According to the Department of Ecology, we use two billion single-use plastic bags every year in Washington State. A single plastic bag weighs only one hundredth of a pound. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can add up fast, and it ends up being over 11,000 tons of plastic each year. Removing plastic bags reduces the strain that we are putting on the environment, and even though they can be recycled, a staggering 90% of plastic bags are thrown away, according to the EPA.
On October 1st the ban took effect. The ban on single use plastic bags is supposed to end the use of very thin plastic bags, and this is a good start, but we need to find more ways and take more steps to ease the strain on our environment. We need to do away with all single-use bags, recyclable or not. The best option is still to bring your own reusable bags because the options available are still not great for the environment.
There are three alternatives currently available. First are recycled paper bags, they are better for the environment, however they may be made of only 40% recycled material, and recycling them takes energy. Next are thick reusable plastic bags, these may be made of only 20% recycled material, still can’t be recycled normally, and are just as harmful to the environment when they are thrown away. Lastly, we have compostable bags. These are definitely the best of these options, but still have their flaws. Firstly, while they are compostable, you can’t just throw them in the compost pile. They have to be put in the food waste cart to be picked up by the collection truck, and they are still only single use. This makes it very clear that the best option is to use your own reusable bags. It is also very important that we start using these bags in places other than just the grocery store.
So the next time you take a shopping trip, whether it's new clothes, or shoes, or groceries, or dinner, please remember to bring your own reusable bags. This change can help us reduce the amount of waste we put into the environment, and we can all contribute.