On Friday afternoon before Easter, I stood at the end of the supermarket checkout line, waiting for my friend to finish shopping. Shoppers filed together while the grocery-filled conveyor belt was put in the bag and loaded into the shopping cart.
Meanwhile, other grocery carts slipped through me, and their purchases were wrapped in a swirling white cloud of plastic. I couldn’t help wondering where all these bags would end up.
Attitudes have changed gradually in recent years, but we Americans still love our plastics. In a 2014 survey, 100 billion disposable plastic bags are discarded every year in the United States.. Where does the plastic go?
Some are recycled to make products like Trex wood used for decks, but millions of pounds flow into the sea and landfills and take thousands of years to disassemble. They are dangerous to both birds and marine life, they choke on plastic debris and are often strangled in abandoned shopping bags.
In addition to the environmental hazards posed by the use of plastic bags, their production requires billions of pounds of fossil fuel and billions of gallons of freshwater. The cost of this process is passed on to grocery stores and then to soaring food prices.
But change is on the way.
After May 4th Plastic bags came into effect in neighboring New Jersey.. This means that grocery stores and other retailers larger than a certain size will no longer be allowed to distribute plastic bags to their customers.
In addition to this, they ban the use of foamed plastic containers. Plastic straws, another danger to marine animals, will only be distributed on request.
The Wegmans market has taken similar steps, promising to end the use of plastic bags in all stores by the end of this year. Other states across the United States have enacted similar legislation to New Jersey, and Pennsylvania is likely to eventually follow suit.
In the meantime, why wait to be forced to change our habits when we know it is in the best interests of both our environment and our economy?
I admit that it took me a while to get around, but sometimes I still find myself grabbing the plastic bag. It’s unpleasant to argue with an enthusiastic clerk who whiplashes your purchase before you blink.
It can take time to change old habits, but with commitment and creativity, new habits can become a way of life. These are some practical tips I’ve found to help reduce the use of plastic bags.
-Store reusable bags in your car.
A common problem with reusable bags is forgetting what you need until you arrive at the store. By always keeping it in the back seat of the car, I never forgot.
After every grocery shopping, as soon as you unpack your luggage, you’ll be back in your car and ready for your next purchase. It’s also a good idea to overestimate the number of bags you need to make sure you don’t run out at checkout.
-Buy a foldable nylon bag for other purchases:
The nice thing about these little lightweight bags is that they can be easily stored in your wallet, backpack, or glove box. When you’re not buying groceries, use it for excursions to drug stores and other retail stores. Many gift shops sell these decorative bags and you can also buy them online.
-Get reusable bags for produce:
These little net-like bags are similar to those used for washing lingerie and are available in supermarkets or can be purchased online. They can be thrown into the washing machine when they need to be refreshed, eliminating the hassle of trying to pry open those nasty flimsy plastic stuff.
-Skip the bag completely.
In the face of it, how often do we buy one or two items that don’t really need a bag? Don’t forget to keep your receipt, at least until you leave the store.
・ Recycling or upcycling:
There are several ways to bring a plastic bag into a supermarket bottle and recycle it. Allentown Ecumenical Food Banks will soon be transformed into reusable bags, but many food pantry need plastic bags for their customers.
There are churches and charities that collect plastic bags and cut them into small pieces called prawns. These strips are then woven into the mat and passed on to homeless people. When creating a new one with a product that is normally discarded, it is called upcycling.
In 2021 Opinion poll by Pew Research Center, 80% of respondents said they were willing to change their lives to reduce global warming. However, only 56% believed that society did a good job of tackling environmental problems.
We may sometimes feel frustrated and helpless in addressing all the issues that affect our environment. But reducing the use of plastic bags is one of the small changes we can make now.
Then make one small change over and over again, and ultimately make a big impact.
Linsherry, a resident of South Whitehall Township, worked as a library media expert in the Parkland School District.
Tips for reducing the use of plastic shopping bags – wake-up calls
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