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How to Break the Plastic Bag Habit

Plastic bags. They’re convenient, ubiquitous and huge polluters. They clog landfills and block storm drains when they’re not dangling from tree branches or choking animals that accidentally get entangled in their handles.

Ultimately, plastic bags often wind up in the ocean, where they do incalculable damage to marine life. According to the Earth Policy Institute, a mind-boggling two million plastic bags are used worldwide every minute.

Once a plastic bag is produced, it never really goes away. The petroleum-based polymer in the material cannot technically biodegrade, so the bags just break down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Environmental considerations are why many communities, including nearby Rye and Larchmont, have enacted plastic bag bans or per-bag usage fees. But even in towns like Pelham, where plastic bags are dispensed freely, simple changes in behavior can make a huge difference. Here are some tips:

  • Keep a supply of reusable bags in your car, and remember to put them back after you’ve unloaded your groceries.
  • If you forget your own bags, use the “Costco” model. Load purchases back into your shopping cart after you pay for them and wheel them out to your car.
  • Ask yourself whether you really need a bag. If a container has a handle, for example, use it.
  • If you must take a plastic bag, at least ask the sales clerk not to double bag. If you buy something heavy that might tear a single bag, remove it and carry it separately.
  • Choose paper over plastic, if available.
  • Remember to bring your reusable bags to the hardware store, the drug store, the big box store — not just the supermarket.
  • The plastic bags used for items like produce and bread are a part of the problem, too. To reduce their use, buy small cloth bags or put these items “loose” in your cart.
  • If you want to be part of the solution, join with EcoPel’s new initiative to address the plastic bag problem locally. Just email us at ecopelny@gmail.com.