Disposable shopping bags are everywhere, and most Americans know they are bad for the environment. Not only do these plastic bags take a long time to decompose, they are a known cause of marine animal deaths each year. According to Sea Turtle Conservancy, “Over 1 million marine animals (including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles, and birds) are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean.” While all this plastic debris is not in the form of plastic bags, it is true plastic bags compose a large percentage due to its lightweight nature and the ease of which they blow out of landfills and into the surrounding waterways. Another problem associated with disposable shopping bags is the cost to recycle them outweighs their value. This results in consumers throwing disposable shopping bags into the garbage, ultimately increasing the amount of waste in landfills and reducing the expiration date of our landfills.
To combat the negative impact of single use plastic bags, many people have begun using reusable shopping bags in their everyday life. This is great when it comes to reducing the usage of natural resources and decreasing our negative impact on the environment and it is a step in the right direction when it comes to sustainability. However, it is important to note, when it comes to grocery shopping, most consumers using reusable bags use these bags to put their groceries in when they are checking out. While this is very beneficial, there is often a missed opportunity to reduce our plastic usage even further when grocery shopping.
According to Statista.com, “U.S. consumers had made an average of 1.6 grocery shopping trips per week in 2018.” Of those approximate 83 trips, consumers purchased produce approximately 45 times. When it comes to purchasing produce, there are many types of fruits and vegetables purchased by consumers which are sold in single units. Typically, when a store sells single units of produce, the store supplies those all too familiar thin, plastic produce bags. In my community, I don’t believe I have ever seen one person using something else for their produce when they are shopping.
This is a problem as Statistica.com reports in 2018, there were 127.59 million households in the United States. If each household purchased just one type of produce and put it in a one-time use bag at each of their visits, then approximately 5.74 billion thin, plastic produce bags were used in 2018. I suspect the number is much higher since I know from personal experience when I purchase produce I typically have at least 3 to 5 different fruits/vegetables each requiring their own produce bag. To put that in perspective, if each household used four thin, plastic produce bags then close to 23 billion of these produce bags were used in 2018.
Until recently I found myself grabbing for these produce bags out of sheer convenience, despite the number I used. Although I work for a company that promotes sustainability, I never thought about the environmental impact I was making by using these thin, plastic produce bags. After all, I bring my own reusable bags to the grocery store. However, for some reason I never made the connection that by using these plastic one-time produce bags I was increasing my carbon footprint. It was not until recently when my environmentally conscious daughter said something about how wasteful these produce bags were and that there should be an alternative that I even thought about what I had been doing my entire life – what had become habit.
So, what is a person supposed to do? When I made this connection, I began to do some research and discovered there is a large market of reusable produce bags. In the end, I purchased a 12-piece set of multiple size Reusable Mesh Produce Bags. These bags are machine washable, BPA Free, Lead and Mercury Free, Reusable, come with a Lifetime Warranty, and ended up costing me less than twenty dollars. I figure over the course of just 1 year my household will keep approximately 180 to 225 one-time use produce bags out of landfills simply by switching to reusable produce bags.
If you are still using those thin, plastic produce bags when you shop and if you are environmentally conscious and looking for ways to positively impact the environment, consider making the switch to reusable produce bags. By making the switch today, you will help make a dent in the amount of oil used to make plastic. There will be fewer plastic bags in landfills. There will be less likelihood of plastic bags ending up in our waterways and oceans. In the end, by making the switch you will be making a positive impact on our environment while reducing your carbon footprint. What’s stopping you from “Bagging the Thin, Plastic Produce Bag”?
Article Written By Melissa Myers.
Sea Turtle Conservancy, Information About Sea Turtles: Threats from Marine Debris, Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-threats-marine-debris/
Statistica: The Statistics Portal, Consumer’s weekly grocery shopping trips in the United States from 2006 to 2018 (average weekly trips per household), Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/251728/weekly-number-of-us-grocery-shopping-trips-per-household/
Statistica: The Statistics Portal, Number of households in the U.S. 1960-2018, Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/183635/number-of-households-in-the-us/