In the past two years that I’ve been working as a cashier, I have seen hundreds, maybe thousand of plastic bags come by. It’s horrendous. People put the weirdest things in plastic. A bunch of bananas, leek or lettuce. I’ve even seen people put plastic bags around plastic bags. Really, I kid you not.
Plastic is Stupid
Plastic is made to last long, essentially forever. Plastic does not degrade. The only way to get rid of plastic is to burn it or when it breaks down in tiny pieces (but then, you’re still stuck with so-called microplastics). Burning is essentially the only way. Hello polluted air and climate change! But we use plastic like it’s nothing. Like the example above, with the groceries. You put the bananas in the bag, pay for them and at home you throw the bag ‘away’ (there is no such thing as away). That’s how we do it in The Netherlands. Ridiculous to use something just once, while it’s made to last forever.
Now, some stores have alternatives, paper bags (usually still with a part of plastic so cashiers can see through them). Better than plastic considering waste, because paper degrades and it is a renewable resource. Yet, the concept is the same. Why go through all this effort (which costs resources) just to throw it away after one use?
For this problem there is a simple solution: a reusable bag. I myself have bags made out of cotton, like the one you see in the picture. But there are more sustainable fabrics, like tencel or bamboo. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s not plastic (like polyester or nylon) and that it’s 100% recyclable. I bought the bag you see in the picture new, but that was a mistake on my part (impulsive behavior I’m trying to get rid off). It’s best to buy secondhand or if you’re good with fabrics make bags yourself out of old fabrics. If you do choose to buy new, choose organic and fair trade.
How to use it
The bag I bought cost me 4 euros and I use for a lot. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, anything. Any zero waste product! A few tips from me while using it. One: don’t be afraid to use it. Some people think it’s stupid or look at you weird. Don’t mind! You’re trying to make something change, they’re not. Look at the other way too: you might inspire someone! Maybe the person behind you in line. You never know. It is a habit from people to just pick a plastic bag and never think about it and that needs to change. Two: be aware, you have to use the bag for at least 173 times before it’s more sustainable than paper or plastic. Producing a reusable bag takes more resources and effort and so it is least sustainable if you would use it once. Use it a lifetime until it’s completely worn out and then recycle it, that’s what it’s intended for!