It’s pretty hard to imagine modern life without plastic bags. Most of our purchases get routinely tossed into plastic bags at grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores, clothing stores, you name it. Almost all of us have a plastic bag filled with even more plastic bags taking up permanent residence in our kitchen cabinet or pantry.
I often think I’m being really environmentally conscious by reusing plastic bags to do all kinds of stuff, like bundle up my recyclables or store Legos and other small toys. But the truth is, plastic bags are one of the worst things out there for the environment.
As The New York Times points out, most plastic bags don’t biodegrade, aren’t recyclable, and manufacturing them releases harmful greenhouse emissions. They also often end up in our oceans, on our streets, and even get digested by wildlife, often resulting in unnecessary animals deaths.
For these reasons and more, my home state of New York just banned the use of single-use plastic bags starting in March of 2020. New York isn’t the first state to do this. According the New York Times, California banned them in 2016, and all counties in Hawaii also ban them. The ban, although wide-sweeping, would have a few exceptions. Take-out restaurants would still be able to use them, delis could still use them to wrap meat, news companies could still use them, and they could still be used for bulk items.
However, New York (like California) is a big freaking state, and includes the biggest city in the world, so banning most plastic bags in New York is a huge deal. Not only would it reduce the number of plastic bags used, but it would set a precedent for the rest of the country – and the more cites and states that make environmentalism a priority, the better.
I don’t about you, but I’m pretty goddamn terrified about the state of the earth. You’ve probably heard by now that things are not looking great. Global warming is a huge threat: the overall temperature of the earth has increased in the past few decades. Although scientists don’t know for sure how quickly climate change is going to accelerate, they do suspect it’s faster than once thought, and that climate change is already wrecking havoc on our weather, frequency of natural disasters, and overall pollution rates.
Scientists have warned that we are at a point of no return when it comes to environmental damage from climate change and that we can’t waste even one second waiting to fix it. Not only that, there is a 95% of chance that human practices are to blame for global warming. Yep – that means it’s on all of us to fix this shitshow.
Like you, I want to leave a half-way decent, livable, breathable world for my grandkids, so any measure that the government takes to curb climate change and encourage more eco-friendly practices is good thing. Really, all states should placing bans on things like unnecessary plastic, ASAFP.
We need legislative and systemic changes to move toward a more environmentally friendly planet, but there really isn’t any time to wait around for these changes to come. The onus is on each and every one of us to do our part, in whatever way we can. And we’ve got to do it now.
Reducing our overall plastic consumption is a great first step. Did you know that most plastics don’t decompose, like at all, which means that billions of tons of plastic will be sitting in landfills forever. So reducing our use of it – especially non-recyclable types of plastic like plastic bags, straws, and utensils – is essential.
Listen, I know that it’s really hard to change these sorts of things, and I am as set in my ways as anyone else. I bristle at the idea of never using another plastic bag again, or tossing all of my ziplock bags and saran wrap (also plastics that can’t be recycled). But I’ve decided that it’s just something I have got to freaking do.
Before my state even banned plastic bags, I had gotten into the habit of taking reusable bags to the grocery store. It turns out it’s easier than you think, and actually has some advantages even beyond environmentalism. Reusable bags hold more stuff, are easier to carry than plastic grocery bags, and some are actually kinda cute.
My next step is going to be replacing ziplock bags with resusable ones (there are a few adorable one on the market for kids, like this), and I’m going to try biodegradable wax paper too (the soybean-based ones are biodegradable). I still haven’t found a decent straw substitute, but I’m on the lookout. Oh, and I’m going to try out some cloth napkins too, because although napkins aren’t plastic, they can’t be recycled.
I still do all kinds of awful things for the environment, like drive a gas guzzling car. And I’m sure I’ll still buy and use plenty of plastic. Every damn kid toy is packaged in it, and so is half the food I buy. Ughhh. But every little thing counts. I think we all need to remind ourselves of that as we make more choices to be environmentally conscious.
And let’s hope more states like NY and California follow suit and enact laws that move us toward a more sustainable, eco-friendly world. There is still so much more to be done, but it gives me hope to see that some of our elected officials are beginning to understand that the time is now for to do our part to protect mother earth – while we still have the chance.