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Life cycle of a plastic bag

We’ve all seen images of birds and fish, with plastic grocery bags in mouth. Disturbing indeed. Plastic bags are entering our food chain through oceans, rivers and the stomachs of wildlife. The toxins they carry are nearly impossible to eliminate as we don’t really know how if ever they break down naturally.

 

You might ask well how do all these bags get into our water supply, most people throw them away when they unpack their groceries, right? You’d be amazed how these little wonders of mass production have nine lives, so to speak. They go to landfills, where they blow away due to their zero weight, almost like kites on a gentle breeze. Gulls and pigeons carry them for the food scraps inside. You get the idea.

Has the bag surcharge made any difference?

The majority of stores in South Africa impose an extra charge for the bags in an effort to make people consider using reusable bags for their groceries. This was a wonderful initiative, but has it made any difference? I say yes. Many shoppers carry around their own eco-shopping bags or, like me, have a stash of folded shopping bags in their handbag.

If you are among the few who recycle their plastic bags, or even better yet, take your own bags to the grocery store - thank you! I have stocked each of our cars with a trunk full of re-useable fabric shopping bags, and it is really a no-brainer to get into this habit. Plus, these fabric bags are much stronger and larger than the plastics, they can hold a full load of canned goods, litres of milk, anything large and heavy, with virtually no danger of breakage. No more driveway full of yogurt while the profanities fly. You can’t argue with that.

This kind of reminds me of the stop smoking ban. When it first was passed, it seemed reactionary and maybe even an invasion on our freedoms. Now, most public places in South Africa are smoke-free and for the most part, everybody loves it. As does our indoor air quality.

WATCH 'LIFE CYCLE OF THE PLASTIC BAG' narrated by Jeremy Irons.