Most people know that reusable shopping bags are the most environmentally friendly option when it comes to toting purchases around. However, certain municipalities, including several U.S. cities, have instituted bans or extra taxes associated with using plastic bags.
As waste created by paper and plastic bags expands from a social issue to one involving legislation, check out the reasons these groups of people are choosing reusable bags as you encourage your patrons to rally behind the effort.
Plastic bag bans around the country
A handful of cities and counties drafted laws and ordinances based on reducing waste in their communities. California became the first state to enact a plastic bag ban in September, according to Flagpole Magazine. The source reported that it’s an international movement as well, with bans already in effect in countries such as Italy, China, Mexico and Rwanda. Major U.S. cities have joined the effort to cut down on the country’s waste including Chicago, Illinois, Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado. Currently, lawmakers in Athens, Georgia, are mulling over a way to limit the use of plastic bags in the region. Not every municipality chooses a complete ban – others including Athens consider or enact a small tax of a few cents for each plastic bag customers require. According to Flagpole, this will help retailers save money on the merchandise bags they buy, while giving the environment a helping hand.
The Albuquerque Journal explained that Santa Fe, New Mexico’s attempt to eliminate plastic bags has led people to use more paper bags, which still aren’t as eco-friendly as reusable cloth totes. Although the legislation was passed in August 2013, community leaders are now discussing adding a tax or ban for paper bags to further encourage residents to buy reusable bags.
Why plastic bag guidelines are popular
Since the 1970s, cashiers have been asking customers if they prefer paper or plastic bags for their merchandise. These days, roughly four out of five bags used in supermarkets are made of plastic.
The Plastic Industry Trade Association explained that plastic merchandise bags rose to popularity with the help of stores such as J.C. Penney and Jordan Marsh. Just a few years later, plastic grocery bags became the norm across the country. However, in the 1990s, many supermarkets added recycling receptacles to the stores so customers had an option other than sending plastic bags to landfills.
Plastic bags are produced using nonrenewable resources such as oil, according to Eco-Logics. Each year, the American demand for plastic bags equals 12 million barrels of crude oil. However, paper bags aren’t exactly the ideal alternative. Their production requires 14 million trees every year, plus they use significantly more energy to manufacture. While it seems they would break down faster in landfills, the source explained that there isn’t enough oxygen, light or water to be as effective as one would think.
Reusable bags, on the other hand, allow shoppers to fit more items in a single tote, are less harmful to manufacture and can easily be washed or mended for even more value.