We are going to MAD about waste. Pure and simple…we are going to look at a shameful amount of waste we have every power to control. Controlling it affects gasoline prices, the environment and clutter. Can you Make A Difference?
How long has it been since you were asked Paper or plastic? Depending on where you live you may have been offered a choice of the
bags made this year. Do you think that number is paper or plastic? Would it be easier to choose if I gave you the other number?
More than 7 billion paper bags will be made and used this year.
Only twenty-one percent of them will be recycled. That leaves 5.53 billion to find their way into landfills. That is nearly 350,000 tons (315 metric tonnes) of garbage. 48% of all landfill waste is paper.
Manufacturing paper bags produces more air and water pollution than producing plastic bags. Recycling the bags only saves at the most 20% of the water pollution from manufacturing them from scratch.
Do you want to guess how many trees it takes to make that many bags? Paper bags cannot be closed cycle recycled and cannot use other recycled paper products (like copy paper, fiberboard or cardboard) to make new bags.
More than 400 billion plastic bags will be used this year in the United States alone. Is the number of those recycled higher or lower?
Almost 380 billion plastic bags are headed for landfills. More than 15 million of them will find their way to the waterways and out to the ocean. Fewer than 1% of all retailers offer to recycle bags.
High density plastic, used to make shopping bags, is persistent in the environment for an estimated 1,000 years. Needless to say, science is always modest with estimates when it is not certain how long things will really last.
San Fran was the first American city to ban the use of plastic shopping bags. They made a 100 million bag dent in the consumption every year.
The average family accumulates 15 bags per trip to the store. Fifteen. Families are not getting fifteen bags worth of merchandise. There is the customary double bagging of certain items and the bags with only one or two things in them.
As much as 8% of a store’s expenses for supplies is spent on bags. Stores which use stock bags, like the ones with the Thank you! logo on them, spend a bit less (3-8¢ per bag), but the ones who have their bags custom made in non-white with their own logo can spend as much as 60% of their supply costs on bags (5-21¢ per bag).
You pay for this in high costs for your merchandise. Do the math: 15 bags at 13¢ means each trip costs the retailer $1.95. Are the bags really free? Cutting the overhead is saving money because it slows the rise of prices.
More retailers are paying customers to use their own bags. Some big box stores are giving customers 5¢ per bag to skip the plastic. Within one year, the bag pays for itself. Since the bags will last a few years, they will finance their replacements and start putting money into your pocket.
Make A Difference
You can make a difference in this atrocious situation which will save you money in the end.
1. Use a canvas bag.
If you do not have canvas bags or small duffel bags, purchase several bags from a retailer. Where available, purchase bags made from recycled content. Since the average trip to the store means fifteen plastic bags, buy at least one to three bags per trip until you have about a dozen. Use them on the trip you buy them.
Canvas or reusable bags are larger, sturdier and carry more than plastic T-shirt bags. You will use fewer reusable bags than you would plastic bags.
2. Store the bags where you will have them.
Do not put your bags in a kitchen pantry or cabinet. Put them in your trunk. Most trips to the store are unplanned.
3. Skip the bag.
If you stop in for less than five items, skip a bag. Carry the items to your car in your hands. You carried them up to the counter. The trip to the car and into the house is good exercise and great for hand-eye coordination and balance.
4. I forgot.
If you forgot to bring your bags with you, at least tell the bagger not to double bag your purchases. As many as three of the 15 bags per trip are empty when you get them home.
If you do come home with plastic bags, or already have a few hundred at your home, recycle them. Take them to a store which offers recycling or place them in your recycling bin or take them to the local recycling center.
You DO Make A Difference.
You can accumulate 1,000 fewer bags per year by using canvas, reusable bags. Just the M3 Readers could reduce the amount of plastic consumption and waste each year by more than…
HALF A MILLION BAGS
For an investment of less than $20, you can make a difference by reducing…
- Production of virgin polyethylene
- Air pollution
- Water pollution
- POP, PCA and PCB in water
- Amount of overhead where you shop
- Marine life and birds killed by ingesting or being entangled in plastic
- Millions of gallons of gasoline to transport bags and trash
When you are asked, Paper or plastic?, answer proudly,
Are you using canvas or reusable bags every time you shop? Have you ever brought your bags back to the store? Did you ever bring plastic bags for the clerks to reuse for you?
Will you Make A Difference by giving up plastic bags? Are there enough benefits to this MAD? Can you convince one other person to stop using plastic shopping bags?
If you would like more information about reusing plastic bags before you recycle them, please comment below. M3 is very serious about reducing this pollutant.
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(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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