Sunday, January 18, 2015

Help Keep Plastic Bags in the Landfill...

...as opposed to flying all over the place willy-nilly, that is.  I've got the simplest trick in the world for it, too.

I think, if you know me even a little, you know that I have a pretty strong pet peeve about our cultural fixation on excessive packaging, particularly plastic packaging.  I avoid it if possible, especially by buying bulk with reusable jars.  That not only saves on unnecessary, disposable packaging, but is also nearly always cheaper, too.

Using precious petroleum resources to make one-time-use plastic packaging destined to languish and leach in landfills for a lifetime or more seems like an absurdity to me.  I am talking about plastic bottles for products such as soda, water, herbs, spices, sauces, and salad dressings and plastic bags for things like bread, dry beans, rice, pasta, tortillas, jellybeans, etc.  There are also "hidden" plastic bags in products such as Hamburger Helper and cereal--hidden behind another layer of packaging.  Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the plastic shopping bags that all these items get carried home in as well.  They're pretty ubiquitous, these plastic packages.

Of course, its best, from an ecological standpoint, if we just don't make, buy, and use plastic bottles and bags at all.  But barring that that least we can do is recycle them when we're done.  Barring that the least we can do is keep the darn things in the landfill.  This is much more of a challenge for the bags than the bottles.

If you've not visited a landfill, or "dump," in a while, I think you should.  I think every single modern consumer should know what is going on out there--how ugly the final chapter is--because we're all responsible for it.  Its doesn't just disappear when we put out the trash bin.  Despite my efforts I still make waste that ends up there--my hemp/soy/rice milk cartons being probably our most consistent offender.  (Memo to Beth:  learn to make your own non-dairy milk this year!).  

One of the things that catches my attention--with slight horror-- each time I've visited a landfill is all those plastic bags.  They are smashed to and tangled around the fences, snagged and flapping from the trees and shrubs, twisted around the heavy machinery, everywhere!  Everywhere!

They blow, oh, so easily..  That is the problem.  One of the things which makes them ideal packaging from the  producer's perspective is their light weight for shipping.  However, when they are done transporting tortillas and Cheerios and deposited in the trash this just means they're light enough to catch on the slightest breeze.  And then they blow away to be ugly and harmful to wildlife who mistake bits of plastic as food or nesting material.

Fortunately, we've drastically, drastically reduced the amount of plastic bags that enter and exit our home.  Contentious shopping eliminates almost all of it.  We do end up with the occasional odd-ball though, such as when my sister, Sarah, gave us a few plastic bags of expired dried beans that someone was going to toss out.  Or when the updated city phone book is delivered each year. Some of those oddball plastic bags can be recycled, but due to limitations in our local recycling programs not all of them can.

So, here is the tip:  Regardless of whether it ends up in the recycling bin or the trash bin I tie the bag up in knots.  There needs to be a least one knot --but more than one is better it is possible.  The knotting of the bag gives it a heavier center of mass and less of a broad sail to catch in the wind.  The more knots the more like a compact, little ball it is and the harder it will be for the wind to carry it away.  Check it out on your own if you wish.  Set the bag down as is and blow on it.  Then tie the bag up in as many knots as possible and repeat.  Its not perfect, but it is pretty remarkable how much less movement there is in the latter.
I ended up adding a second knot to this bag before I tossed it.
Its a little thing, but if we all do little things they really do add up.

One last thing, if you've got kiddos around you--or are a big kid at heart, like me--you might check out a copy of the children's book Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser and Barry Root.

4 comments:

  1. On the one hand, I wish they'd outlaw the plastic bags. But I honestly don't know quite what we'd do without them. Your idea of tying 'em in a knot is good and I'll try to remember it. But I save most of the "hidden" bags, and bread bags, etc., for putting garbage in. We don't have a disposal and I don't compost in the winter. As for the grocery bags, we use those for cat poop, double-bagging it. They are indoor cats, and I have no idea what we'd do with the stuff otherwise. Is Ginger an indoor cat? Got any ideas??

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    1. Ginger is an indoor cat. Here is my solution. Its not ideal because I have to buy something: I use inexpensive brown paper sacks (like lunch sacks) for scooping poop in. I figure that way it will all break down more quickly in the landfill.

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  2. I worked at Kroger when these horrible bags arrived on the scene back in the 80's. We were told to tell customers they were biodegradable, but not how long (300 yrs or something like that). I've always hated the things. Now they make them so thin if i forget my bags I end up with two items in each bag. It's crazy! At least I can save them and take them to the co op and they put them out for customers to re-use.

    Have you seen American Beauty? If you haven't, check it out. There is a scene with a plastic bag in there.......... not to mention Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning are awesome....

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    1. When people ask 'Have you seen...?" my answer is almost always no. I am so delightfully/hopelessly out of the loop of popular culture. BUT, I actually have seen American Beauty. I recall it was very good and totally remember the plastic bag. Our co-op also accepts bag donations and as a result doesn't buy new ones.

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