“The plastic bag is an accepted a part of Canada’s shopping culture, but it really should not. Every year we use over nine billion plastic shopping bags in Canada. That’s 17, 000 bags a minute. ”
– Greener Footprints
Canadians use 9-15 billion plastic-type shopping bags every year
To get a feel for just how many bags that actually is usually, picture this: if we tied nine billion bags together, they would group the earth 55 times (Greener Footprints).
Every year it’s approximated between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are used across the globe. Although they weren’t widely used until the eighties, their impact has already been felt around the world.
A quick stroll through your neighbourhood could reveal how pervasive plastic bags are when it comes to the problem of litter. Hanging from tree branches or even tangled in hedges, plastic hand bags have become a depressing fixture in urban green spaces like recreational areas, schoolyards, and sports fields. This kind of litter is not only unsightly; it can also help with major environmental issues.
Large buildups of discarded plastic bags may clog drainage systems and help with major floods. Such flooding triggered widespread destruction in Bangladesh in 1988 and 1998. Manila is vulnerable to flooding as a result of plastic-bag blocked sewers. In 2009, more than 80% from the Philippines’ capital was submerged. 100s were killed and thousands a lot more were left homeless when whole neighbourhoods were swept away.
Some other aquatic chaos created by plastic luggage has proven deadly to those which live in the water as well.
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Approximately hundred, 000 whales, seals, turtles along with other marine animals are killed every year by plastic bags, which can strangle their victims or cause them to starve to death, according to Planet Ark, an international environmental group. A lifeless gray whale that washed on land in Seattle in 2010 was found to have more than 20 plastic bags in its stomach.
A 2012 University of British Columbia study discovered that 93 per cent of beached northern fulmars (migratory seabirds related to the albatross) had bellies filled with plastic – a substantial increase from the last time they were tested, in 1980.
In fact , plastic packaging is usually accumulating so quickly, it’s likely to outnumber fish in the sea simply by 2050, according to a recent report by World Economic Forum.
Based on the David Suzuki Foundation, “Few plastic bags are recycled. Most are useful for a short time to carry groceries, and then probably re-used as garbage bags or wrap dog poop before finding yourself in the landfill or the ocean. Some individuals argue that, because they make up about a single per cent of the volume of waste in landfills, we shouldn’t worry. But one per cent of the massive levels of what’s in landfills is a lot, especially since plastic doesn’t biodegrade. ”
Most plastic bags are made from polyethylene and can take hundreds of years to break down.
But steps are being taken to reduce the environmental footprint of plastic hand bags. Use of plastic bags is either restricted or completely banned in over a quarter of the world’s countries.
China, Italy, Bangladesh, South Africa, and parts of Australia have banned plastic bags outright, while municipal bans exist in areas of India, Mexico, Britain, the U. S., and Canada.
Plastaxes – taxes on plastic bags paid by consumers – and new recycling laws have also been brought in to simply help address the issue.
In February 2016, Walmart Canada began phasing out one-use shopping bags at Canadian Walmart stores. In place of these, clients will be offered discounted reusable bags for 25 cents. But plastic bags will still be offered for five cents in an effort to reduce the number of single-use bags they distribute.
In my neck of the woods (Sidney, British Columbia), the grocery store I frequent doesn’t have plastic grocery bags nevertheless they do offer single-use brown paper bags – or, of course, you should use reusable grocery bags or a reusable cardboard box, specifically designed to hold the weight of groceries. My personal preference is a box and several reusable bags.
Although my community is supposedly very environmentally-friendly, I would have to say that, based on my personal observations, a lot of the grocery store customers still choose the single-use brown paper bag over the reusable bag and/or box. And I’m not sure why. Convenience, perhaps?
What about those little produce bags?
Nevertheless , when it comes to bagging my fruits, veggies and bulk foods, I still find myself reaching for the tiny clear plastic bags off the roll-dispenser every time I go to the food store. So this is an area I’m going to work on improving: remembering to bring back to the store my plastic produce & bulk food baggies so I can reuse them a few times, instead of always getting new ones.
7 Simple ways to reduce the use of shopping bags
1 . Use reusable cloth shopping bags (keep them in your car or truck or a place where you’ll remember to use them)
2 . Consider using a reusable cardboard box, specifically designed for carrying groceries
3. Consult customer service or send a letter/email to stores to inquire about what they’re doing to reduce the use of plastic bags
4. Assess whether you need to use bags as garbage liners – if you don’t need to use them, then don’t
5. Re-use plastic bags as much as possible
6. Recycle the bags you can’t reuse by firmly taking them back to the grocery store for recycling (or utilizing other plastic bag recycling programs)
7. Avoid unnecessary use by telling the cashier you don’t need a bag for just one or two items
Reusable bags are the solution
A sturdy, reusable bag will last for years, and only needs to be used 5 times to truly have a lower environmental impact than a single-use bag.
It’s not difficult to use a reusable shopping bag… but it is a choice to make it a priority.
The solution to reducing plastic bag waste generally is in the bag: use less bags in the first place. And, if you do need certainly to use one, then be creative in getting multiple uses from the jawhorse. And when this isn’t an option, be sure to recycle it.