After 3 weeks of attempting to limit my disposable plastic use, I’m quite surprised that it’s actually more difficult than I imagined not resorting to using plastic bags at grocery stores.  I don’t think it’s that my initial plan of putting reusable cloth bags in my car and just inside the main door to our house to remind myself is failing, rather it’s the impromptu trips to the store I still haven’t found a genuine fix for.  When it’s planned it’s no problem, but whenever I’m out with friends and we make a store run for dinner stuff or snacks, I always feel guilty relapsing to old habits and using paper or plastic.  It seems like the most logical solution is to just convince my friends that they need to follow my lead and buy cloth bags themselves.  Or maybe it’s possible to fit a single bag in my back pocket…

 

As for the other two sections of my PSP, I’ve had no difficulty cutting disposable Ziploc bags from my life and using a reusable water bottle instead of continually using disposable ones.  Using Tupperware instead of Ziploc bags has its advantages too in that my food doesn’t get crushed in my backpack and keeps from making a mess.  Initially I was skeptical if I could resist the urge to use disposable sandwich bags but it makes thing much easier when you don’t keep any in your house and maintain the cleanliness of your Tupperware containers.  Likewise, reusing the same Gatorade bottle or other reusable mugs was a seamless transition.  I kind of outdid myself somewhat in that instead of buying more Gatorades (I generally drink a portion of one after each run I do), I bought a giant tub of Gatorade powder.  Now I can mix up my own Gatorade and reuse the same set of bottles I have rather than purchasing new ones.

In terms of keeping the drive alive, I can easily see myself continuing with my PSP goals because they are all practical and save me money in the long run.  The cost of Ziploc bags adds up fast and although I’ve yet to look into an alternative for freezer bags, making the switch to Tupperware for storage purposes is a no brainer.  This also lessens my ecological footprint in that I won’t be throwing away disposable bags every other day and instead be reusing items I already own.  Another benefit of my PSP action is that now I feel as though I look more sustainably at grocery store items and often base some of my purchases around how much disposable plastic or unnecessary packaging an item has.  I actually talked my roommate out buying one of his favorite Winco items, a hug pack of small croissants found in the bakery section, because of how much wasteful plastic it had.  While I realize much of the packaging is for freshness purposes, it just seems like an awful waste of disposable plastic when you can get nearly the same item from the bread section inside a thin plastic bag that can be reused.

 

The economic effects of my PSP seem quite minimal when talking about the costs associated with not purchasing disposable Ziploc bags and plastic beverage bottles.  I’d say on average that the savings would be around $10-$15 a month personally but the effects are more pronounced when I think about how much the plastic industry spends each year producing single-use disposable plastic bags.  Currently, about 100 billion single-use plastic bags are manufactured each year, costing retailers approximately $4 billion.  While $4 billion seems like a large sum of money, it would no doubt cost billions more to clean up the environmental degradation plastic bags are causing, especially in the ocean where approximately each square mile has close to 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it (reuseit).

 

If others made a similar choice like I’m making and trying to reduce their ecological footprint by limiting their plastic waste, it would definitely decrease the production of disposable bags and likewise influence supply and demand.  This could possibly spur the manufacture of biodegradable bags instead of normal plastic bags and lessen the amount of plastic waste found on land and sea.  Biodegradable plastic bags degrade much faster than disposable bags and don’t stay in the environment as long in the form of small fragments that soak up toxins.  Substitutes aren’t really a good solution either as paper bags and compostable plastic bags both cost more to manufacture, require more raw materials and energy, and also command higher transportation costs (reuseit).  Reducing plastic bag use seems to be the only real answer to this problem.

 

Here in Oregon, we’re addressing the plastic bag issue head on.  Earlier this year, Portland introduced a plastic bag ban that affects large groceries and retail chains.  While it doesn’t impact every store (only stores which make more than $2 million annually), it’s a great start in that hopefully it will remind customers to bring their own bags with them or invest in some reusable cloth bags.  The plastic ban bug seems to be contagious in that Newport has a hearing date set for October 17th that will discuss a similar ban and Corvallis residents are also pushing for a plastic ban too (Oregonlive).  I was amazed to hear Corvallis is taking steps in implementing a plastic bag ban and can only hope that it doesn’t get caught in legislative red tape and not brought before the city council.

 

References

 

Dorigo, Enrico.  Will Banning Plastic Bags Help The Environment?  Science 2.0.  Web.  24 Jan. 2012.  <http://www.science20.com/enrico_dorigo/will_banning_plastic_bags_help_environment-75598&gt;.

Facts About The Plastic Bag Pandemic.  Reuseit.com.  Web.  10 Aug.  2012.  <http://www.reuseit.com/learn-more/top-facts/plastic-bag-facts&gt;.

Slovic, Beth. Plastic bag ban: Portland stores and customers prepare for tomorrow’s switch to paper sacks at checkout. Oregonlive. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. <http://www.oregonlive.com
/portland/index.ssf/2011/10/plastic_bag_ban_portland_store.html>.

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Comments
  1. Kati says:

    Corvallis already voted and passed the ordinance! January 13th is when it begins.

    http://www.ci.corvallis.or.us/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4850&Itemid=5086

  2. Kati says:

    Oh, I mean the January 1st, 2013. The 13th would be a weird day to start implementing the bag ban…

  3. julie says:

    You can definitely find reusable bags that fold up into tiny little squares! I love all of the creative ways you are reducing your plastic consumption. Awesome!

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