Let’s say you go to the grocery store twice a week. After each trip, you bring home four plastic grocery sacks and an equal number of produce bags. That’s 16 plastic bags a week or, in a year’s time, more than 800 bags.
And that doesn’t take into account all the other plastic bags that we take home from department stores, takeout food and hundreds of other shopping experiences.
“We need to reduce waste in our lives,” said Maggie Bachus, the chair of Flossmoor’s Green Committee.
“We believe plastic bags are a good place to start.”
This month, the Green Committee is sponsoring several initiatives as part of its “Start a Bag Habit” campaign. Local elementary school students will learn about alternatives to plastic bags; at Parker Junior High, sixth and seventh graders are collecting a giant pile of plastic sacks and students are studying the bag problem to earn science credits. Homewood-Flossmoor High School students, in conjunction with the committee, have produced a video on breaking the plastic bag habit. And the committee will be showing a film, “Bag It,” at the Flossmoor Public Library at 6:30 p.m. on April 22.
Bachus said the Green Committee started its plastic bag campaign more than a year ago, and that there has been steady progress since then. The committee, part of Flossmoor’s Community Relations Committee, is partnering on the project with the library and the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.
More than 200 reusable bags were distributed at last year’s Flossmoor Fest. More people are learning about the damage taking place in a world flooded with plastic bags.
“This is largely an effort to educate people,” she said. “In the end, whether or not we use plastic bags is a matter of choice. We think that giving up plastic bags is the right choice and we are doing everything we can to get that message out in this community.”
Bachus and other committee members envision Flossmoor as a zero waste community where recycling is the norm for metals, paper and glass and where other items – like plastic bags – just don’t enter the waste stream.
The facts on plastic bags point to an environmental disaster, Bachus says:
- American consumers use more than 100 billion plastic bags a year.
- Less than 5 percent of Americans use reusable bags when going to the store.
- Plastic bags take 1,000 years to break down in landfills. And they don’t actually biodegrade but instead break down into smaller toxic parts that contaminate soil and waterways.
- Plastic bags are made from petroleum products that contribute to air pollution and energy consumption. They are also a major component of garbage in the world’s oceans and lead to the deaths of approximately 1 million seabirds and mammals each year.
- Only 1 to 3 percent of plastic bags are properly recycled.
The “Start a Bag Habit” campaign has three major components: We should use reusable bags when we shop. We should say “no” to plastic bags in stores. And we should bring our used plastic bags to recycling stations at stores like Jewel, Walmart and Target.
Kicking the plastic bag habit, Bachus says, takes awareness of the problem and a certain degree of discipline. Even committed users of reusable bags can have a difficult time with produce bags in the
grocery store; if you don’t bring along produce bags from a previous trip you might find yourself taking a new bag off the roll in the store.
The important thing, she said, is to continue passing along the message about alternatives to plastic bags.
“That’s what we will be doing with our activities this month,” Bachus said. “We think a lot of people will get the message.”
Contact Tom Houlihan at [email protected]