Plastic bags can be extremely convenient, but they are also very harmful to the environment.
Plastic bags are easy to get and are often times free. You can use them for lots of things, like for storage and transportation. Going to the beach and want to bring lunch? Throw it in a plastic bag from your last trip to the grocery store. Donating some clothes or unwanted items? Throw them in a plastic bag and let the donation place get rid of it.
I get it; plastic bags are readily available and low maintenance. But in the long run, they have more cons than pros.
I hated how much they broke on me, the bags could be carrying a single item and the handle would snap in my hands. The plastic in plastic bags is often so cheaply made that it becomes thin and flimsy. I often see people double bag their groceries, even single item purchases, because the handles would break. The worst is when the bag would tear in the bottom and spill stuff everywhere!
Not only are they poorly made and really meant for single use, but they are horrible for the environment. A plastic bag in the ocean often looks like a jellyfish to many sea creatures, including sea turtles! Plastic doesn’t digest, not in humans and definitely not in sea creatures. Often times when scientists biopsy a whale they find several pounds of plastic bags in its stomach alone. Sea turtles have starved to death because their stomachs are full of plastic bags and they don’t have room for actual food.
But we can recycle plastic bags, right? There are still places that take plastic bags to be recycled, but that may no longer be an option in the coming future. In my area, you can no longer recycle plastic bags with the local government—they will refuse to take your recycling if they see a single plastic bag in the bin. To get around that, our local grocery stores have offered to recycle the bags for us, but even that might not last. In an effort to be more green, our local government is trying to pass laws that ban plastic bags all together, so any store that offers them will get a hefty fine.
The new laws and regulations don’t really bother me; I think a ban on plastic bags wouldn’t be a terrible thing. However, I know how hard it can be for people to transition to new things.
Paper bags are still an option for many grocery stores and they are a bit sturdier than plastic bags. If I forget my reusable bags, I go for the paper bags because they are still recyclable and easier to use. Paper bags can also be used more than once, as long as you don’t get them wet, so you can get a few uses out of them before recycling them.
Reusable bags are the best alternatives. They are pretty sturdy and can hold more items than plastic bags. They are easy to store and they come in all shapes, designs, and sizes!
Personally, I’m a very forgetful person, so there are times when I leave the house without my reusable bags. What do you do then?
You can store some in your car to keep at all times. This is great especially if you make an unplanned trip to the store. BOOM! You have bags right there!
Some stores even offer them for free if you reach a certain price point when shopping. Or they are often available at check-out lanes if you don’t mind spending an extra few dollars.
You can also get them from donation-based organizations for helping out or donating. One year, my local aquarium offered them to anyone who volunteered for the day doing local clean-up and tree planting events. My grandfather used to get reusable bags in the mail when he donated to local organizations.
You can even make your own bags out of old linens and clothes. I’ve seen many old pairs of jeans get turned into fabric bags.
A few quick tips for reusable bags:
1. Keep a couple in your car.
2. Wash them every so often, especially if you use them at the grocery store.
If you can’t give up plastic bags just yet, that’s okay, just be extra vigilant about recycling them and keeping them from getting away. Plastic bags can travel far on a windy day, and if they don’t end up in the ocean then they end up as trash for someone else deal with.