May 2019, by Julius Abendan
10 Reasons Why You Should Start Using Reusable Shopping Bags the Next Time You Do Your Groceries
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few years, the use of plastics is one of the primary culprits in the wide scale pollution of our lands and oceans.
Fortunately, change is happening, at least in Australia. More and more supermarkets and department stores are switching from single-use plastic bags to paper shopping bags. Some have also created incentive programs to encourage customers to use their own reusable shopping bags.
The problem with plastic bags is that they are hard to recycle, which is why each year, tonnes of plastic bags make their way into landfills and the ocean, where they contaminate the soil and literally choke out marine life. Plastic bags are made from petroleum, which means it takes thousands of years for the stuff to degrade naturally.
If you’ve already made the environmentally friendly decision of switching to reusable shopping bags, then congratulations! You have just taken one of many steps to living a sustainable lifestyle. But if you’re still on the fence, here are 10 reasons to use a reusable shopping on your next trip to the supermarket.
1. Reduced Costs
OK, so this might not be applicable to some stores in select parts of Australia, which still give away free single-use plastic bags. But in other parts of the world, particularly in North America and Europe, plastic bags now have to be purchased for a few cents.
Sure, that may be a negligible amount to most people, but if you do your groceries weekly, your plastic bag spend can add up to more than a few dollars each year.
In contrast, reusable bags are remarkably affordable and can last years when cared for. Of course, that means having to bring one around with you every time you do your shopping. But with the savings you get each year? It’s easily worth the minor effort.
2. It Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
Even the way plastic bags are manufactured is bad for the environment. According to the 2002 Plastic Shopping Bags – Analysis of Levies and Environmental Impacts Final Report, the combined energy needed to produce 8.7 HDPE (a kind of plastic) singlet bags is roughly equal to the “fuel consumed by driving a car 1 km.”
Think about the annual number of plastic bags you could avoid by using a reusable shopping bag, and convert that to the number of kilometres and litres of petrol you could potentially save.
3. You’re Saving Tax Dollars from Being Spent on Unnecessary Recycling
While paper is a far more superior material than plastic in terms of recycling, paper bags will still cost money to recycle effectively. Each time you use a reusable shopping bag, you’re saving a few flimsy paper bags from going to the bin and recycling facility, which in turn means saving a few dollars for running that plant.
Your individual effort may not seem much, but when combined with a few thousand other shoppers, the cumulative effect can’t be ignored.
4. “Biodegradable” Plastic Bags aren’t Truly Biodegradable
Normal plastic bags literally take at least a thousand years to break down and degrade, assuming it’s just sitting in a landfill. But that’s not all. When it does begin degrading, it breaks down into smaller toxic pieces containing chemicals that can leech into the soil and contaminate groundwater.
And even plastic bags marketed as “biodegradable” still contain these same chemicals, even if their degradation process happens much faster.
5. Plastic Bags Contribute to the Growing Landfill Crisis
Australia depends heavily on landfills for managing waste; any waste that can’t be recycled or re-used makes its way to the many landfills scattered around the country. Unfortunately, landfills can have a negative impact on the quality of air, land, and water, with issues caused by methane from decomposing organic waste and water from waste that leeches into the soil.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “In 2001, 19.0 million tonnes of waste were disposed to landfill, and by 2007 this had grown to more than 21.3 million tones.”
The problem is serious enough on its own, and the continued and unnecessary use of plastic bags only contributes to the crisis.
6. Plastic Bags Kill Marine Life
According to Ocean Crusaders, over 100,000 marine creatures are killed by plastic entanglement, and these are just the ones found by humans. Turtles are especially susceptible to plastic bags, which they mistake as jellyfish—their primary food source.
When a turtle consumes a plastic bag, it blocks its digestive tract, causing the animal to starve and die a slow death. That’s all caused by a plastic bag that was probably used just once.
7. Reusable Bags are Made from Sustainable Materials
Reusable shopping bags can be as sustainable as you want them to be, coming in different fabrics like cotton, jute, and canvas, and printed with environmentally friendly soy-based inks.
For businesses, offering these sustainable shopping bags to customers is an opportunity to prove their corporate social responsibility and be responsible stewards of the environment.
8. Reusable Shopping Bags are Flexible
While paper is a far more superior material than plastic in terms of recycling, paper bags will still cost money to recycle effectively. Each time you use a reusable shopping bag, you’re saving a few flimsy paper bags from going to the bin and recycling facility, which in turn means saving a few dollars for running that plant.
Your individual effort may not seem much, but when combined with a few thousand other shoppers, the cumulative effect can’t be ignored.
9. Your Items are Safe
Single-use plastic bags and even paper shopping bags can only carry so many items until they rip apart and your items fall out—a disaster if you’re carrying fragile things like eggs. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue with reusable shopping bags made from durable fabric materials and feature reinforced stitching on the carry handles.
10. They’re Comfortable to Use
If you have to walk from the grocery store to your home a few away, it’s only a matter of time until the handles on your plastic shopping bags dig into your fingers and hurt. This is not an issue with reusable bags, which you can comfortably sling on your shoulder.
The list of reasons to switch to reusable shopping bags goes on and on. Bottom line? Reusable shopping bags aren’t just good for the environment, they help you save money and are actually more convenient and safer for carrying your purchases—or just about anything for that matter.
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