C'mon, Make it a "Day Without a Disposable Bag"

Plastic bags, they're everywhere. They're by far the number one trash item I see thrown on the streets of LA.

When it rains here like it did on Tuesday night everybody worries about traffic. And true, it's crazy that Angelenos are such terrible drivers that we had over 280 accidents in 12 hours during that rain.

But it's also a tragedy that when it rains all those plastic bags thrown on sidewalks and in gutters get washed into the storm drains and out to the ocean.

What happens once all that plastic and trash is out in the ocean?

Well, you know plastic doesn't dissolve, right? I mean, the salt in the water doesn't cause plastic or other forms of trash to break down and just disappear.

That means that scientists have discovered a "trash vortex" that's, ahem, cough, THE SIZE OF TEXAS! It's floating in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the West Coast.

Next time you order some fish at a restaurant, stop a moment and think about what it's really been swimming through. And wouldn't it be nice to know that when your fish got cut open a used condom wasn't possibly in its belly?

A good place to start cleaning up the environmental mess we've made is to stop using plastic bags. They've been banned in San Francisco and Paris. LA should be next. Your town should be next, too.

Thankfully, today's the first annual Day Without a Disposable Bag day here in Los Angeles. It's sponsored by Heal the Bay who have this shocking statistic on their site: "Los Angeles County residents use 6 billion plastic bags each year and recycle only 5% of that total."

So do your part, even if you don't live here. You don't need a plastic bag for those two things you bought at the Rite Aid. Throw them in that gigantic purse you're carrying. If you're a man and you don't have a purse, um, start a new fashion trend. Who says men can't carry purses? Just call it a messenger bag, okay?

It's hard to give up plastic bags because they're everywhere. But once we start doing it, we'll wonder how we ever put everything and their mother into plastic bags that are ruining our environment. It just takes a little mental reconditioning to get used to bringing our own bags to stores because the plastic industry has made us think we can't live without disposable bags.

And then we get those bags home and they accumulate like crazy in drawers and closets. Seriously, isn't it annoying to try to figure out what to do with those bags?

So try it out. Throw some canvas bags in your trunk so you always have one. Click on the Heal the Bay link if you need some ideas on where to purchase some canvas bags for cheap.

After all, even if we already know we can't count on politicians to clean up our environment, we can still each do our part.


Anonymous said…
We have a plastic bag tax here in Ireland, it just went up from 15c a bag. People immediately got much better about reusing bags or buying the sturdy kind, and clothing stores went to paper. Paper is great in a rainy country...
Jameil said…
let me tell you how dedicated i am to this. i'm about to go pick out an outfit that will match the reusable bag i will carry today.
nick said…
When I was in Sydney, I bought a collapsible canvas Green Bag which folds up to money-purse size. It's still going strong. Brilliant idea, but not widely available (see yourownbags.com). And I always carry a plastic bag with me so I can refuse shop bags wherever possible.

The harm that's done to wildlife from all our chucked-out plastic bags and other household refuse is appalling and we all need to think seriously about how we can stop it.
Jameil said…
and then i forgot to use it.
Tami said…
I purchased about five reusable bags from Trader Joe's and it's the best thing I've ever done.
Toni Campbell said…
I bought a reusable bag from our local grocery chain (Publix) for 99 cents!! I ride public transportation and this bag holds a lot and is very strong. I also reuse all of my plastic bags for garbage.
Mes Deux Cents said…

The stores here in the bay area are pretty good about encouraging paper use or using canvas bags.

But that only accounts for the responsible grocery stores and not stores like Safeway.

I bought a really big backpack a while ago. I can fit an unbelievable amount of groceries in it. You should see people looking at me in the store as I stuff a whole shopping cart of food in my pack.

Also it’s unfortunate that I can walk to the bay but I wouldn’t dare eat fish caught from it. Humans have really messed up the planet.

Ian Lidster said…
I have switched.Honest I have. I agree with your sentiments completely. And then I get to the market and find I've forgotten to bring one of 'my' bags with me. But, I'm trying.
Liz Dwyer said…
That sort of tax is a great idea but I sure hope they just flat out ban time here in LA County. Although I wonder if that will count for bags that you get in department stores as well. I always preferred paper bags as well but I've learned that those aren't always the best environmentally either. I do tend to reuse those though.

Now that is dedication that is completely unsurpassable. I just have some plain old canvas bags but there are some really cute ones out there. One says "Compton Unified School District" on it. Another is an SEIU union bag. I take those when I want to frighten the bougie folks at the Trader Joes! :)

Thank you SO much for sharing that link. The family pack with six large and four zip-ups is a steal for $26. Thanks for the tip.

Well, there's always tomorrow! ;0

I've been taking my paper sacks back and my assortment of canvas bags and it's totally fine. Not inconvenient at all, but sometimes I forget to put them back in the car for small trips.

I try to do use the smaller plastic bags for garbage too, especially since I have a really sensitive nose and cannot stand to have a big garbage pail sitting around smelling up the house. But, some of the stuff I read on the Heal the Bay website got me thinking about that not being the best move either. It makes me think about what people must have done before plastic trash bags...did you just have to wash your trash can every day?

So is Safeway still using the plastic bags? I thought they're outlawed?

That's cool that you can fit all that stuff in your backpack and why not. I can imagine the looks you get though. I have a little backpack I wear when I'm walking around the neighborhood and it's convenient for tossing all sorts of things in there...really, I don't need my pack of gum in a plastic bag!

I also forget sometimes and my husband seems to rarely remember but he's working on it. I think we can only try our best until it becomes such an ingrained habit like brushing your teeth.
Wow. I never thought about that. Thanks so much for the enlightenment. It is embarrassing how much waste goes on in America. I used to be annoyed by how complex the garbage system is here in Japan (your trash can actually be "rejected" if it is not proerly sorted!). But I have a newfound respect for Japan's conservation efforts. I hope America follows suit!

Thanks for sharing!
storyteller said…
I'm with you big time on this one Liz and while we're at it, let's get rid of those plastic holders for soda cans that end up in the ocean killing birds and other wildlife. I'm always astonished at the surprise of clerks in stores when I tell them I don't need a bag for my two books or handful of small items ... and I carry the canvas bags I bought years ago at Trader Joes into whatever store (grocery or otherwise) in the hopes they'll encourage their customers to do likewise.
Hugs and blessings,
Unknown said…
As always girl, great post! I live in Chicago, and those dern things are always flying around. I have seen birds stuck in them, and even my dog, so I say ENUFF!
When I was in L.A. a few years ago I purchased a "Big Dog" bag, it is huge!!! Love it. It is my grocery bag, shopping bag...imagine that! A lady who doesnt comb her hair with a huge shopping bag. What was that song by Erykah Badu???
Liz Dwyer said…
Your trash can be rejected? Now that's hardcore!

LA's recycling program is a joke. I can throw anything I want into the regular trash and it's no big deal at all.

Those plastic six-pack rings are horrible for animals. I remember seeing a picture of an animal with it's neck caught in one.

You're right about the clerks. They always seem taken aback when I say I don't need a bag for my pack of gum.

"Bag Lady" is the Erykah Badu song. That was a GREAT song. I loved it then and now. It really is a matter of retraining ourselves and picking up new habits. I wonder how successful the campaign was.
I have been carrying canvas bags in my trunk for over a year. Yesterday was the first time I actually remembered to bring them into the store. Last year I made the resolution to stop using plastic bags for groceries and it has been the hardest granola-crunching resolution I've made! It's harder than washing poopy cloth diapers. I have no idea why. But in 2008 I am going to beat it!

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