DO SOMETHING DRASTIC – CUT THE PLASTIC!
By Paula Chow, Fredericksburg Clean & Green Commission and Rappahannock Group Sierra Club The Rappahannock Group Sierra Club (RGSC) received a Keep Virginia Beautiful grant to reduce single use plastic bags usage. As part of the grant, RGSC will be at the Farmers Market at Hurkamp Park on Saturday, August 4th, giving away free reusable bags.
As a lifelong environmental advocate, I was astounded by some of the statistics I consistently read. Did you know that the plastic bag you use today could still exist 1,000 years from now? Worldwide, 500 million to 1 trillion single use plastic bags are used annually. Plastic bags are a petrochemical (oil) product. They do not biodegrade, rather they photodegrade, meaning that they eventually break up into small particles but don’t disintegrate. The average person who uses plastic bags uses 6 plastic bags a week, or 24 plastic bags a month, or 288 plastic bags a year. That totals to 22,176 plastic bags in an average lifetime.
Why should we care? Plastic bags are a significant contributor of litter. Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled. A large percentage of plastic bags find their way into our waterways because plastic bags are lightweight and are easily blown away from trash cans and the landfill. 100,000 marine animals die annually as a result of ingesting plastic of all sorts and sizes, thinking it is food. The miniscule plastic particles polluting the oceans and waters worldwide have been coined “mermaid’s tears.” You can see photos of the ‘Pacific Ocean garbage patch’ online which is twice the size of Texas. Plastic bags also consume natural resources to produce and to transport which contribute to climate change. If you are skeptical about climate change, what is the harm in conserving finite resources for future generations?
You say you need plastic bags for your pet’s waste? There is a huge volume of plastic bags of which we can’t escape. Consider using the plastic bags used in common foods and products instead of using NEW plastic bags (acquired from the stores at the cashier, produce section, or farmers market) – plastic bags from bread products, frozen vegetable and fruits, bulk vegetables and fruit, cereal liners, cake mix and other baking mixes, frozen waffles liners, toilet tissue wrapping (open with a scissors so it can be used), etc. If the bag has breathing holes, insert another bag with holes to be used as one. If you don’t generate enough of these plastic bags for your pet(s), ask your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or book club members to save them for you. That’s giving these plastic bags a second use where they would have gone to the landfill first. You can also use potato chip and tortilla chip bags as well as coffee bags, but you’ll need a scoop, of course. Newspaper is ideal – you can use a scoop to pick up the waste and wrap it up.
Many patrons of the Farmers Market faithfully bring reusable bags for their purchases. There are others who also bring reusable bags yet put produce in plastic bags, then put these plastic bags in the reusable bag. Consider reusing the nylon net bags from 2- 5 pound bulk produce such as onions, apples, oranges and potatoes – these are great to reuse over and over and keeps the produce contained. Or reuse plastic bags that you already have. There is no need for taking NEW plastic when there are so many other choices.
What is the price of convenience for our future generations? What will they say about how you helped or didn’t help their quality of the environment? Regardless of politics, the goal is the same for everyone – leaving the environment the way we found it or improve it. We can reduce our plastic consumption drastically – it is your choice.