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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Say No To Plastic Shopping Bags

In 1977, plastic shopping bags became common in supermarkets and various retail stores. Plastic shopping bags may be convenient for the consumer but they have an incredibly short life—usually no more than 12 minutes. It is estimated that the amount of plastic shopping bags used span from 500 billion to 1.5 trillion worldwide. Although plastic shopping bags are a convenient and free method to carry goods from one place to the next, they pose significant threats to public health and the environment.
Plastic shopping bags are recyclable but less than 5 percent of plastic shopping bags actually are recycled. Most recyclable items are biodegradable—this is not true for plastic bags. Plastic bags are photodegradable, which means that they continuously break down into smaller pieces, taking much longer to decay. These small, broken down pieces of plastic shopping bags linger throughout the environment indefinitely, which can harm wildlife.
The 95 percent of plastic shopping bags that are not recycled pose threats not only to wildlife, but also to public health. The non-recycled shopping bags add to the 8 million metric tons of plastic that enter the ocean every minute. Non-recycled plastic shopping bags can take up to one thousand years to break down. In this time, drain storms and sewers can be clogged. On top of that, plastic shopping bags floating about the environment provide a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. As for wildlife, non-recycled plastic shopping bags are often mistaken for food, and many animals become easily tangled within the plastic bags.
Currently, Hawaii and California are the only two states in the U.S. that have a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags. In some European countries, plastic shopping bags have become socially unacceptable. On a recent trip to Denmark, I noticed that almost all of the people carried reusable tote bags in place of plastic shopping bags. When I went to buy food in a local grocery store, I had to purchase a plastic shopping bag. The use of plastic shopping bags was frowned upon by locals; it can be assumed that this is the case in various other European countries. In 2002, Ireland implemented a ‘bag tax’ which resulted in a 90 percent decrease of people using plastic shopping bags. Here in Massachusetts, about 60 towns and cities have banned plastic bags. This may sound like a large number, but plastic shopping bags are still prominent throughout the state because retailers find ways around the ban. Luckily, Massachusetts is one of the states that is moving in the right direction.
There is a simple solution to reducing the number of plastic shopping bags being used, and it starts with you: simply purchase a reusable shopping bag. Reusable bags come in various sizes, materials, and prices. For as little as 99 cents, you can buy a strong reusable bag at Marshalls or TJMaxx. All you have to do is leave the bag in your car or bring it with you anytime you’re shopping. Some reusable bags can even be folded small enough to fit into your pocket. If you find yourself at the store and you forgot your reusable bag, see if the store has one you can purchase. If you have few enough items, opt to carry your items to your car.
Next time you go shopping, I urge you to think about the risks that plastic shopping bags pose to the environment and public health. The solution is simple: reusable shopping bags can easily become a trend like they did in some European countries, and that trend begins with you, the consumer.