Plastic shopping bags are a major source of litter and pollution in our environment and are an easily replaceable, unnecessary evil. Here are some basic facts:
This is not a choice of paper v. plastic. Eliminating plastic bags encourages consumers to use reusable bags. Elimination of plastic bags, combined with a charge on paper bags, is an even better incentive for the consumer to switch to reusable bags.
There are many towns, cities and countries around the world that have understood the need to solve their litter and pollution problems by adopting legislation to stop the distribution of single use plastic and non-recycled paper bags.
Close to home, in Connecticut earlier this year, Greenwich, passed an ordinance on phasing out the plastic and non-recycled shopping bags. Westport implemented a similar ordinance in 2008.
Several towns in neighboring Westchester County, NY, have implemented laws to manage the use of paper and plastic bags. Find the latest information and details here to view bag laws in the United States. Note that more than 60 towns in Massachusetts have implemented bag laws. Click here to view bag laws around the world.
Studies showed that even a small fee (5 cent) on both plastic and paper bags, or a ban on plastic bags combine with a fee on paper bags is more effective in influencing consumer behavior than giving rewards for using reusable bags. Please read more about it by clicking here.
Studies show that if bags are eliminate or charged for, the use of disposable bags actually declines. More shoppers adopt reusable bags, allowing businesses to save money by purchasing fewer disposable bags.
Plastic bags are not being recycled. For many years the US and other western countries have been sending plastic waste to China for recycling. In January of 2018, China stopped accepting plastic including plastic bags for recycling. It is estimated that over 100 million tons of plastic waste will be displace by China's action. Click here for more information.
Many consumers reuse their plastic grocery bags for pet waste disposal and in waste cans in their homes. While this is better than disposing of the bags, it is not recycling. It is repurposing for one more use. Even where recycling facilities for plastic bags exist, bags can only be accepted if they are clean, dry and empty.
As with any food handling, normal washing and hygiene practices are important.