Today is World Environment Day, a good day to think about ways we can help the environment as individuals. This year the theme is #beatplasticpollution
A recent international news item is the death of a whale where over 80 plastic bags were found in his stomach. He thought it was food and all the bags made him too sick to eat so he finally died. Unfortunately this isn’t really “news.” In 2017 a beached whale in Norway was found with 30 plastic bags in his stomach.
I know when I see what is going on it seems overwhelming, and I wonder how one person can make any difference, but there are things an individual and family can commit to that will make a difference. One way is to follow the example of Denmark. According to a report by the National Geographic, “In Denmark, people use an average of four single-use plastic bags a year, compared to one a day in the U.S..” One a day vs. four a year. That is a big change.
“In 1993 Denmark was the first country to introduce a tax on plastic bags. Today, a bag costs roughly 50 cents, part of which goes in taxes, but the supermarket also makes a small profit. The higher cost of bags has cut the sale of multiple-use bags by more than 40 percent over the past 25 years. On average, a Dane now uses 70 multiple-use carrier bags and just four single-use bags a year, or less than 1.5 plastic bags a week in all.”
If you are ready to make a commitment to use fewer plastic bags we can help you do it in style. Ingebretsen’s carries a large assortment of totes in both cloth and environment friendly reusable polyethylene – perfect for produce and trips to the farmer’s market.
We are particularly fond of the Hinza bags:
The large version of the Hinza bag is a Swedish classic, designed at the beginning of the 1950s by the Swedish plastic and chemical company Perstorp AB. The bag was named Shopping Bag 329 and it is the model for today’s Hinza bag by designer Curt Christofferson, employed at the company.
The striped plastic bag quickly became popular in Swedish homes as it was useful for a multitude of purposes, not least for carrying home groceries. In the mid-1960s, grocery stores began offering customers disposable plastic bags, which resulted in production of the Shopping Bag being shut down.
Karin Bachstätter is a great granddaughter of the founder of Perstorp AB and these practical plastic bags have always been a presence her life. With the development of a new environmental awareness, Karin and her husband re-started production in 2007 together with her parents. The smaller version of the bag was launched in 2015.
All Hinza bags are manufactured in Hillerstorp in the province of Småland, and the factory has environmental as well as quality management certification.
The Fifties concept and design still hold, with the plastic bag’s stylish shape and enormous usability meaning that it’s never outdated.
And in case you wonder why plastic bags are bad for our environment, here are some plastic bag facts from the Center for Biological Diversity:
- Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.
- It only takes about 14 plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile.
- Target gives away enough plastic bags a year to wrap around the Earth 7 times.
- The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year.
- According to Waste Management, only 1 percent of plastic bags are returned for recycling. That means that the average family only recycles 15 bags a year; the rest ends up in landfills as litter.
- Up to 80 percent of ocean plastic pollution enters the ocean from land.
- At least 267 different species have been affected by plastic pollution in the ocean.
- 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually.
- One in three leatherback sea turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs.
- Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes.
- It takes 500 (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. Unfortunately the bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.
National Geographic’s article, “Are Plastic Bags Sacking the Environment?” by John Roach, writes that in 2001 the EPA reported that 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are consumed each year. Millions of those bags end up in landfills, the ocean, other water sources, soil and animals. Roach writes, “Once in the environment, it takes months to hundreds of years for plastic bags to breakdown. As they decompose, tiny toxic bits seep into soils, lakes, rivers, and the oceans, said Cobb” (2003). Many sites report that one bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. This goes back to the whole idea of, “when you throw something away, where is away?” The things we throw out do not just disappear into the air. Even when a plastic bag finally breaks down, it is releasing harmful chemicals. This is not healthy.
Happy World Environment Day.
You can read the World Environment Day’s State of Plastic Report here: WED State of Plastics