April 11, 2011

Small things for a better world: reduce and recycle plastic bags

We all have them. We all use them. We all know they're bad for our environment. They cause devastation in the sea. Birds, turtles, fish and other sea creatures become trapped by them, and will often mistake them for food. One plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to photodegrade - they don't actually biodegrade, but rather only break apart into microscopic granules…and then they are still toxic. An estimated 1 million plastic bags are used every minute. Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse (cigarette butts top the list.) Here are a few suggestions on how we can reduce our use and how we should be recycling them:
Use reusable shopping bags – Bring them with you when you go to the store. Not just to the supermarket, but to the mall, Home Depot, Petco, Walmart. You get the picture. Leave them in your car, put one or two in your purse. I can't preach what I don't always practice…I have to admit I forget mine all the time. I then try to fit as much as possible into the bags provided and end up with stuff overflowing in the backseat, not to mention falling out when trying to bring them into the house. And I always, always feel guilty. I'm trying to do better, I really am. Now, if they're not in my car, they're hanging on my door knob going into the garage. Hopefully, during my many mad dashes to make it out of the house on time, they won't be overlooked.

Use reusable produce bags - Try not to use the produce bags in the supermarket. I use them only for really wet items – items that have just been sprayed by the produce mister. Although while writing this, I realized what I should be doing is using a set of mesh produce bags. I just bought some. You can, too, by clicking here.

Reuse your plastic Ziploc® bags – When it comes to items like plastic sandwich bags and gallon storage bags, I hesitate before filling. If I must use them, they will most likely be used again. Unless there has been a meat product stored in them, I will wash, dry and reuse, and reuse again.

Pack lunches in fabric food bags – There are a lot of great reusable and washable snack bags. My favorites are from Itzy Ritzy. They're super durable with lots of stylish patterns to choose from and a zipper top to keep items from 'sneaking' out. My 7-year old always goes to school with at least one tucked away in his backpack. Great for sandwiches, fruit (just not too juicy), crackers, etc.

Improvise – If you forget your reusable bags and you're picking up only a few items – improvise! Do you really need a bag to carry a loaf of bread, a carton of milk and a bag of carrots? Probably not. Throw an item in your purse and balance the others under your arms. Better yet, have your kids carry something (if they can be so coerced.)

Recycle - Return your plastic bags to the recycling containers located in many grocery/retail stores or designated drop off locations. Our local Stop and Shop has them. Most curbside recycling companies don't accept plastic bags and wraps because they can get caught in their equipment. If you don't know where your nearest collection spot is, click here to locate it. If you've ever wondered what's accepted and what's not, see below. I learned a lot from reading this. I've definitely been including some items that should not be included. Shoot. This information is also available at http://www.plasticbagrecycling.org/plasticbag/s01_consumers.html. You can also learn what happens to your bags once they're recycled, in case you're curious.

Accepted items must be clean and dry:
  • Newspaper bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Bread bags
  • Produce bags
  • Toilet paper, napkin and paper towel wraps
  • Furniture wrap
  • Electronic wrap
  • Plastic retail bags (hard plastic handles and string removed)
  • Grocery bags
  • Plastic food storage bags (clean and dry) – (e.g. Ziploc® bags)
  • Plastic cereal box liners (if it tears like paper, do not include)
  • Tyvek (no glue, labels or other material)
  • Diaper wrap (packaging)
  • Plastic shipping envelopes (no bubble wrap / remove labels)
  • Case wrap (e.g. snacks, water bottles)
  • All clean, dry bags labeled #2 or #4
           Do NOT include:

  • NO food or cling wrap
  • NO prepackaged food bags including frozen food bags (e.g. prewashed salad bags)
  • NO film that has been painted or has excessive glue
  • NO other bags or films
  • NO bio-based or compostable plastic bags


Marli said... [Reply]

Whole Foods has some cute snack and sandwich reusable bags that I use. They are easily cleaned and very cost-effective!

Tracy said... [Reply]

Nice, will look for them next time I'm there. Thanks!

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