Reusable Shopping Bags are Making a Big Impact

Feb 1 16:21 2010 Matthew L Print This Article

As we move into a new decade consumers can give the gift of sustainability to our planet using reusable shopping bags. Plastic disposable bags are wasteful on the environment and require excessive amounts of fossil fuels to create.

BYOB stands for bring your own shopping bag!  As we kick off the new year of 2010,Guest Posting it is crazy how much shopping we historically do here in America and world-wide and the trends are increasing. Whether it be frequent trips to the grocery store as we keep our kitchen's stocked for wonderful meals and tasty treats or those sometimes dreaded, yet skillful "6 bags on each arm" walks through the packed local mall, it all adds up to so much unnecessary waste.  One of the most blatant examples of this waste is disposable shopping bags.

An estimated 100 billion plastic shopping bags are consumed each year in the USA, according to the Wall-Street Journal.  Most plastic bags end up in landfills and the rest often end up in rivers, ponds, lakes, streams or in the sea, where animals can ingest or become entangled in them. Household waste, shopping bags included, increases by more than 25% on average in November and December.  Considering how many shopping bags are consumed and wasted at this time of year, the time is now to spread the word about the positive benefits of eco-friendly reusable shopping bags to influence our families, friends and communities.

Adopting a BYOB strategy in our individual shopping habits is a simple way to do just that. If we can raise awareness at this time, the positive impact for the environment is incalculable for 2010 and well into the future.  Several cities have already made gradual but significant progress in promoting the use of eco-friendly non woven reusable grocery bags in recent years. Motivating consumers with plastic and paper bag bans, discounts at the register for reusable bag usage and tax motivations are a few to speak of.

Right here in America, the San Jose City Council recently passed one of the nation’s strictest bans on plastic and paper shopping bags. This is a big victory for the Bay Area, which has one million plastic bags per year accumulating in and along the San Francisco Bay. San Jose becomes the latest bay area city to enact some type of ban on disposable shopping bags; others include San Francisco and Palo Alto. Tracy Seipel of the San Jose Mercury News reported that it was actually ONE man who really jump-started the ban, another great example of the power of one person.  Here’s a an excerpt:

While visiting his sister-in-law in Taipei, Kansen Chu, elected to San Jose city council in 2007, went grocery shopping and was surprised to get charged for plastic grocery bags. The next day, he brought his own cloth bags back to the store.  "I guess the question," said Chu, "was, Why not San Jose?" He began a conversation with the city's environmental services staff, which later moved to council committee discussions.

Save the Bay’s 4th annual report on the most garbage-strewn sites in the region further demonstrates the need for bringing your own shopping bags.  The 50-year-old environmental advocacy group focused on 10 specific bay-area sites where almost 15,000 plastic bags were retrieved in one day last year in their report.   Here’s an excerpt of an article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Kelly Zito.

According to (Save the Bay's) research, Californians use about 19 billion plastic bags each year, 3.8 million in the Bay Area. The average use time for the bags - made using about 12 million barrels of oil each year in the United States - is about 12 minutes. In addition to the hundreds of years it can take for a plastic bag to decompose in a landfill, the bags also force downtime when fed into traditional recycling equipment. Typically, the bags get wound into conveyor belts or gears and must be cut out by hand.

Ten US cities have banned plastic bags so far, five within the past year. Even Mexico City enacted a ban on plastic shopping bags, which went into effect in August. The city of 20 million now faces the realities of effective enforcement, which is not easy when the Mexico City Chamber of Commerce estimates there are 35,000 vendors in Mexico City’s downtown area alone.

Bans on plastic bags aren't the only effective way to reduce harmful waste caused by disposable bags.  PlasTaxes, which tax consumers at the register for using plastic bags when shopping, were first introduced by the Irish.  John Roach of National Geographic reported last year on the worldwide momentum that’s been building since Ireland instituted a PlasTax in 2003. The Irish showed they could reduce plastic bag consumption by 90% or more. Momentum is growing across the world, particularly in America.  From Washington, DC to Edmonds, WA to North Pole, AK, communities and governments are spurring an international trend to reduce the harmful environmental effects of disposable shopping bags. Even major retail stores like Target and CVS are taking action by enacting discounts at the register for customers who choose to BYOB or just carry-out their items without a bag.

For the naysayers, it’s convenient to ignore recent momentum in reducing disposable bag waste.  But to some, the wide-spread adoption of eco-friendly reusable bags is inevitable.   Look at the way smoking is becoming taboo in America.  Indoor smoking bans have caught on like wild fire.  In the same way, who is to say the use of disposable bags won’t become taboo at some point in the near future?  The use of eco friendly reusable grocery bags is definitely gaining steam.  Our individual choices to bring our reusable bags when shopping can go a lot farther than we think.  That's what BYOB is all about, setting a proactive example for others to set a trend that will help our planet, it's valuable finite resources and secure its animals' habitats.
 
Of course, plastic and paper bags should be recycled and it's important to remember most large retailers including Albertsons and Wal-Mart will recycle plastic bags for you.  That being said, a BYOB shopping strategy can make your life so much easier because there is no longer a need to accumulate that cupboard full of plastic bags or figure out what and when to do something about it.  Keeping a few reusable shopping bags in your car or backpack is a good way to ensure you have them when needed. So give back to our planet by remembering to BYOB!   Whether it be at a convenience store, the mall, or while grocery shopping, we can make a difference for the environment and help raise awareness one transaction at a time.  Through the fight to eliminate disposable shopping bag waste, we are giving a gift to our Planet, the finest gift of all, sustainability and reusage.

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Matthew L
Matthew L

Matthew Ludwig and Al Bemis are accomplished writers with Manifest SEO Services discussing eco and sustainability issues working with Factory Direct Promos, offering promotional reusable grocery bags and a full line of custom trade show bags and products.

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