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.


Inedible Pollutants

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 Fransisco

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.

5. Recycle.

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…


For an investment of less than $20, you can make a difference by reducing…

  • Production of virgin polyethylene
  • Waste
  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • POP, PCA and PCB in water
  • Amount of overhead where you shop
  • Deforestation
  • 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.

If you tweet or +1 this post, please use the hashtags: #green #environment. Thank you for spreading the word about this post.

(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. Bought canvas bags a while ago.
    You left out the two biggest advantages:
    -They’re stronger, so you can carry more in them
    -The handles are wider and don’t cut into your fingers.

    Both of those were happy discoveries after we decided to ditch the plastic.
    El Guapo recently posted..A Literary Limerick – Deathly Hallows, Part OneMy Profile

    • I must have edited out the stronger line….(going to reread). Great point about the handles. I rarely use them in my hand (because I load them to 40+ pounds). I use them on my shoulders…an option clearly left out of the realm of plastic possibilities. Great to see you today, Guapo!

      • Glad to be here! I usually get your post alert at the end of the day when I’m generally already fried.
        Saw this one on the twitter, and popped over…
        El Guapo recently posted..A Literary Limerick – Deathly Hallows, Part OneMy Profile

        • Oh, brill. I had begun to wonder if any of the M3 Readers were still on Twitter. I know you and Lizzie are, and MJ, but I am thinking that might be the total… You know, you could do what I do….Save that last tired one for morning coffee 😉

  2. Love my canvas bags! Keep ten of them in my car for spur of the moment shopping, but often find they go missing so buy more. I use them for other things like my 1/2 off book returns and storing of other stuff around the house.

    Now and then I ask for a few plastic bags, they are good for storing small household items. I keep stuff together on my garage shelves in them, like pet stuff.

    Of course, we could put the plastic makers completely out of business by legalizing industrial Hemp.
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Cartoon of the DayMy Profile

    • Yes, yes and I know… In my most recent move, I chose not to load everything into boxes. Many things found their way into bags in order to maximize many un-square spaces into which I packed. If the plastic ideas continue, I may have to follow this up with a “what else are they good for?” post.

  3. Red a big hugs for this beautiful write up..We carry our bags when we go for shopping.I have these canvas bags in my car at all times so that we don’t add up to any kind of pollutions.
    also as you have mentioned if one does have plastic bags at home it is really wise to use them again next time so that the plastic load reduces.
    Soma Mukherjee recently posted..Jungle,Bungle,Tungle,Gungle,A Pre-storyMy Profile

    • I have a raft of ideas for reusing those plastic nasties. If you have some, let me know what they are. I will follow this up with a mongo list of all the M3 Readers contributions….Give me a bit and I will put it up as a poll. I have to change the sidebars so the contest is accessible 🙂 Great to see you this morning, Sweet Soma <3

  4. We use the canvas or whatever they are made from bags. Or I should say Michelle uses them. If I go to the shops for anything I always forget to get them out of the boot of the car. I need to be more concious of this. I stopped at the supermarket last night & ended up bringing home 5 plastic bags that all went into the garbage bin.
    Tony McGurk recently posted..The Rat Came BackMy Profile

    • If you take a month to stow all the ones you bring home, you may be amazed how many you accumulate.

  5. Laurie

     /  July 19, 2012

    My canvas bags have lost their strength, washed them too many times to avoid bacteria. At the moment, half the plastic bags I get from the store are taken to the bin at Wal-mart, the other half are used as garbage bags. I’m still waiting for the oil that was put back in the large bottles after being drained from the truck to make its way to the oil recycling drop off….if it goes much longer i may just give into the urge to pour it over the ant beds, though I doubt I will since a quart of my oil is more than a gallon of gas….I had a point when I started…..

    • All that does is make them move or dig deeper. Put grits on the anthill. They feed the queen and she explodes and the entire hill dies. Cheap and all natural. No biohazard for pets.

      • Laurie

         /  July 21, 2012

        Maybe I haven’t bought enough grits, every time I put them on bed, it reappears, maybe I can just cover the whole yard? will that work? and I can’t find the post now but do I really have to wash the paper shreds before I add them to the cat litter?? I’m confused…..

        • No, you do not have to wash them. That is only for magazine and some old newspapers. The inks in inkjet are vegetable based and will not hurt animals (I know. My dog eats them every chance he gets.) And laser print is not ink based. As to the grits, make a circle around your house. And use regular grits…not the instant ones.

  6. As always, another thought provoking post. The aggregate numbers are rather staggering, and so easy to overlook when you look at the dozen or so we might use on a single trip, and therefore not seemingly significant.

    We shop at a membership warehouse and there are no bags available. All the goods are replaced into the cart after scanning. And I often decline to use bags if all I have is a handful of items.

    Here’s hoping you are having a grand evening, Red.

    • Great to see you (last night). I love the looks those double bagging cashiers give me when I tell them to skip the bags. They still put at least one thing in a bag. I take it out and leave it on the register. It burns me up when they turn immediately and throw it away as though it were contaminated. Ugh.

  7. Nicholle Olores

     /  July 19, 2012

    Love the idea of having a canvas bags. I agree that in order to save more money you will recycle those things that you never been used. There are many recycled ideas online which you can prefer and follow.

  8. We have been using canvas bags for a while, but it really didn’t start with a desire to save the earth, although I suppose it is a nice benefit. Instead the store started doing the scan it system where you scan your groceries as you shop and bag them. It is awesome! So, we bought about 6 bags and usually make that work. If not, I just throw the things in the van without a bag. That is how it is when we go to BJ’s. When we do have plastic bags, I use them for things like cleaning the litter box or for the bathroom garbage can.
    Derek Mansker recently posted..What are YOU going to do today?My Profile

    • Those are just two of the many uses I have for them. I may well yet write that post after all. Good on you for doing without them.

  9. I usually use the reusable bags for groceries, but sometimes I buy stuff at the store when I’m walking and then need to buy a bag. Generally around here they charge 5 cents a bag to discourage use. I think it’s a reasonable way to cut down on excessive bag use. I re-use them for the kitchen trash bag.

    The best way to cut down on waste is to not buy stuff you don’t need. The problem is, if everyone followed that advice the economy would crash. We’re built on a society of want, not need. We need almost nothing compared to what we have.
    Binky recently posted..Summer Trick or TreatingMy Profile

    • Funny you say that. When you get away from an economy driven by things, you move to an economy driven by services, which is far more luxurious. That may end up a post if I can get the politicos to be tongue tied for the day.

  10. Hi hun! 🙂

    Yes, I have a canvas bag and gave one to Doug, but he doesn’t use it.

    We try to recycle as much as possible, but plastic shopping bags are a problem as our recycling service doesn’t take them.

    Fortunately Co-Op bags are biodegradable, so I use them for garbage! 🙂

    Unfortunately Iceland don’t use biodegradable plastic bags so I have to throw them away.

    NOT happy about it, but I do my best…

    Love and hugs!

    prenin recently posted..Thursday – Doug puts on some theatrics…My Profile

    • I am going to post a list of things you can use them for before you drop them in the bin. Some of the subs can save you a few pence here and there 😉 {HUGZ} Red.


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