I devoted an article in January to reusable shopping bags for groceries and for general shopping. I made a note to myself at the time to do a little private local research after some months to see if there might be discernible progress in the incidence of use.
I’ve tried to be aware, without changing my patterns, of other shoppers entering stores with reusable bags in hand, with carts in store with bags visible in the contents, or leaving the premises with reusable bags full. I have to say I do see them a little more frequently. I can’t say it’s a significant difference but I’m reassured we’re ever so slowly individually adopting a very smart new behavior. I’ve questioned check-out clerks about changes they’ve noticed in the rate of occurrence. It pretty well parallels what I sense, pretty paltry still but improving.
I so appreciate the stores which display reminders and prominently display the bags. I appreciate when there’s a colorful assortment. I pick up interesting ones to use as my Christmas gift bags (always offered with a little hint for which no one has yet to complain). There’s an advantage to having a slew of reusable bags as I do. There are always some in the car to grab anytime, anywhere. Is it snobbish to wonder who else is watching for kindred spirits and might notice I’m one? Well, so be it.
It always helps my perspective to know the larger context into which my little bit falls. Here are some interesting facts to know.
• The average family accumulates 60 — that’s 60 — single-use plastic bags in only four — that’s four — trips to the grocery store.
• A trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year.
• We Americans use a hundred billion single-use plastic bags each year.
• A hundred billion single-use plastic bags cost retailers $4 billion a year.
• Only 3 percent to 5 percent of single-use plastic bags end up recycled.
• It takes a thousand years to degrade a single-use plastic bag which remains toxic even after breaking down.
• I don’t know how many single-use plastic bags end up in the ocean but I marvel at how often it is I find one to pick up from the roadside in front of my house when I cross the road to the mail box, hung up on a bush or a weed.
• I don’t know how many barrels of foreign oil we use to keep ourselves so outrageously supplied with single-use plastic bags.
What an unthinkable thing we do — just because we’re accustomed. Of all the reuse/recycle stuff I do, the reusable shopping bag habit requires the least from me. All that’s required is to remember, so automatic now it hardly counts. Except it counts. It counts.