It’s what the bag is made of. The Aug. 31 Argus Leader carries a story about reusable polypropylene bags coming to Sioux Falls grocery stores Sunshine Foods, Wal-Mart, and Hy-Vee. We’ve primarily used canvas bags for our groceries for a long time, gradually gathering a collection from conferences, rummage sales, and our neighbors.
When we lived in Vancouver, we regularly hauled our groceries the five blocks to our apartment by backpack, canvas bag, or bike panniers, and we saw a lot of other people do the same. In fact, there the default question we’d get from the store clerks wasn’t “Do you want paper or plastic?” but “Do you want a bag?” Here we have fun confounding our local grocery store’s baggers when we toss our four or five reusable bags onto the counter. (My favorite is the green one I picked up at a local rummage sale–evidently it’s from a natural foods store in Belgium.)
So, why bother with the reusable bags? Beside the fact that they’re far easier to carry groceries in than plastic bags, the Argus includes a few other great reasons in their article:
Introduced about 25 years ago, the world’s plastic bag addiction means that society’s consumption rate is now estimated at more than 500 billion plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute, according to reusablebags.com. Billions of plastic bags are choking our planet, and each year billions of bags end up as litter. Eventually they break down into tiny toxic bits polluting soil, river, lakes and oceans. And production requires vast amounts of oil. Countless animals needlessly die each year. Here are more facts about plastic bags:
The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually, according to The Wall Street Journal. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.
The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store
Single-use bags made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) will accumulate and persist on Earth for up to 1,000 years.
In 2001, Ireland used 1.2 billion disposable plastic bags, or 316 per person. A plastic bag tax introduced in 2002 reduced consumption by 90 percent.
Plastic bags cause more than 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.
To stem a tide of 60,000 metric tons of plastic bag and plastic utensil waste per year, Taiwan banned both last year.
For us, the big reason to cut down on plastic bags is the amount of oil required to produce them. We’re trying to reduce our fossil fuel consumption as much as possible, and switching to reusable bags is just about the simplest lifestyle change we can make toward that goal. Now that change will be even easier for Sioux Falls-area residents.