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Plastic Bags. Most of us use them for many purposes. Do we stop to think about the effects they have on the environment and our beautiful country though? According to reusablebags.com, "Introduced just over 25 years ago, the ugly truth about our plastic bag addiction is that society's consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500 billion plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute." That is a large quantity of plastic bags!
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According to Olivesmart.com, "Americans use over 380 billion polyethylene plastic bags (made from Petroleum) per year. These plastic bags do not break down in our landfills and are a source of litter to the environment."
What if we could reduce the amount of plastic bags we consume as a country and also get rewarded for it? Retail grocery stores such as Fred Meyer, Carrs Safeway and Alaskan and Proud market all offer a 3-5 cent rebate on your purchases when you bring your own canvas bag with you.
By using reusable tote bags we can be a part of reducing the impact these bags are having on the world. This impact is described on reusablebags.com in reference to an ordinance passed in San Francisco this year.
According to the ordinance, plastic shopping bags in the U.S. account for the felling of over 14 million trees, the use of over 12 million barrels of oil, as well as the death of over 100,000 marine animals from plastic entanglement.
Now, I do not mean to get off on such a doom and gloom tangent, however, while doing research for this project I found the following fact regarding marine animals killed because of plastic bags, and it made my stomach turn: "In the marine environment, plastic bag litter is lethal, killing at least 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles every year. After an animal is killed by plastic bags its body decomposes and the plastic is released back into the environment where it can kill again."
It is not that difficult to bring a tote bag to the store with you or pick one up for 99 cents if you didn't bring one. I bet within a month you will have paid for that bag with the rebates you can receive. If this is not an option and you still feel the need to continue using plastic bags, then at least recycle them. Most of the grocery stores in town have plastic bag recycling bins for customers.
Reducing the number of plastic bags consumed in conjunction with increasing the recycling of these bags is a great start for us all.
Erin Sorensen is a business student at the University of Alaska Southeast and Juneau resident.