I want to talk about plastic bags. I am obsessing over them right now, in part because I have been watching some documentaries and reading books about ditching the plastic habit. So, this week, I want to share some facts that I gleaned from the documentary “Bag It,” as well as from the new book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked he Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry.
“Bag It” (2010) is currently available for instant streaming on Netflix. I learned some disturbing facts from this film. While I knew that plastic bags are bad because they never go away, I did not realize that bags are made out of fossil fuels. (They really don’t go away: they break down into smaller and smaller bits of plastic as time goes on, which only makes it easier for animals to eat them, which makes it more likely that we will eat the plastic because we eat the animals that consume the plastic. And she swallowed the spider to catch the fly … oops, got a bit distracted there.) Fossil fuels, people! As in, non-renewable resources; as in, one-time usage. We are using materials that take millions of years to form in order to carry home a pack of gum. HOLY MOLY.
Some other interesting facts about plastic bags that I learned:
- Plastic bags were first produced in 1977. That means we’ve only been using bags for a little over 30 years. In other words, it was possible to get groceries from store to home without using plastic bags, and after the Stone Age, to boot!
- Whole Foods was the first U.S. supermarket to abolish plastic bags. However, “Bag It” notes that neither Costco nor Sam’s Club, two successful wholesalers, have ever used bags of any kind. My family shopped at Costco quite often when I was growing up, but I only realized the no-bag policy because it was mentioned in the film (I can be slow on the uptake). Obviously, being bag-free doesn’t hinder people from shopping at these stores.
- 60,000 plastic bags are consumed in the U.S. every five seconds. ‘Nuff said.
Is your mind blown yet? I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that many stores use two plastic bags for your purchase. Yeesh!
But, there is good news! We are entering a turn-around phase. Plastic bag taxes are in effect in many places, and hopefully will become the norm. In Ireland, the tax on plastic bags resulted in a 90% drop of plastic bag usage. Washington, D.C., has implemented a tax on plastic bags. In March, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban plastic bags from stores. While the trend is spreading across the U.S. city by city, Rwanda is one country that has banned plastic bags completely.
Now, time for some fun. Beth Terry’s Plastic-Free is an amazing read thus far (I’m only a third of the way through at the time of this writing). She has a lot of amazing tips on how to forgo using plastics of all kinds, including bags. But, for this column, I wanted to share three videos that Terry mentions in her book. They are all a bit goofy, but they help to get the message across that plastic bags are Bad. I enjoyed them, and I hope you will, too.
“Plastic State of Mind”: Sing along to the refrain of “Convenience will kill you.”
“Canvas Bags”: Watch comedian Tim Minchin sing sincerely about bringing your own bag to the supermarket.
“Majestic Plastic Bag, a Mokumentary”: Jeremy Iron narrates: “The open plains of the asphalt jungle, home to many creatures great and small, and the pupping ground for one of the most clever and illustrious creatures, the plastic bag.”
Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.