Are Plastic Bags Really Bad for the Environment?

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Whole Foods recently announced that they will no longer be using plastic bags, but is that really the best thing for the environment? According to the Environment Protection Agency, paper is the number one item most frequently encountered in landfills. And let’s not forget where paper comes from: trees. Millions of trees are being knocked down just because some people think that plastic bags are bad for the environment but they’re wrong. Plastic bags are recyclable and isn’t that the entire point of being ‘green’? We’re trying to reduce the amount of waste in the landfills by recycling more and throwing away less trash.

Plastic bags aren’t the evil items they’re made out to be – they allow us to re-use them in our small household bins, as a means to carry our lunch to work or for a picnic; you can put your wet bathing suits in a plastic bag when packing, and how about re-using them when you go grocery shopping? If you’re not re-using your grocery store plastic bags then what are you using to line your bathroom or office bins? Are you buying plastic bags from manufacturers like Hefty or Glad? Why buy bags when we can just recycle the ones we already have?

Paper bags are great in theory but the truth is they are flimsy and tear easily especially when you have frozen foods in your bag. They are more likely to form a hole and instead of thinking you’re doing the right thing by going ‘green’, you’ll be cursing yourself for not choosing plastic when your groceries are all over the parking lot.

In the United Kingdom some grocery stores, like Tesco, have started incentive programs for their customers. They actually encourage people to bring in their used plastic bags to either recycle them in a bin – where the store will recycle them for you, or you can re-use your plastic bags to bag your new groceries and earn points. After so many points customers are entitled to discounts, so it’s a program that it is hard to argue with. Stores want you to recycle your plastic bags because it saves them money if you reuse your bag; most supermarkets in the U.S. have large bins where you can put your used plastic bags but the majority of the public is not even aware of this because it’s not something that is advertised very well.

What happens to those recycled bags? Plastic can be melted and re-formed, and the best part is that it becomes sterilized when it goes through this process so it can be used for something other than just the reincarnation of another plastic bag.

What about the bags for life? These are also great but again I think supermarkets should provide incentives to their customers so they’ll attract more recyclers. Eventually people should be penalized for not recycling but the first step is rewarding them for doing so – it’s like training a dog.

Plastic bags have their place in society so banning them all together would be ludicrous. When it comes to shopping the best solution is to use a reusable bag that is made from sturdy material like nylon or cotton, and when it comes to recycling it should be done whether it’s paper or plastic.

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