Friday, November 24th, 2017

Sustainability and ME: Reusable Shopping Bags

Posted on October 24, 2017 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

Molly Fresh

Shopping, it is something we all do; we shop for food, clothes, plants and whatever else pleases us. Through the checkout line, you may make some awkward small talk with the cashier: “Great weather today,” “Yeah, sure is a lot of chips for a party! Not just for myself to eat while I binge watch endless shows on Netflix.” One thing that is about a 50/50 shot of being asked is: “Paper or plastic?” or “Did you bring your own bags today?” To that last question, most of us will shrug off and say, “Plastic is fine.” You know, to add to that collection of plastic bags, inside of a plastic bag sitting in a closet in your house that everyone has but nobody seems to have a use for.

So, why do cashiers ask this question? Perhaps it is a part of their job, but plain and simply stated, plastic is bad for the environment. Do you like animals? Hopefully your answer is “yes.” Well, how often do you go through town and see plastic bags flying around? Maybe it reminds you of Katy Perry’s famous song “Firework” or maybe it makes you think and realize, many of those bags get blown into trees or animals’ homes, where they think it is food and try to eat it, which can result in death.

In the ocean, many sea turtles, among other aquatic animals, will eat plastic bags thinking it is a jellyfish and can choke on or get tangled up in these bags, which usually results in death. Is your heart sinking yet? “But I always recycle my plastic bags.” That is a great effort! However, according to Conserve Energy Future, what many people do not realize is that it takes around $5,000 to recycle roughly one ton of plastic bags, but they only sell for about $30. That is a lot of wasted money that nobody wants to spend. Therefore, they usually end up in the trash. You made a good effort, though, so, that counts for something!

According to an online article called “25 Reasons to go Reusable,” Americans generally live for 80 years, and plastic bags can take around 1,000 years to decompose (depending on the environment in which they are in), which is about 12 times the average lifespan of an American. You will be swallowed up into the inevitable and nobody will remember your name, but yet the same plastic bag will still be floating around the Earth. Let that sink in.

Now that those of you who are still reading are probably feeling glum, let us talk about the positives! Have you ever had that plastic bag that was just too full, but you were too stubborn to make a second trip to cradle it so it did not break? With reusable bags that is a thing in the past. These bags can hold twice as much as a single plastic bag, if not more. They are durable. Reusable bags can be used many times over before needing to get new ones. Just remember not to forget them at home when you go out. You can get them for as little as three dollars on Amazon, which is a small price to pay for all the guilt you may be dealing with right about now. Think about the animals, the planet and the plastic bag outliving you by 980 years.