As more and more trash piles up, it is important for us to look towards a sustainable future that minimizes waste and today I will explain why plastic bags are part of the problem. Every 5 seconds, 60,000 plastic bags are consumed in the United States, according to a study done in 2007 by Worldwatch Institute. They found that 4 to 5 TRILLION plastic bags are produced globally every year. 80% of which are used in North America and Western Europe. On average, we only recover about 5% of the plastics we produce. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found floating on our ocean surfaces while the average American throws away about 185 pounds of plastic per year. 12 million barrels of petroleum oil (or natural gas equivalent) are required to make 100 billion plastic bags. When we consider the impacts fossil fuel extraction has on the environment and the scarcity of fossil fuels, it becomes obvious that we need to find a more sustainable solution.
My research began when I heard that the Henniker, NH recycle station did not allow plastic bags. We were told that the plastic bags clog and can even break recycle machines when they try to melt them down. This really got me thinking about how many plastic bags we were using. That is a lot of material to throw into the trash that will someday become a landfill. Since we are unable to recycle them we made a conscious effort to refuse plastic bags whenever possible. I recommend putting a few reusable bags in your trunk so you always have them when you shop. People will give you strange looks if you refuse a bag then proceed to pile your purchases in your hands. It is funny until you find yourself at home without an automatic door to assist you. I did hear that you can bring plastic bags to Shaw’s Grocery store and they recycle them. It can be hard to walk through the checkout line of a grocery store knowing all of these facts but that is why I have listed below easy ways that you can be part of the solution!
1. Reuse– Reuse plastic bags as often as possible.
2. Refuse– Say NO to plastic bags. Reusable bags are readily available in a variety of sizes and materials.
3. Reduce– Reduce overall consumption to start. Chose biodegradable and renewable resources whenever possible.
4. Recycle– Recycle what you can’t reuse, refuse or reduce. Consider this as a last resort.
Thank you for reading and the environment thanks you for your contribution! Share your stories with us about ways to reuse plastic bags! Stay tuned into LOF blog for more ways to contribute to a sustainable future.