Plastic. Whenever I hear that word, the first thing that comes to mind is that hilarious scene in The Graduate where party guest, Mr. Maguire, declares to Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin, “I just want to say one word: plastics.”
How wrong you were Mr. Maguire! Plastic has shaped the modern world in numerous ways that undoubtedly make life easier, BUT it comes at a great cost.
Plastic has left detrimental marks on the environment and human health. David Barnes, a researcher for the British Antarctic Survey, noted, “One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics. Within just a few decades since mass production of plastic products commenced in the 1950s, plastic debris has accumulated in terrestrial environments, in the open ocean, on shorelines of even the most remote islands and in the deep sea.”
Earlier this week, the New York City Council voted to require some businesses to charge a fee on each paper or plastic bag. There are several exceptions that include:
- restaurants, including those that deliver and serve takeout;
- street vendors;
- plastic bags used for produce;
- small paper medicine bags at pharmacies
- bags used at state-regulated liquor stores;
- bags used by soup kitchens;
- and individuals buying groceries with food stamps.
I cheered! This legislation was long overdue especially when you consider the efforts being made the Department of Sanitation’s recycling program and the MTA’s recent innovations in sustainability.
The New York Times noted, “The vehemence of the opposition could perhaps be traced to plastic bags’ daily presence in the lives of New Yorkers, who often shop for groceries spontaneously and then lug the crinkly bags home to be reused as trash-can liners or to pick up after pets. “ (Take note of the photograph that accompanies this article of a plastic bag stuck in a tree.)
I have actually been using reusable/green bags for about nine years and would like to offer a few tips to my fellow New Yorkers looking to adapt. Believe me, it is easier than you think.
- I have experimented with several types of bags over the years. The best of them has been the Micro Chico Bag like the one pictured above that I designed and sell via my website. The Chico Bag folds up on to itself and easily fits in your pocket. They are also quite durable and can be hand washed.
- If you eat meat and dairy, be sure to set aside bags exclusively for this and wash them often. Also, be sure not to store this bag in the truck of your car.
- Reusable/green bags utilized for groceries should not be used for other things.
One reusable/green bag can replace hundreds of single use plastic bags over the course of its lifetime. The next time you go to the market and the cashier asks, “Plastic or paper?” why not support the environment and say, “No thanks, I’ve got my own bags.” Once you get into the habit of carrying reusable / green bags you will not consider it an inconvenience. I promise!
Additional reading: “Reusable Grocery Bags: Keep ‘Em Clean While Going Green” by Laura Gieraltowski, PhD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)