Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Love Affair With Plastic Bags

Photo via Scholastic

The Plastic Bag. We love to hate them but can't seem to live without them. I was recently reviewing customer feedback on new recycling programs for work and came across a number of frustrated customers lamenting that plastic bags can no longer be recycled at the curbside. While I understand their frustration it also got me thinking about where we place the responsibility of recycling.

Recycling has come to the forefront (at least in most Canadian households) as the main method of waste reduction. Instead of throwing our plastics and paper products in with our garbage we separate it out to be recycled.

With recent legislative changes here in BC, a product stewardship group called MMBC is now responsible for the collection and recycling of plastic and paper products in BC. This is great move 1. because its puts the cost of collection and recycling on the producers rather than regional governments and 2. it will hopefully provide an incentive to producers to reduce packaging overall.

Overall, individual residents will not see any major changes to their curbside collection programs. However, in some areas there are new items that may or may not be collected now. One of the those items being the PLASTIC BAG.

Plastic bags are the equivalent of the devil in the environmental world. In tropical locales they mistaken by sea turtles as food (jellyfish). They blow around, they got caught up in machinery and they are difficult to recycle. And while I can understand a residents complaints about no longer being to recycle plastic bags at curbside, I have to wonder if we are not missing the point altogether. Do we even need the plastic bag to begin with?

One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of waste you throw away is to do not produce it in the first place. So the next time you are at the grocery store buying produce stop and think about whether your produce really needs to go in its own plastic bag, use a cloth bag for purchases or ask to simply carry out your items. When it comes to recycling we really need to take a step back and remember to reduce before we recycle which will go a long way in helping to end our love affair with the plastic bag.

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