A lot more information about single-use plastic is being disseminated in both mainstream and social media as of late, and that's a really good thing. I think most people want to do their best for the environment and for all the animals that we share this planet with. However, no matter how much you may wish to avoid single-use plastic, you will find that doing this is a lot easier said than done.
According to the NRDC, the average American family takes home about 1,500 shopping bags a year, but even if you faithfully bring reusable shopping bags with you every time you go shopping, and even if you manage to completely avoid using single-use plastic shopping bags, you can still end up accumulating a tremendous number of plastic bags used to package things like bread, nuts, seeds, cereal, fruits, and vegetables. After a few weeks or months, you might be shocked to see just how many plastic bags still pile up.
Recycling our big bag of bags.
If you're like me, you certainly don't want to throw these plastic bags in the garbage because you've come to understand that these bags end up in either landfill or in our oceans. Moreover, you've learned that it can take these bags up to 1000 years to break down, and you've also come to appreciate the fact that they do not actually biodegrade. Sadly, this is because plastic is not a food source for bacteria, and plastic doesn't oxidize either. Rather, plastic breaks down from ultra-violate light through a process of photo-degradation, only to become bits of micro-plastics that contaminate our water, soil, and food supply... basically forever.
We also hear about the billions of plastic bags floating aimlessly in our oceans - including the horrific Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of micro-plastics that forms an area of about 1.6 million square kilometres, or about three times the size of France.
Knowing all this, nobody really wants to just throw out their plastic bags, but what else can they do?
Well... I'll tell you.
You can search the web for a municipal "plastic bag recycling" or "plastic bag take-back" program, and then recycle your bags through local participating retailers. The process is fairly simple. Generally, consumers are asked to:
Living in York Region, I have access to the York Region Plastic Bag Take Back Program, which is wonderful. This program solicits the participation of local retailers who agree to provide a bin for their customers to recycle their plastic bags. The plastic bags are then collected by the municipality, and, if all goes well, recycled plastic bags are used to make things like "new plastic bags, plastic lumber, patio furniture and park benches."
For a number of years, I used to recycle my plastic bags at a local Metro grocery store, which was really close to our home. However, it seems that Metro no longer participates in the program. However, I can tell you that the Great Canadian Superstore is still participating, and I hear Walmart is still participating as well. (Perhaps I should do my diligence to confirm that Walmart is indeed participating in the program. Stay tuned for an update.)
Thus, my family tends to fill a clear plastic bag in our garage with our various plastic bags, and then haul those bags off to a participating take-back store about once a month.
For the sake of our environment, for the the health of our animals and sea life, and, invariably, for the sake of our own health, please try to limit your use of single-use plastic bags, plastic bottles, and plastic products. Try to make a habit of keeping reusable plastic bags in your car, and get them out when you find yourself walking into a store. Refuse plastic bags when they are offered to you at a store, and, whenever possible, choose wood, metal, glass, hemp, or bamboo over plastic. When you do find yourself purchasing food products that come in plastic bags, take just a few extra moments every month to recycle those bags through your local plastic bag take-back program.
When it comes to the environment, we are all neighbours.