Updated: Sep 13, 2018
Plastic shopping bags are standard no matter where you shop. These bags are destroying our environment and leaving the land and sea littered with toxic debris that can take 15-1,000 years to decompose. It is estimated that 160,000 plastic bags are used EVERY SECOND all around the world. These bags account for approx. 10% of the pollution washed up on US coastlines. Statistics like that should scare you into changing your plastic-addicted ways!
Paper bags aren't much better. They're still widely a single-use item, and only about 20% of the paper bags used are recycled, despite the fact they are highly recyclable. They also take a considerable amount of energy and resources to produce which makes it hard to justify it as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic.
If plastic and paper are out, what is a consumer to do? Switch to reusable shopping totes! These bags can survive months to years of continual use, and once you make the change, it isn't any more difficult than shopping before you switched.
I personally made the switch in 2017. As a mom with little kids and a busy household, we came to a point where we were literally running out of everything; milk, toilet paper, laundry detergent, bread, pet food, butter. It was the product of not having time to hit the store the week before, and it seemed like I would never have time to get to the store again. By the time I left the checkout lane, I had a heaping cart full of all the things it takes to make lunches, dinners, snacks, clean the house, care for the pets and get everyone cleaned up for about 2 weeks. I came home and started putting everything away, and the end result was plastic bags filled with more plastic bags and I didn't even have enough room to stash them under my cupboard like I normally would. I held on to these bags for months before I finally remembered to take them to the bag recycling bin at the grocery store.
I decided then that I would sign up for a recycling service through my trash company. I was feeling pretty good about that until the recycle bin came with a list of accepted items and in large red letters, it stated NO PLASTIC BAGS. While I was able to recycle a lot of other things, this did not solve my plastic bag crisis! That is when I switched to reusable shopping bags. I take them everywhere and leave them in my trunk. I have used them for giant shopping trips at Meijer and Walmart, and I've used them for smaller runs to Harding's or Walgreen's. I even purchased an insulated bag from Gordon Food Service for frozen items, and I have found myself distraught when I accidentally leave my "favorite" bag at home.
You can do this. You NEED to do this. It's too late to remove the plastic bags from landfills now, but we can absolutely make sure that less is put in. Here are some links to even scarier stats that you should make the time to read up on: