Plastic bags are made from petroleum, natural gas, and chemicals. The production, use, recycling and landfilling of a plastic bag is toxic for us and the planet. For food and drink, It's not a good idea to reuse plastic bags, water bottles, forks, etc., they are not designed to last and can release chemicals when exposed to heat, or begin to photodegrade when exposed to light.
Plastic Bag Facts:
- The average American family uses 1,500 plastic bags per year.
- Each year Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags.
- Approximately 5 trillion plastic bags are produced every year worldwide. Side by side, these plastic bags encircle the world 7 times.
- Plastic grocery bags are considered "film plastics". Other film plastics include, bread bags, bubble wrap, cellophane bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, pallet wrap, plastic wraps, produce bags, plastic from toilet paper rolls, and shrink wrap.
- Plastic bags harm and kill wildlife.
The exciting news is that plastic bags are completely avoidable! We just have to re-think the way we shop for a couple seconds and challenge ourselves to make small changes in our behaviors. Today I offer some simple ways to reduce plastic bag use by bringing your own cloth bags.
What We Can Do:
- When we shop for produce (fruits, vegetables, salad greens, fresh herbs, etc.) we can bring our own cloth drawstring bags instead of using plastic ones.
- When we buy bulk foods (package-free) like rice, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, coffee, tea, and granola, we can bring our own cloth bags instead of using plastic ones.
- In our homes we can use certified compostable (plant based) trash bags instead of plastic ones. It's healthier for us and the planet if we can try to keep plastic out of the landfills, as the chemicals poison the earth and our drinking water.
- We can bring our own cloth shopping bags, especially in cities where the plastic grocery bag has not yet been banned.
- We can bring our own cloth bags to the bakery to get bread and pastries plastic free.
- Paper bags are not a good substitute for plastic ones. They require a lot of resources to make and can only be reused a finite number of times. Cloth bags are the way to go!
Recycling Plastic Bags:
- Less than 5% of plastic bags are actually recycled in California.
- Single plastic bags do not recycle--they clog the balers and are a nightmare for the people working at our resource recovery centers.
In most places, to properly recycle a plastic bag, use one plastic bag to collect all other plastic bags. When the bag is full, tie off the bag and place in the recycling bin. Bags must be clean and dry.
Please check your recycling guide for specific instructions as they vary from county to county. Some places don't even recycle. You can also give your plastic bags and film back to most grocery stores for recycling. Or you can use this resource to locate a place that accepts drop-offs.
For a complete guide on how to shop plastic-free, take my store tour!