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50 reasons to stop using plastic shopping bags

Even recycling them is not a good solution.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 6:29PM

"Fox" at Squawkfox has taken up a cause we can strongly embrace: "It's time to sack plastic bags."

Shouldn't we all, with the price of oil -- yes, they're made with oil -- and environmental worries, be moving to reusable shopping bags and bins? Plastic shopping bags are a blight, and they never -- for all practical purposes -- go away.

"With few exceptions, plastic bags will take thousands of years to break down," Fox says. "The bag my first pair of shoes came in a couple decades ago is out there, somewhere."

Here are other good points to keep in mind (to read her entire list of 50 reasons, click here):

  • Cost. Some stores charge 5 cents for each bag your groceries are stuffed in. Some give you a 5- or 10-cent discount if you bring you own bag. By one estimate, it costs cities 17 cents to dispose of each bag.

  • Recycling is ineffective and rare. Fox says it costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags. That ton will sell for $32. "This business model is a financial failure," she dryly observes.

  • They're harmful to wildlife and marine life.

  • They're everywhere, they're everywhere. Look outside and what do you see? "They are an eyesore and scar the landscape," Fox says. In fact, they're such a huge source of litter in Africa that entrepreneurs are collecting them and weaving them into bags and hats.

Like that cool site that tracks the growth of the U.S. national debt, Reusable Bags shows the growing number of plastic bags used around the world. It's almost 1 million every minute.


Half of Fox's reasons deal with the benefits of the alternatives -- reusable bags or bins. Like Fox, we appreciate the fact that cloth tote bags don't split open and drop groceries on the floor. And we've finally trained ourself to keep them in the car and take them in the store.


Talk about recycling: Our neighbor makes grocery totes from old T-shirts, using this pattern from Instructables.

Published July 17, 2008

Jan 7, 2012 12:13AM
Plastic requires oil, which drives up the price of a finite resource.  Economically, the use of plastic for EVERYTHING is unsustainable.  We've been using reusable bags for years now and they are fantastic. They're sturdier, carry a lot more, and brands like the chico bags roll up into a tiny ball that I can throw in my purse for those quick non-planned stops. I don't even use bags in my small garbage cans anymore, we just dump them into one big can (with a bag) on garbage day and wash the cans with a little hot soapy water (people seem to forget that soap works wonders).  So, why should I pay higher prices for another person's stubborn laziness?  Charging the people who use the resource is long overdue, environmental concerns aside.  Besides, unless you want a landfill in your back yard, you better wise up and realize there are consequences for a "throw it away" society!
Jan 7, 2012 12:23AM
@ draclene 
Just throw the reusable bags in the washing machine if they get dirty (soap works wonders!) and buy a different colored bag for produce (I use green).  Work smarter, not harder ;-)
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