.instructables.com/id/FASTEST-RECYCLED-T-SHIRT-TOTE-BAG/

EnAct Intern, Grace

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