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DECREASING DEPENDANCY
ON PLASTIC BAGS

Many people now are accustomed to bringing their own reusable shopping bags to the supermarket. In my area it looks unnatural to see a shopper exiting a food market with a cart overflowing with plastic bags, some often containing only a few items. Once inside the supermarket you may even hear apologies from customers who forgot their bags; or on the other hand, notice a cashier grimace if someone requests a carry out plastic bag for a single product. As a promotional item, some local businesses and large corporations now offer reusable shopping bags sporting their logo.

Still, we can do more by changing habits to reduce even further. What about all of those small plastic bags available on rolls in the bulk and produce aisles that we automatically take for granted? Does it make sense to bag corn on the cob, a melon or a bunch of bananas? Vegetables and fruits make it all the way from their destinations in crates and boxes as well as being handled by many people without being individually bagged. A few more miles from your shopping cart to your counter will not make any difference. Of course, to purchase the smaller loose fresh produce such as beans and mushrooms, an extra bag is needed. For this, the solution is to bring your own small homemade cloth bags. As loose fruit and vegetables are tallied by weight, it is wise to look for the lightest material on hand if making your own bags. Loop the top for a drawstring or attach a ribbon to tie. Loosely knit and crocheted bags are not only light but also easy for the cashier can see the contents. Alternatively, one can reuse the familiar mesh bags that usually hold a quantity of onions or grapefruits.

For family gifts you could make an array of small cloth bags. If you are lucky, your local fabric store may have bolts of material with printed mushrooms, tomatoes, strawberries and other foods. An array of small colourful reusable bags for fresh produce would make a great church bazaar craft as well. Think of the statement they make to those who glance into shopping carts.

If you frequent a bulk store for nuts, raisons and such, opt to take empty glass jars. Ask the store clerk to weigh each jar first before you proceed down the aisles to fill each one. You may even receive a discount from the proprietor, as they too save the expense and storage of plastic bags. Once home, it is quicker to place the jars on shelves. They look neater in the cupboard, easier to locate and more convenient to use than little plastic bags that are often hard to untie when knotted.

If we are to live in a sustainable world, we have to decrease our reliance on oil-based products - plastic bags being a prime example. Joining Santa Monica, San Francisco and other cities, Los Angeles became the largest city in the U.S. to ban free single use plastic bags in grocery stores. There alone it is estimated that 228,000 plastic bags are distributed every hour and that $2 million a year is spent to clean up plastic bag litter. The final bill when passed, would provide money to local plastic bag companies to retool to make heavier, multiple-use bags that customers could purchase. Under the law, shoppers will have to tote their own bags, or pay 10 cents each for paper bags. Los Angeles plans to hand out 1 million reusable bags in low-income areas.

Awareness, and doing our part to decrease unnecessary plastic, will make a big difference.

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Written by:Larraine Roulston, Castle Compost


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