You may have tried to banish plastic bags from your life and not even use them when fruit and vegetable shopping. This strategy can work if you only buy a handful of produce and you don’t mind losing some grapes along the way.
It gets complicated when you need a kilo of apples or when you need small items like beans, peas, and cherries. Using a reusable produce bag also makes it easier to keep your produce clean as it makes its way from the grocer to your home.
Recyclable single use plastic bags still require a lot of resources to make. Throwing them away to degrade in the environment is wasteful. Some are not very strong, often falling apart on the way home. Others have been shown to take a long time to biodegrade in the environment.
Organic cotton reusable bags require huge amounts of water to grow the cotton, 10,000 litres of water to grow 1kg of cotton. Cotton holds moisture and attracts bacteria. It is more likely to get mould adhering to it which increases the risk of spoilage.
Unfortunately, another ‘natural alternative’, paper bags, require huge amounts of tree resources to produce. They certainly aren’t suitable for all fruit and vegetables, particularly those that are wet and they are difficult to reuse.
Reusing our eco friendly bags hundreds of times is the best alternative. A polyester mesh bag is strong, light weight and can be reused hundreds, probably thousands, of times.
Billions of bags are used by shoppers in Australia each year and far too many of these bags made their way onto the streets, bush and waterways as unsightly litter.
Discarded plastic bags have been described as “an iconic symbol of waste”.
Plastic bags use up finite resources, including oil, in their creation. According to some estimates, up to 100 million barrels of oil are needed to make the world’s plastic bags each year.
Yet typical usage of a plastic bag is just 20 minutes.
Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Is this what we want to leave behind?
“The average plastic bag is used for 5 minutes but can take up to 1000 years to breakdown in the environment.”
It is estimated that, worldwide, 1 trillion plastic bags are used and thrown away every year. Australians use 3.92 billion of these plastic bags. That’s almost 4 billion every year and over 10 million new bags every day.
“It is estimated that every year about 50 million bags become litter in Australia.”
More than 100,000 animals die each year from ingesting or becoming tangled up in plastic bags.
Turtles, dolphins and even whales can die from choking or starve from confusing plastic bags for jellyfish.
“Plastic bags are killing our marine life. Approximately 30 percent of the world’s turtles and 90 percent of the world’s birds have ingested plastic.” https://act.greenpeace.org.au
“When the animal dies and decays the plastic is free again to repeat the deadly cycle. There are 2 major reasons that plastic bags are particularly problematic in the litter stream:
Recycling — breaking down items into raw materials to be used again — is important, but environmental experts know reducing consumption and reusing are more important, because they use up fewer natural resources.
When plastics are recycled, they become less strong every time they are recycled and so each time tend to be made into a less strong product. This means there are only so many times that plastic bag I throw into a recycling bin can be recycled into anything of use.
“Unfortunately, most people see it the other way around. We tend to think recycling is much cooler than reusing. It’s an easy way for people to connect with environmental issues but reusing is much less wasteful.”
It makes the most economic and environmental sense to reduce the amount we consume.
The next best way to reduce waste is to reuse things.
Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed into a new product before it can be used again.
Recycling and making something new from something that has been discarded is still good but it does take energy to make that new thing.