The Zero Waste Trash Challenge: Just Say No (To Plastic Bags)

The hardest part of the Zero Waste Challenge is making a conscious decision and sticking to it.

Assuming you persevered through your bin audit – any horror stories to tell? – you should now be aware of how much you are throwing away and what your top five wasters are. If you haven’t already done so, let us know in the comments below.

My top five landfill lay-a-bouts were plastic milk bottles, yogurt cartons, food waste, plastic bags and aluminum foil.

I promised this month’s challenge would be much easier, less messy and something most of you are doing already. But before my family got started, it was the last straw in the trash pile that finally got my husband on board.

Say No to Disposable Plastic Carrier Bags

Think about the absurdity of plastic carrier bags for a moment. It’s believed that oil takes hundreds of thousands of years to produce. We extract it and make it into a carrier bag, which we use for the duration of one shopping trip. For most shoppers, that carrier bag is filled with things to be wheeled from the checkout line to the car, then hauled from the car to our kitchen: a total of 5 minutes. After that we throw the bag in the trash where it ends up in the landfill and takes around 500 years to decompose.

So let’s get this straight: We take something that has taken hundreds of thousands of years to produce, use it for five minutes then leave it for another 500 years to decompose?

Not a good use of resources.

But that’s not all. Our oceans are now a soup of plastic consisting of slivers of plastic that have broken down into smaller and smaller pieces. These slivers end up in the food chain: the fish eat the plastic and we eat the fish. Hardly a foodie trend we should want to partake in.

Sadly, for marine life like turtles and albatross, things aren’t quite so good. They mistakenly ingest plastic bags or get caught up in them, resulting in a painful death.

There is no need to use a disposable plastic bag when there are so many options. Our shops are bursting at the seams with beautiful, sustainable shopping bags made from organic cotton, jute and repurposed materials like rice sacks.

If you’re good with a sewing machine, put your fabric stash to good use and make a morsbag. Reuse cardboard boxes and stack them in the car.
Get a beautiful wicker basket and carry it proudly on your arm.
Even consider reusing your plastic carrier bags until they are no longer useful.

Next, the challenging bit: make a conscious effort to remember to take your bag alternatives to the store with you.

Are you up for this month’s challenge? Show your commitment by leaving a comment below.


Images: Ars ElectronicaOcean Resourcesailatan