Subsequent uses for plastic bags
February 26, 2014I believe that eliminating plastic grocery bags will help the environment about as much as environmentalists believe Toby Keith's remark that red Solo cups decompose in 14 years.
There are three grocery stores and two drug stores within two miles of my house, which means that I can walk to the grocery store and back if I can carry my groceries home. The fact that plastic bags have handles allows me to do that; in the absence of such plastic bags I'd have to drive to the store and back.
I've also noticed that plastic bags expedite recycling. My ability to separate recyclables in plastic bags makes the trip to the recycling center quicker for me – and for those in line behind me. There are times that my fast-food choice has been Subway specifically because the sandwiches come in plastic bags I can then take home and use for sorting recyclables. Without plastic bags recycling would become less feasible.
While most of my plastic bags end up at the recycling center, a few of them do end up in landfills. I line my small bathroom wastebasket with a plastic bag, which gets thrown out with the rest of the trash. My yard includes half a dozen fruit trees, and when I give fruit to friends I put them in plastic bags for convenience. I also have a rose bush, and when I give someone a rose carrying the handle of a plastic bag is more comfortable than carrying the thorned rose itself. A plastic bag is also more convenient for removing dog manure than digging a hole to bury the excrement.
I do prefer the days when paperboys saved plastic bags for expected rain and used rubber bands on most delivery days. A community weekly serves my needs better than a daily newspaper, but my parents live in the City of San Diego and still subscribe to a daily paper which now comes in plastic bags. Many of those gave gone into the trash – after one of my parents cleaned the cat litter box.
The term "single-use plastic bag" is thus misleading, as plastic bags can be re-used as well as carried easily. The giveaway plastic bags from convention exhibit vendor booths are larger than grocery bags and allow me to carry convention giveaways as I walk throughout the exhibit hall. I also use them for my own giveaways, as I can sort what I receive both from the convention and in the mail before distributing those items to various appropriate people.
There are various gift shows associated with the National Finals Rodeo, and those gift shows also have giveaways and vendors with giveaway bags. John Deere had a booth – and large plastic giveaway bags – at last December's gift show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I used the first John Deere bag to carry what I had picked up. Then I realized that anybody who would appreciate National Finals Rodeo giveaways would also appreciate a John Deere bag, so I took a couple of additional ones to hold what I was passing on to my friends.
It should also be noted that many Las Vegas hotels have eliminated laundry rooms, which requires taking enough clothes for the entire stay. Dirty clothes seem to take up more space than clean clothes, and hotels no longer automatically replenish laundry bags each day. The John Deere bag was the perfect size for a laundry bag, so I used another one to store a couple of day's worth of clothes.
Plastic bags are great for carrying items, but they are not one-time commodities. They can be re-used for recycling, fruit transport, wastebasket lining, animal manure disposal, redistribution of giveaway items, laundry, and numerous other functions.