We’re Breaking Up with Plastic Bags

Reusable bags

Spread the Sustainable Gospel!

Plastic bags are literally everywhere! They litter our roads, trees, parks, waterways, oceans, and our lives. They are completely worthless. We are programmed to use them at every waking opportunity whether it’s at the grocery store or at a retailer. It doesn’t matter if you are purchasing 1 item are 100 items, all of the goods go right into plastic bags. According to the EPA, we use over 380 billion plastic bags and wraps yearly, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to create. And for what – like 10 minutes, max? …I’ll give you a moment to process that.

Not only is our consumption insane, what it’s doing to the planet is even more depressing. About 100,000 marine animals are killed each year just by plastic pollution. From sea turtles consuming plastic bags as food to whales washing ashore with over 60 lbs. of plastic waste in their stomachs. It’s all quite sad.

As a planet, we are making strides to eliminate plastic bags. Many countries have banned their use entirely, of course, that isn’t without push back. Kenya banned plastic bags almost a year ago. Overall, people are seeing great benefits like cleaner waterways and fewer animal deaths caused by plastic bag pollution. Merchants, however, are struggling to find cheap alternatives to the plastic bags that they depended on for their businesses. As a result, a black market has developed for the sale of plastic bags. Really? My question is – why do shops take responsibility for how consumers carry those products out of their store. Maybe we need to rethink whose responsibility that should be.

Also, many places in the United States have banned plastic bag bans. Yes, you read that correctly. Here in Missouri, Plastic Bag Bans are banned.

And then you have people who say that banning plastic bags is a conspiracy claiming that plastic bags are way safer for the consumer – you know – because of meat. Do you want to know who popularized that claim? The American Chemistry Council. Big surprise. And if you don’t know who or what the ACC is, well, let’s just say that they have a pretty heavy investment in plastic.

I hope you all are reading this in the most sarcastic of voices because it’s literal bull. Yes, if you do not properly wash cloth, it can harbor bacteria. But what the study doesn’t point out, is that the average healthy person is not likey at all to get sick from the tiny amounts of bacteria that are present. And let me be clear, the bags that contained the bacteria had never been washed. So there ya go.

**Hold on while I step down from my soap box**

So then, what can we do? How do we stop using plastic bags? Let’s start from the beginning.


trash goggles

From where are we getting the plastic bags?

Ok so now that the trash goggles are on. I want you to be observant on where you encounter plastic bags in your life. Where and how do you acquire them the most? Is it at the checkout? In the produce section of grocery stores? Do family or friends drop them off at your house? (happens to me) We first need to assess where we are acquiring them. Once we have that information together, we can start building a plan.

What you will need:

You’ll need a way to transport your items from the store to your home. So the logical thing to do is to get yourself some reusable bags. I find having about 5 is the perfect number for our family of 3. It allows for me to have some in constant rotation between the wash and ready for use.

Where to get reusable bags:

Obviously, you can get them at most retail and grocery stores. However, if we want to kick this up a notch in terms of sustainability, I challenge you to do 2 things before you buy reusable cloth bags.

This is why…

In order for a reusable, cloth bag to be resourcefully better than it’s plastic counterpart, it will need to be used a whopping 171 times to have the same global warming intensity as a plastic bag. Sustainability is not simple – it’s very complicated. I’ll try my best to break it down for you.

Before you buy a bag, first see if anyone can give you some. I know most people have a plethora of cloth bags chilling under their sinks.

If you can’t find any secondhand, make them! I know you have some old t-shirts from high school that are shoved to the back of your closet. Get those puppies out and turn them into plastic fighting machines. There is a great “No Sew” tutorial HERE.

What about produce bags?

You all know my love for cloth produce bags. I use them for so many things to help me reduce my trash. From produce to bulk, to baked goods, to soap – I pack about anything I can find package free in these babies.

But ultimately, for produce, if you can just let that produce roll around naked – do it. Most of the time, bags for produce are completely unnecessary. It all comes in its own biodegradable packaging – nature’s pretty clever.

And the plastic bags you’ve already accumulated?

Go ahead and use them for the trash you still produce – phase them out. Or find a recycling center that will take them off your hands.

So to wrap things up…

Do your very best to keep your reusable bags on you for trips outside your home. Ensure that you’re always prepared for the moment you’ll need to cart some items from the store to your home. And if you forget your bags? Carry that stuff out with your own two hands, put it back in your cart to wheel out to the car, or grab a box from the store to use. Do everything you can to avoid plastic bags – if there’s a will, there’s a way.

And now for your homework:

  1. Get some reusable bags secondhand or make some yourself
  2. Make or get some reusable cloth produce bags
  3. Keep your reusable bags on you to be prepared.
  4. Use up or recycle your existing plastic bag stash

7 thoughts on “We’re Breaking Up with Plastic Bags

  1. I have a great range of bold, bright and fun eco-friendly shopping bags, tote bags, produce bags and more on my website destinationjute.com I ship international and can personalise & customise any bag!

  2. Great article, Meagan. Thank you for all of the work you’re doing to educate, inform & inspire folks.
    For those wanting to move on plastic bags they’ve accumulated (I’m talking shopping bags only, not produce or other types), many libraries and thrift stores are happy, nay thrilled!, to take them. My library offers them for patrons to use to transport checked out items home. And yes, we do offer cloth book bags for purchase 🙂

  3. Very much enjoyed your article. My daughter is a senior in college and she is all about helping our environment. This weekend she made her own bags out of t-shirts. I asked what she was doing!?! She told me about your article and sent me the link.
    I have been using reusable cloth bags for a while now, but must admit that I still use the plastic bags when getting my meats at the grocery store. The thought of packaged raw meat touching my other groceries is a pet peeve. Any ideas on another alternative?
    Thanks again! Carol

    • Oh thank you so much, that means a lot! I don’t blame you at all for not wanting the meat to touch the rest of your groceries. What you could do is use a reusable nylon bag for just those items. Like a ChicoBag for instance. Just throw in the wash after use to get rid of any bacteria. 🙂

    • One option for your meats is to take your clean heavier produce bags. I have a plastic bag drying rack that I’ve used for over 30 years!! Lord knows how many bags that baby has helped me reuse. Thanks for using cloth bags, Carol!

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