“Paper or plastic?” at the checkout stand is becoming a thing of the past now that the future is no longer in plastics. Earth-savvy shoppers are jumping aboard the ban-wagon, and are "bagging" their own groceries in assorted reusable bags. So bring it on (and remember to bring it in!), and kick the plastic proclivity by making it a habit to BYO-Bag when you head to the store.
Issaquah is now the sixth city in the state of Washington to ban single-use plastic bags, joining Seattle, Edmonds, Bellingham, Mukilteo, and Bainbridge Island. And we aren’t alone, our neighbors in Portland, Oregon and at least 65 cities in California (1), including L.A., have bans on plastic bags.
Innovative designers have created reusable bags in every size, including some totes that fold up to fit inside pockets and purses. Want to reduce your carbon footprint further? Look for reusable bags made from recycled materials and that are long-lasting, including recycled cotton, hemp, or chic designs made with used sails, bicycle inner tubes, and vinyl banners(2).
The key to success is keeping your reusable bags handy.
Reusable Bag Tips:
Put bags right back in the trunk (or wherever they are stored) after you empty them.
Make remembering your bags part of your grocery shopping routine.
Train yourself to remember bags by returning to the car if you forget your bags.
Enlist the support of your kids, housemates, or family members, who can help remind you.
Keep extra bags on hand at the office.
Get your kids involved by letting them decorate their own reusable canvas bag.
Take your reusable bag habit up a notch and bring reusable produce and bulk food bags.
Treat them like a kitchen cutting board and wash bags between uses to decrease the likelihood of bacterial contamination.
Every five seconds, 60,000 plastic bags are used in the US. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down, and many of these bags end up in landfills, or worse, as marine debris. Every year, tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals, and turtles die from contact with ocean-borne plastic bags(3).
Single-use plastic bags are light weight or rather have a lack of weight individually. They often get stuck in recycling machinery and can easily get carried away by the wind to nearby waterways before even making it to a recycling facility or landfill.
Issaquah’s single-use plastic bag ban takes effect on March 1st to help address these issues. The new law restricts single-use plastic bag distribution at grocery, retail and convenience stores and requires retailers to charge 5 cents for each paper bag they give out. Small plastic bags used for meat, fruit and bulk items, as well as those used for dry cleaning and newspapers, are exempt(4).
As for paper, Americans consume more than 10 billion paper bags each year, which requires cutting down 14 million trees. While paper can be recycled, national recycling rates for paper bags are only 10-15% and the recycling process for one pound of paper bags requires 1,444 BTUs of energy(5).
Lucky for us, the solution is easy – bring your own bag. Every time you use a reusable bag, you help conserve natural and non-renewable resources and reduce pollution that would be created during the manufacture and transport of single-use bags.