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The Dangers of Plastic Shopping Bags

The Dangers of Plastic Shopping Bags

It can seem challenging to live an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle. For someone just starting out, it can feel like there’s so much to learn and do, and at times, it can all feel a bit overwhelming. The best way to begin is with a small step, and we have the perfect first step in mind: reusable shopping bags. Implementing reusable shopping bags into your daily life is a great step towards living sustainably, and it’s an important change to make. Let’s find out why.

The Dangers of Plastic Shopping Bags

Plastic shopping bags are an extremely pervasive part of our life in America. They’re so prevalent, they’ve even made it into a Katy Perry song. We may think that since they’re everywhere we look, they can’t be that bad, but in reality, there are serious consequences associated with single use plastic.

Here are some things you need to know about plastic bags:

We all know plastic can be damaging to the environment, but it’s likely we didn’t realize it was such a HUGE problem before. Because much of our plastic pollution is in the ocean, we don’t always see its negative effects. Since it isn’t negatively impactingourlives, we let it slip our mind. However, itisnegatively impacting us as humans in addition to the environment. Because the ocean is so proliferated by plastic, marine animals are constantly consuming it. We then catch and eat those marine animals whose bodies are now full of plastic. You may be thinking, “Fine, I just won’t eat seafood anymore then,” but that still won’t save you. Plastic debris from the ocean infiltrates our rivers, streams, and ultimately our drinking water. The plastic problem has become an inescapable one.

So, why do we continue to use plastic shopping bags?

In reality, many countries don’t use plastic shopping bags. Plastic bags are either banned completely or shoppers are charged a tax for plastic bags. Shoppers instead use biodegradable paper bags or reusable canvas bags. Plastic bag bans are the most prevalent in Africa with European nations following closely behind. China has also been regulating plastic bag usage as early as 2008 with regulation being implemented just before the Pyeongchang Olympics.

However, despite the fact that many countries have nation-wide plastic bag bans in place, only eight states in the U.S. have instituted restrictions on plastic bag usage. They are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. Outside of these eight states, there is virtually no plastic bag regulation.

Now we have to ask:

Why is America so slow to get onboard the plastic bag ban? 

There are several factors that have kept America from implementing nation-wide plastic bag regulations, and they are, unfortunately, the same factors that keep America from making many changes.

  1. Money.They say it is the root of all evil, and it is also the largest factor influencing much of America’s decision-making. In 2017, Plastics Today estimated the plastics industry to be worth $1.06 trillion in 2016 with an anticipated growth to $1.75 trillion by the year 2020. In 2016, the United States was considered the largest producer of plastic, beating out China, India, and Brazil. 
  2. Convenience. For many Americans, purchasing reusable bags then remembering to bring them to the store later on feels like too much work. The additional two steps feels like too much effort when instead they can just get their purchases placed into 15-20 single-use plastic bags. It is this reluctance to make any additional effort that keeps many Americans from pursuing sustainability in any form. 

It’s true, living a sustainable lifestyle takes effort.

However, the reality is if we do not accept these minor inconveniences and make these necessary changes, humanity is going to be faced with much greater problems than remembering to carry a canvas shopping bag. If we continue to let our apathy dictate our decisions, we will be forced to face the consequences. Like Scrooge on Christmas Eve, someday our carelessness will no longer be out of sight and out of mind but staring us directly in the face. We will have no choice but to acknowledge our mistakes, but by then, it will be too late.

It’s ok if you don’t do it perfectly every time. Rarely does anyone get anything right on the first try, what matters is that you continue to try. When everyday people like you and me make conscious efforts to live sustainably each day, we continue to help move the world along towards global change. Small steps made consistently are what brings change, and implementing reusable shopping bags into your daily life is a great small step to make.

Do you have tips for sustainable living? Let us know!

Natalie Michel
Natalie Michel


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