Since Linda Crumbock, the county Municipal Utilities Authority's recycling coordinator told me of the vast waste problem caused by plastic bags, (they can only be recycled at facilities set up for that purpose, not the local MUA), I knew I had to do my part, so I invested in several reusable shopping bags. This was a couple of years ago. How many plastic bags I haven't used is unknown, but the tally must be considerable.
As a rule, I try to fill my bags as fast as the cashier clears merchandise, but sometimes I lag. The cashier has the upper hand, zip, zip zip, and I'm still trying to get the heavy stuff in one bag. Zip zip zip, "Your total is..." I'm packing and feverishly reach for my wallet. Then I return to packing.
Usually, the receipt and the accompanying pile of paper trash are handed to me as I stuff the last items helter-skelter into my bags.
It's those times when I feel the angst that comes with being environmentally friendly. It's like the next customer in line is peering at me, wondering what is taking so long. Similarly, the cashier, who has zipped the goods past the bar code reader, is standing there waiting while I stuff my bags.
Some cashiers have been helpful and offered to pack the accursed reusable bags; others act as if they are covered in poison ivy, and wouldn't touch them with gloved hands.
There have been times when the person behind me confessed, "I have bags like that, but they're in the car." I simply smile and nod.
Others have asked comforting questions like, "Where did you get those Spiderman and Minion bags?" I really don't remember where I bought them.
Honestly, I hear Crumbock's admonition every time I grab a fistful of bags and head to a store. I don't want to add any more trash to that almost 100-foot-high pile of "stuff" in the Woodbine landfill than is necessary.
Then, I feel emboldened when I look at my somewhat tattered collection of reusable bags. I think of how many pounds of goods they have carried since they were bought. Then I recall those infernal plastic bags, which I shun like parking meters.
I recall how many times, and it always seemed to happen when it was pouring rain, they would break. Cans and other items would scatter onto the drenched parking lot, causing my otherwise calm disposition to become disgruntled. Such "bag failure" has not happened with reusable bags.
Another benefit of reusable bags, they hold oodles more stuff than plastic bags. That's because most cashiers, left to their own devices, seem to glory in placing two or three items in a bag. It's as if they are trying to get rid of as many of the plastic bags as possible on their shift.
Some stores have paper bags, but honestly, the quality of those paper bags is as bad, if not worse than those flimsy plastic counterparts. Maybe they are made out of soggy, recycled particle board, and that's why they don't stay together.
It seems that brown paper bags of old would hold a great deal, and then survive to be reused for a myriad of purposes.
Not only do I press the Minions and Spiderman and other bags into service at the supermarket, but at other stores, too. It's just a small part, and in the world of waste recycling, my bit is not even recognized, but I feel good about taking a few bags out of the waste stream.
If we all did that, there might be an impact on that pile of trash out in the sanitary landfill where our collective county waste reposes.
The anti-plastic wave will sweep over some of the county's resort towns this summer. Plastic bags will be as unwelcome as rainy weekends. I imagine plastic straws will follow suit. There are metal straws that, like those reusable shopping bags, can spell doom to their plastic counterparts. I just purchased a pack of colored stainless straws. I look forward to years of using them.
A quick and about $8 later, eight extra-long, stainless steel straws, four straight, four bent, could be yours too. They are easily cleaned, come with a nifty brush to cleanse them, and will fit containers where other straws are used. The difference being these don’t get tossed into the waste stream.
If you're earth-friendly and want to take a few baby steps to help Mother Earth become less burdened, these are a couple of things to consider.
The key is to remember them; don't leave them in the car or the kitchen drawer. They won't work if they aren’t put to use.