Environmentally Challenged: By Brian Troutman
Not sure about you, but my home is overrun with those plastic bags you get at the grocery store. We do our best to reuse them all once or twice, but as I reflected on Earth Day, I couldn't help but wonder if there is more that can be done.
Currently I am using these bags to line trash cans, and as silly as it sounds, often using them as an overnight travel bag... But am I missing something?
Yup. The best thing we can do for the environment as consumers is to stop our use of these plastic bags. A few minutes of research on the Internet will quickly show you that plastic bags are one of the biggest environmental problems -- worldwide.
Most plastic bags we get at our local retailers are made from petroleum -- a nonrenewable resource. From there, very few are recycled into more bags or other types of plastic. In most cases, the hundreds of plastic bags used in each American household every year simply end up in a landfill or in our waterways.
A 2001 study cited on the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that of 38 sea turtles examined, 60 percent had ingested marine debris -- in most cases, plastic bags.
According to the website natural-environment.com, the banning of plastic bags in the United Kingdom would equal the impact of removing 18,000 cars off the road each year. The website also reports that 60 - 100 million barrels of oil are required to make the world's plastic bags each year.
A plan to make California the first state in the nation to ban plastic bags was voted down in September, but the debate continues. Despite the vote, grocers and retailers have begun to remove the bags from their stores -- now replaced with reusable shopping bags.
It was a move most likely promoted my retail giant Walmart, after the company launched its plastic bag initiative in 2009. Along with removing plastic bags from stores in California, the company has also worked to remove the bags from its store in China and offer but keep them from customer view in several other countries.
The goal? A portion of a statement on the company's website reads as follows:
"...We could reduce our plastic bag waste by the equivalent of 9 billion bags, avoid producing 290,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases and prevent consuming the equivalent of 678,000 barrels of oil every year."