Oops…that’s a Plastic Bag, not a Jellyfish

plastic_bag.jpgBYOB’s not what it used to be; at least not at IKEA. Their new mantra is “Bring Your Own Bag” and it is music to my ears. For years I’ve endured the look of surprise or scorn when I’ve answered the inevitable “paper or plastic?” with a third unspoken option “I brought my own.” I even typically bag my own since it takes the bagger a while to contemplate my words, having never been trained for this alternative customer response. I’ve found that if I stop the bagger after they’ve put one item in the plastic bag, the bag is thrown into the garbage, defeating the whole purpose my not wanting the bag :(
So, how many plastic bags do we use? According to ReusableBags.com, each year 500 billion to 1 trillion bags are consumed worldwide – that is 1 million per minute! They are seldom reused and billions end up as litter each year. The U.S. discards 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags annually. The cost to retailers to provide plastic bags is $4 billion per year.

We’ve established that we use a lot of bags. Besides costing retailers a lot of money what’s so wrong with these plastic bags? Marine life regularly mistake plastic bags for jellyfish as the ocean current moves bags to open and close, mimicking the way a jellyfish swims. The Marine Connection estimates that over a million birds and 100,000 marine animals, including whales and turtles, die each year from plastic debris mistaken for food. Also, plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade; breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways. Plastic bags are among the 12 items most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.
Because one sturdy reusable bag will replace hundreds of single-use bags, IKEA hopes customers are open to reusable bags to carry purchases, rather than paying the 5 cents per plastic bag at their store. IKEA’s reusable “Big Blue Bag” has a one-time cost of 59 cents for hundreds of uses. Since a polyethylene plastic bag will persist in our environment for over a thousand years, IKEA’s goal is to completely eliminate the use of plastic bags in their stores.
Now how about my newspaper getting delivered on my porch under the awning and foregoing the 365 newspaper plastic wraps per year? (I know, I know, everyone’s going to write and ask why I’m still reading a printed newspaper, rather than a coal-powered, electronic version :)
With an MBA in Sustainable Management and professional facilitation skills, Janice Neitzel engages stakeholders in facilitating innovative solutions to reduce environmental impact, improve social responsibility, and raise animal welfare standards, thereby, improving reputation and increasing brand value. (www.JaniceNeitzel.com)