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)

3 responses

  1. I think it’s wonderful that you bring your own bag – more power to you (not to mention the entire planet, thanks to your recycling). Maybe you’ll have a suggestion for me: I carry a bag around in the back seat of my car … then forget all about it when I go to the store! Sheesh! Any ideas?

  2. Great article Janice. I’ve always wondered though, what’s in those bags some of the stores sell with their own logos? Hopefully, they’re made of old soda bottles or tires or something like one company I heard about. My preference: bring one of the trillion old totes collecting in my closet from conferences and environmental organizations (now I’ve stopped accepting them). If you bring your own bag to Trader Joes, you are entered into a raffle for a bag of groceries; love it. For those of you working on greening a meeting, you might think about hosting a “tote bag exchange” instead of buying a nylon or cloth tote with the conference logo. Everyone is encouraged to search their closets, bring an old tote(s) and exchange it with someone else. You can even make a networking activity out of it. It was a big hit at a conference I planned last year and now we’re working on “bring your own thermal coffee mug.” (Sorry, I’m a bit off topic.) And Janis, I keep my bags in the FRONT seat ’cause I’ll forget them too. Once it’s a habit, you’ll not forget again!

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