It’s week five of 52 Weeks for Earth, the 52-week challenge to gradually reduce your impact on the planet. This week we’re tackling the last of the ‘big four’ plastic polluting items; plastic bags. It’s time to start bringing reusable bag to put an end to wasteful plastic bags.
Perhaps the ultimate symbol of our throwaway culture, plastic bags, like those you get from the grocery store, are used around the world in such alarming rates; about 2 million plastic bags are used worldwide EVERY MINUTE. And each bag is used for an average of just 12 minutes; the time it takes for you to carry that bag from the store to your car and then to your house. But that 12-minutes-of-convivence bag will actually exist on Earth for up to 1000 years. Far longer than all of us. Is 300 1000-year-old bags per year of your life really the legacy you want to leave behind?
Each of these bags are made of petroleum, and 8% of our total oil supply goes to making plastic. It’s estimated only 3% of plastic bags are being recycled, the rest going to landfill, or their lightweight nature makes them easily taken by the wind or water outside of that intended destination. Instead littering our streets and countryside, eventually making their way into waterways and finally the ocean. Once there, plastic bags are easily mistaken for food by marine life, such as sea turtles; up to 86% have already been affected by plastic. More than 44% of all seabirds have ingested or become entangled in plastic. And tragically, this figure is predicted to rise to 99% by 2050.
Luckily there’s movements around the world to reduce the consumption of bags, either by charging a fee per bag, or banning them altogether. If this isn’t the case in your town, luckily you don’t have to wait for government policy to reduce your use; Bring your own bag, carry what you can, and refuse because you don’t need one. Each reusable bag can eliminate hundreds (if not thousands) of plastic bags, so invest in a hardy natural-fabric bag today, give them as gifts (or as gift wrapping), or just to the stranger behind you in line who’s forgotten theirs.
It’s simple to say ‘no’ to plastic bags, especially when you come prepared with a reusable bag. And when you consider just 20 years of ‘normal’ plastic bag use could equate to up to 6 million total years of life for those bags, the sooner you quit the better for the planet you’ll leave behind.
P.s. if there’s no action against plastic bags in your community, you can start a movement petitioning your local council or government to ban or start with a tax on plastic bags. Check out this post by 1 Million Women on the subject.