Welcome green friends of Oklahoma to Saturday's With Shavara. I will do my best to inform and entertain you with interesting facts and solutions to lessen our environmental footprint. Look for my post every other majestic Saturday! On this particular Saturday I will be tackling the annoyingly long life of the plastic bag and its effects on our environment. Plastic bags are derived from crude oil, and like everything that is made from this non-renewable source there are three huge issues; it emits a ton of pollution, is difficult to produce and almost impossible to rid. You may have started to cringe at your computer screen, but it gets worse! Americans throw away approximately 100 Billion plastic bags annually and we recycle less than 5% of what we use.
What’s the issue with throwing bags away? It takes over 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose in a landfill, but the tricky thing is that it never does fully biodegrade. Imagine in the year 3018 that the pesky one time use bag used in 2018 will still be hanging around to pollute your great-great-great x10 grandchildren’s water and soil. Don't fret just yet, I'm here to help you discover ways to lessen your impact and defeat the big bad plastic monster.
Step one; recycle your plastic bags. A common misconception is that plastic bags can go into curbside recycling, but the truth is most cities curbside recycling initiatives will not accept the plastic bags or the recyclables in them. This differs from city to city but holds true for most cities in Oklahoma. The reason plastic bags aren’t widely accepted in curbside pickup is not because you can’t or shouldn't recycle plastic bags rather it needs to be handled differently. Plastic bags must be sorted separately, so as not to jam the sorting machines that are equipped only to handle larger hard recyclables. One plastic bag found amongst your recyclables can send your entire bin to the trash i.e. the dreaded landfill.
If my dooms day rant hasn't frightened you off yet then keep reading as we dive deeper. To properly recycle your plastic bags, remove anything that may be inside (those tricky receipts love hiding at the bottom) anything left in the bag is considered "contamination," also be sure any bags being recycled have a #2 or #4 plastic symbol on them. Beyond the ever-popular retail carry out bag here is a list of other plastic bags that can be recycled: newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, bread bags, veggie bags, product wrap, furniture wrap, electronic wrap, cereal box liners and ice bags.
Whew! That’s a lot of plastic we just discovered can be recycled! Now that we've collected all this plastic, where are we taking it? All national grocery retailers offer bag recycling collection in their stores. I'm providing the list of stores specific to Oklahoma which include; Walmart, Target, JcPenney, Goodwill, Whole foods, Homeland and Lowe's Home Improvement Stores. Recycling plastic bags at retailers gives your bag the opportunity to have another go at its bag life beyond floating around in the year 3018 after a one-time use. The goal, should be to minimize the number of bags being produced, which can only happen if you, YES, you the consumer stop using them.
Which brings me to step two; replace plastic bags with reusable bags. I often find myself asking well what's in it for me? Let’s face it plastic bags certainly feel more convenient, but the truth is doing something to lessen my carbon footprint feels even better; however, If the "feel goods" just aren't enough for you there are a few stores that give monetary incentives to go a little green. Target allows you to earn .05 cents for every reusable bag you bring in to use in place of a plastic bag. Whole Food allows you to earn .10 cents on every reusable bag you use in. Trader Joe's has a couple of incentives, which vary by store location 05. cents back per reusable bag or one entry into a raffle for a $25 Trader Joe's gift card each time you shop with reusable bags. Sprout's Farmers Market give a .05 cents bag credit per reusable bag and last but not least CVS gives shoppers $1 bonuses on their ExtraCare Rewards card for every four times you don't use plastic bags.
Taking the first step to change learned behavior is tough, but it is not impossible. I hope to have given you the tools to go out into this big beautiful world and show that plastic bag whose boss! Remember; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
KOB's very own,
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