“Would you like paper or plastic?”
The question from your friendly grocery store cashier seems like such a small one, and yet it’s a big decision that could have enormous implications for our planet.
An estimated one trillion plastic bags are used each year worldwide – and less than one percent of them are recycled. Those that aren’t recycled end up in landfills or oceans.
It’s something you probably don’t think about when you choose plastic, as it’s estimated people use their plastic bag for an average of only 12 minutes. Think about it. The cashier loads your bags up. You take them to your car. After arriving home, you unpack your groceries. Then, what do you do with the bags? Some people just throw them away; others hold on to them to use them for other things (like garbage bags).
What people may not realize is that after plastic bags are thrown away, they don’t magically disappear. In fact, plastic may never disappear – some research estimates that it could take up to 1,000 years to break down.
Instead of saying yes to plastic, we opt for either paper bags or reusable bags.
Paper bags are made from trees – a renewable resource – so it’s a better choice for the environment. And, they’re 100 percent recyclable, as they can be upcycled as new paper bag or a different type paper product (like a notebook or tissue paper). If you grow your own fruits and veggies, paper bags also make for great composting material! Try tearing up a paper bag and adding it to your compost pile.
A reusable bag is also a great choice. Reusable bags reduce the demand for new resources to create new bags. In fact, by choosing reusable bags (even better are ones made from recycled materials), throughout your lifetime you’re likely to keep more than 22,000 plastic bags from our environment.
While it may seem like a small question, by making the best choice, you’re helping support our planet’s health for generations to come.