“The plastic bag is an accepted part of Canada’s shopping culture, but it shouldn’t be. Every year we use over 9 billion plastic shopping bags within Canada. That’s 17, 000 hand bags a minute. ”
– Greener Footprints
Canadians use 9-15 billion plastic shopping bags every year
To get a really feel for just how many bags that actually is definitely, picture this: if we tied 9 billion bags together, they would group the earth 55 times (Greener Footprints).
Every year it’s estimated between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used across the globe. Although they weren’t widely used until the 1980s, their impact has already been felt all over the world.
A quick stroll through your neighbourhood could reveal how pervasive plastic luggage 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 within urban green spaces like parks, schoolyards, and sports fields. This kind of litter is not only unsightly; it can also lead to major environmental issues.
Large buildups of discarded plastic bags may clog drainage systems and lead to 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. Hundreds were killed and thousands more were left homeless when whole neighbourhoods were swept away.
Various other aquatic chaos created by plastic hand bags has proven deadly to those who also live in the water as well.
Approximately 100, 000 whales, seals, turtles as well as other marine animals are killed every year by plastic bags, which can strangle their victims or cause them to deprive to death, according to Planet Ark, an international environmental group. A dead gray whale that washed on land in Seattle in 2010 was found to have more than 20 plastic luggage in its stomach.
A 2012 University of British Columbia study found that 93 per cent of beached northern fulmars (migratory seabirds associated with the albatross) had bellies filled with plastic – a substantial increase from the last time they were tested, within 1980.
In fact , plastic packaging is accumulating so quickly, it’s expected to outnumber fish in the sea simply by 2050, according to a recent report with the World Economic Forum.
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According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Few plastic material bags are recycled. Most are used for a short time to carry groceries, and then maybe re-used as garbage bags in order to wrap dog poop before ending up in the landfill or the ocean. Some individuals argue that, because they make up about one per cent of the volume of waste within 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. inch
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 luggage. Use of plastic bags is possibly 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 parts 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 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 can 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, the majority of the grocery store customers still choose the single-use brown paper bag over the reusable bag and/or box. And I am not sure why. Convenience, perhaps?
What about those little produce bags?
But when it comes to bagging my fruits, veggies and bulk foods, I still find myself reaching for the little clear plastic bags off the roll-dispenser every time I go to the supermarket. So this is an area I’m going to work with 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 to carry groceries
3. Consult customer service or send a letter/email to stores to inquire about what they’re doing to cut back 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 starters 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 really 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 have to use one, then be creative in getting multiple uses from it. And when this isn’t an option, be sure to recycle it.