When I make my weekly trip to the grocery store or other shopping adventure I have consciously made the decision to bring my reusable bags. Not long ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about taking the oil derived handled sac, but the way I think has changed, and thankfully the consumer market is starting to change too.
As a petroleum by-product, plastic bags photograde into finer, smaller pieces releasing harmful chemicals into the soil and water. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture 100 billion plastic bags. North America goes through over 110 billion plastic shopping bags in one year. For a family of four, that translates into a use of 1,000 bags per year, of which 80% come directly from grocery stores.
The environmental impact doesn’t stop there. Thousands of marine creatures suffer and die each year from consuming plastic bags that end up in bodies of water. The bags are mistaken as a food source ultimately causing immense pain and eventual death by blocking the digestive track. Most of the bags make their way to the water through improper disposal or litter, but 47% are carried by the wind from landfills. Plastic bags are frequent air travelers, they have gone as far as space according to NASA, which recently spotted one floating over the earth.
All these statistics certainly paint a grim picture but hope is not lost. In fact initiatives worldwide as well as right here in Canada are being created to lessen and stop the use of these plastic perils. Towns in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia to name a few have completely banned the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. In 2007, Leaf Rapids a small northern community in Manitoba became the first in this country to do the same.
Super-market chains have caught onto the high price plastic bags create. It is very common now to find reusable bags at the till for a small price.
Don’t think you can remember to bring your bags on every outing? Think again. The majority of reusable bags are easily folded down into the size of your hand – stick a few in your purse, bag, coat pocket or glove compartment of your car. It will take a bit of memory jogging in the beginning but soon it will become second nature – just like taking your wallet with you when you shop!
For most of us, we are looking for ways to lessen the negative impact we have on this earth. Being a conscious consumer is an empowering start. A plastic bag (or bottle) here and there may not seem to be a big deal, but when you look at the cumulative affect of their use, the negative impact is astronomical. So take a stand as a citizen of the world – make your next BYOB count! The earth will thank you for it.
Barb Smeltzer is a writer based in Ontario. She is passionate about sharing environmental, natural health and mind-body topics with readers.