If there’s something I really dislike, it’s a plastic grocery bag (any single use plastic, really, but especially grocery bags). I know they have their purpose, but they’re horrifying nonetheless. They can easily take over your house, and you always seem to get more of them than you can possibly reuse when you go to the store. And because they’re so inexpensive for the stores to purchase, they use them willy-nilly for every little thing. There’s very little impetus for the employees to worry about filling a bag because it doesn’t matter to them. I don’t know if the stores still train their employees in how to bag groceries, but I suspect not based on the bags they place in my cart. (When I was training as a grocery cashier back in 2001, filling a bag properly was part of what we were tested on before we were allowed to begin work.) Not only do they not fill the bags completely when you buy several things, but they often don’t even give you the option of refusing a bag for just one or two items like they did when I worked in the industry.
I’ve always been kind of frustrated with the situation surrounding the bags, especially after a trip to “Junk Mountain” (aka the local landfill) we took a few years back, but it’s always been more an irritation rather than something overly outrageous. There was a situation this week that really pushed this issue over the top for me, though. We were at the grocery store buying just a couple of things for dinner (it was between big shopping trips, which we do at a less expensive store). We had three items – five if you count each zucchini separately. The cashier used four grocery bags for our three items. I wish I was kidding. Granted, some of the items were on the heavier side (a five-pound bag of rice), but not so heavy that they required their own bag. And definitely not heavy enough to require double bagging (which is how we ended up with four bags for three items). That kind of wastefulness just reeks of a pandemic.
I know there’s not much I can do about this problem (outside of using my own reusable bags, which I always remember for our bigger trips and rarely remember for the smaller ones, unfortunately). But maybe through my little corner of the internet, I can raise just a smidge of awareness. It’s not much, but it’s something. So before you move on from here today, I want to offer a few statistics. Maybe these will help you (and me) remember to bring those reusable bags for even the smallest of shopping trips.
- Each year, the United States uses 30 billion plastic bags. That amount of consumption requires 12 million barrels of oil.
- Worldwide, it’s estimated that over 500 billion plastic bags are used annually. This means there are almost 1 million bags used every minute.
- Four out of five shopping bags used in the US is plastic.
- Plastic bags cause over 100,000 marine life deaths each year when the animals mistake them for food.
- The average family accumulates 60 bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
- Each reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate 1,000 (or more) plastic bags over its lifetime.
- It is estimated that only 3% of plastic grocery bags is recycled.
- A sturdy, reusable bag only needs to be used 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than 11 plastic bags.
For more information, you can also visit reuseit.com. This is a good source for information on the destructiveness of plastic bags and water bottles, and also options for helping you to reduce your use of these items. They also have pages learning to create a zero-waste home (something we’ve strived for in the past, but seems impossible, at least in our current location) and they sell a lot of reusable products.
Another option for reusable things for around the house is something I’ve read a few times over on The Frugal Girl (here’s the direct link to the specific post). It’s called the Mighty Fix, offered by Mighty Nest, and for $10 a month, they send you one eco-friendly item that’s more than $10 in value with free shipping. I’ve yet to try it, but the idea really appeals to me. In addition to this subscription service, you can buy just the things you want from Mighty Nest as well.
Now that I’ve been up on my soapbox for a while, let me leave you with a laugh. While the following comics are about the same topic I’ve discussed today, it’s a much lighter take on the situation. Special thanks to my husband for allowing me to share his creative work today.
(Casey and Kyle copyright 2016 Will Robertson)