Plastic bags are everywhere.
It is estimated that 500 billion plastic bags are used each year, which is about 150 bags for each person on earth per year. Of these plastic bags, on average, only 1 out of every 200 we use is recycled.
Across Canada many cities are creating bylaws that ban single use plastic bags. Montreal was the first Canadian city in January 2018 to implement the ban. Halifax, Nova Scotia is not far behind Montreal, and as of July 1st 2018, Victoria, British Columbia will join in the ban on plastic bags. Other cities across Canada are also looking at how they can reduce their waste in an attempt to move towards becoming zero waste communities. Vancouver, British Columbia is working towards being a zero waste community by 2040. Their Greenest City Action Plan aims to by 2020 reduce 50% of the solid waste in landfills by encouraging alternatives to plastic bags, disposable cups, straws, foam packaging, and take out containers.
In support of reducing plastic bags, many stores are charging for them and are encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable bags from home. Most plastic bags cost 5 cents to purchase, but with the implementation of plastic bag bans across Canada the price of those plastic bags will be jumping to 25 cents in some areas, and as more cities implement plastic bag bans that price is expected to rise. Businesses and individuals that offer plastic bags at no charge will risk substantial fines.
Most are aware of the negative impact of plastic bags on our environment. More than 6 out of 10 individuals are currently refusing plastic bags and are opting for reusable. Even with so many of us refusing plastic bags, in Vancouver our cities garbage still contains about 13 % of things that could be recycled, including plastic bags.
So where can we recycle the plastic bags we already have? Most cities have different policies on what can be recycled and where, so be sure to look up the specific information for your area. In British Columbia we can recycle plastic bags, produce bags, frozen fruit and vegetable bags, outer bags and wrap (for a full list of what you can recycle and where in BC check this out). These items at this time do need to be taken to your local recycle depot as oppose to being placed in the curb side recycling. These bags are turned into plastic pallets, containers, crates, decking, pipes, and park benches.
As you start to say no to plastic bags and to recycle the ones you already have you may be wondering what alternative options are out there to replace the plastic bags you once used. The good news is there are lots of quality and easily accessible choices to replace plastic bags. Reusable shopping bags are sold in most stores, many of us already own several. Be sure to leave some in your car, or carry one on your person for those unplanned shopping trips. Re-useable produce bags are slightly less accessible, but here are some great options for replacing plastic produce and bulk bags.
1. Produce doesn't need to go in a bag- opt to leave your produce loose in your basket, and plastic free. Choose produce that is not wrapped in plastic. If it is available to you shop for your produce from local farmers or at a farmer's market.
2. Bring your own containers and jars for your bulk food purchases. While not all stores will accommodate reusing containers for bulk products there are many stores that will. Bulk Barn has a large variety of products and has a reusable container program. Simply bring a clean food container and have It weighed before you fill it. They offer dry and wet grocery items at this time, you can even grind your own peanut or almond butter.
3. Purchase reusable produce bags. I purchased mine from the Soap Dispensary in Vancouver. Coze Design is a local Vancouver company, which creates "earth friendly textile goods". All their products are also available without packaging and extra printed labels to further reduce waste. They are beautifully made, soft, durable and light to carry around. They also come in pretty natural colours and patterns. They are all made from sustainable plant based materials. They can be purchased at the Soap Dispensary or online here.
4. Re-useable produce bags are easy to make! There are lots of quick and easy online tutorials to create your own. Recycle cotton clothing or fabric you already have at home to make your produce bags. I like this online tutorial for a simple cotton re-useable produce bag.
Refusing plastic bags and using re-useable ones is a simple and easy way to live plastic free!
P.S. Participating in Plastic Free July? Feel free to comment below any tips or tricks you have discovered for living plastic free.
P.P.S. If you would like to read more on some of the topics I've written about I have placed links to my sources throughout the post.