ATTACK OF THE PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS

Have you ever been attacked by a plastic grocery bag on the way to work? One of those ones that float through traffic freaking you out? And then it seems to somehow manage to go under your car and pop out the other side only to terrorize yet another driver! Kai and I did some calculations with the bags.

Each bag is a bit over a 15 inch square.

If I didn't use my cloth bags and reuse the plastic "overspill" bags, I would use about 10 per week (why they pack a single bag of potato chips in another plastic bag all by itself is pretty far beyond my comprehension). So, I work my butt off to save at least 5 plastic bags a week (usually I can save all 10). Its probably reasonable that every family could cut about 5 bags off their plastic bag diet if they haven't already.

Saving my 5 bags each week saves about (5 bags \* 52 weeks) 260 bags per year. That's saving about (260 bags per year \* 15 inches) 3,900 bag inches long (15 bag inches wide) and that is about (3,900 bag inches / 12 inches per foot) 325 feet. Each year saves about the number of bags to go across an American football field and an end zone.

(Yes, that's the high school rugby team playing on the football field...I know they don't need a bunch of plastic grocery bags flying across the field...and they do, quite often).

Let's say all of the families in Highlands Ranch (about 20,000) stopped using about 5 bags a week too. That would be 325 feet \* 20,000 people = 6,500,000 feet (15" wide). That's 1,231 miles of bags (15" wide).

The folks of Highlands Ranch could save a strip of plastic bags that runs from Denver to San Francisco (as the Google Map flies).


View Larger Map

Well, that's a lot of bags. Who knows the countless number of car accidents that would be avoided if we all saved a few plastic bags. Reuse the ones you have and get, recycle them, and in so many cases...don't even use them in the first place.

While thinking about the surface area that these bags cover is convenient and somewhat astounding, also keep in mind


  • Energy is used to produce these bags
  • The bags are comprised of materials like plastics and oils
  • The bags take up space in landfills (not much...but it is space)
  • The bags won't decompose for 100s or 1000s of years

Next time just think: "Do I really need that bag or can I just carry my sack of potatoes?".

Comments:

I'm not sure if it's the law or a custom, but here in Finland you can't get those exceptionally thin plastic bags, except for produce. For shopping bags and such there's only much thicker heavier stronger plastic bags. They cost more (0,15e = 0,25$) but they're much more easily reused and ... if they get tossed aside, they're too heavy to take off into the air when a breeze comes ... they get picked up from the ground, not cursed at in the trees. It works.

Posted by F.Baube on April 21, 2008 at 06:28 PM MDT #

The "plastic bag" elimination in the U.S. is a slower movement. There are retail chains that are slowly eliminating them (like Whole Foods). There are also cities that seem to be passing laws banning the bags. For me, its simply a matter of habit changing and then the "teaching" of shops to accept my bags and even use them right.

For example, the first time I went to King Sooper's the bagger looked at me like I was an alien. I went ahead and bought a couple of their canvas bags and they seem to be happier now. Whole Foods has always been great with this. Individual checkout-folks also give you the option to not bag one or two items, but its clear these are not store policies :-(

The "plastic bag" logic can also be applied to plastic water bottles, soda bottles and the packaging materials on many of our products. The water bottles and soda bottles are especially insidious here in the U.S. I try to carry my water bottles everywhere these days but it can be tricky.

Take care :-)

Posted by Paul Monday on April 22, 2008 at 03:32 AM MDT #

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