I'm always loathe to throw away plastic bags because of their harmful effects on the environment. That's why I always try to reuse them in a variety of ways. To find out what to do with plastic bags, read on.
Last week, the Santa Monica City Council approved an ordinance that prohibits the distribution of plastic carrying bags (the flimsy, translucent kind with handles) in most places, including farmers markets. The city hopes that the new ordinance will encourage people to make purchases with canvas totes, saved plastic bags, and other reusable carriers. Although the city will initially offer a "share a bag" program for farmers market shoppers, eventually, those who forget to bring theirs will have no choice but to buy a reusable bag on site. What do you think of this idea: is it progressive, or unrealistic? Let's hear what you think.
Washing and reusing your plastic bags is an easy way to make your kitchen greener, and it saves you some green, too. But washing them with hot water and soap is the easy part; drying the baggies is more difficult. You can invest in a Countertop Bag Dryer ($20) or make your own from a thrifted toothbrush holder and sticks.
The important thing is to let the interior of the bag air out. Lately, I've found that hanging my plastic bags on a clothesline is a surefire way to get them dry fast. I use a stretchy Portable Clothesline ($10), but you can also affix clothespins to a bungee cord, fishing line, or any type of rope. I recommend stringing it above your kitchen sink so the water has somewhere to drip.
Here's a post from OnSugar blog Suburban Zen:
With Earth Day on the horizon, we always give a little extra thought to how we can reduce waste and improve our energy efficiency in our house. Of course, we all try to take our reusable bags with us when we go shopping, but somehow there always seem to be a few plastic grocery bags that get into the house. Rather than throw them away, we’ve made an extreme sport out of reusing a bag as many times as we can before finally abandoning it to the waste stream. The trick is to find uses that allow the bags to be used over and over again until every possible use has been exhausted. Here are our favorites:
- Use them as packing material instead of Styrofoam or bubble wrap. And be sure to put a note in the package reminding the recipient to reuse the bags.
- Make a soft nest for your Christmas ornaments while they’re in storage.
- Pack some in your suitcase: they’re great for isolating your laundry and shoes from the rest of your clothes.
- Tuck them into your beach tote for wet towels and swimsuits.
Since no one wants to carry around a wet suit in her gym bag, most gyms provide plastic bags for your postswim convenience. One thing the world could definitely use less of, though, is plastic bags.
Since we all have some form of plastic bags — produce bags, bread bags, or shopping bags with handles — tucked into random drawers in our kitchens, taking one to the pool for your wet suit is an easy way to decrease your carbon footprint. I stuff extra plastic bags into my gym bag so I always have one available when I am done swimming. This is just one more way to reuse those ubiquitous plastic bags.
The second I remember to quit grumbling when I get a paper bag with no handles instead of the evil that is the plastic bag, the whole eco-mantra of choosing paper could be dumped on its head. One man, Stephen Joseph, is out to save the plastic bag. He's head of the campaign called Save the Plastic Bag, and he means business.
Even though his battle ramped a little more uphill after LA became the most recent US city to can the bags on Tuesday, he's convinced he has facts on his side. On his website, the well-named SaveThePlasticBags, he lists the reasons to choose plastic over paper:
- Roaches love paper bags — they attract them.
- When paper bags decompose, they release methane.
- Paper bags take up more space to transport (making more trucks on the road and more space taken in landfills if they end up there.
We talk often about ditching plastic bags in favor of resuable shopping bags and recycling whatever you can. But, no matter how hard you work to be environmentally conscious, at the end of the day (or week), you still have to take out the trash. Someone still has to take out the trash. When that time comes, toss your trash away in BioBags, certified 100-percent biodegradable and 100-percent compostable bags, and the first "bag from corn." My dear city of San Francisco recently sent 100,000 rolls of BioBags to residents to educate them on the importance of diverting food and other biodegradable waste from entering landfills, and they're now available at over 100 outlets in the Bay Area. BioBags come as kitchen compost bags, tall-kitchen bags, lawn and leaf bags, cat-pan liners, and waste-system bags — pick your flavor. They're also available at most natural-food stores in the US, or you can order yours online.
Good news for those of us who hate plastic bags: As of October 2008, Ikea will no longer offer plastic or paper bags. Instead, the store will only offer reusable plastic bags to its customers. Last March, Ikea set a goal of reducing its US stores’ plastic bag consumption by 50 percent, reducing plastic bag use from 70 million to 35 million plastic bags in the first year. The store wanted customers to go reusable, and sold the sturdy Ikea blue bag for $.59.
And if Ikea customers weren't happy with that choice, they previously had the option of purchasing Ikea plastic bags for five cents, with all proceeds going to American Forests to plant trees to restore forests and reduce CO2 emissions. Since the "bag the plastic bag" program began in March of 2007, Ikea has donated more than $300,000 from their disposable plastic bag sales to American Forests.
I, for one, am looking forward to October, when Ikea is completely disposable-bag free.
I have always had a thing for fabulous handbags. Last year, when it became uncool to use environmentally unfriendly plastic and paper grocery bags, I suddenly started collecting reusable, canvas grocery bags. Last season I was obsessed with the I'm Not A Plastic Bag statement tote and this year I'm crazy about The Inconvenient Bag ($19.99) carryall.
Neither paper nor plastic, this large canvas tote — available in four different designs — is the size of a normal, brown grocery bag and can hold up to 45 pounds. The bags are made in LA from biodegradable cotton and non-toxic dyes. While it may not be as convenient as carrying groceries home in paper or plastic, toting my food in the inconvenient bag, makes me feel like I'm doing my part to help save the world.
If you don't have a reusable tote, I highly recommend this fun, fashionable, eco-friendly bag!
A report just released shows that the US set a record for recycling plastic bags in 2006. Up a whopping 24 percent, the record high validates a growing national recycling trend sweeping the states. Of the 812 million pounds of plastic recovered, tons will become usable goods like decking. It's thought that the growing trend of bag recycling bins at stores as well as outright banning is helping to dump the plastic problem.
Cities like San Francisco sparked a wave of disdain for the once ubiquitous sack, and today Nashville is not far behind. If not outright bans, some cities are considering taxing the totes. The Massachusetts Legislature is debating a measure that would enact a two-cent tax that could rise all the way to 15 cents per bag over the next seven years. They hope the new tax will shrink the 380 billion plastic bags Americans use every year — a lot of which end up as litter or in a landfill.
It's not just US cities banning the bags — China announced a nationwide outlawing at the beginning of the year, which is scheduled to kick in June 1, 2008. Early adopters have already caused the nation's biggest plastic bag factory to shutter.
Britain has added the bags to a list of possible items eligible for a "sin tax" and is contemplating an outright ban by 2009.
It might just be time to consider your answer to that perennial "paper or plastic" question carefully.
Do you take your own bags to the store? Are you behind the war on bags?