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Are there some easy ways to reduce the use of plastic bags?
You bet! There are plenty of simple tricks that you can do, to avoid using this single-use item.
Here are 11 ways to reduce the use of plastic bags:
- Count your plastic bag usage for a month
- Bring your own reusable bag
- Refuse plastic bags
- Use a box from the shop
- Empty the trolley directly in your car
- Get a small foldable bag and keep it on your key chain
- Reuse your ‘single-use’ plastic bags
- Repurpose your plastic bags
- When shopping, always get additional bags
- Recycle plastic bags
- Don’t use plastic bags for your trash bin
Let’s observe each idea below, and answer some frequently asked questions:
11 ways to reduce the use of plastic bags
Better options: Sustainable & reusable bags
- Why should we reduce the use of plastic?
- How to avoid single-use plastic?
- Are biodegradable plastic bags better?
- Paper bags vs. plastic bags – which one better?
11 ways to reduce the use of plastic bags:
1. Count your plastic bag usage for a month
Eye-opening & Motivating
If you are a heavy plastic bag user, or you often forget your reusable bag, just start counting how many single-use plastic bags you use for a month.
This can be a tremendous eye-opening challenge, as it will allow you to see the plastic bag waste you create.
Then, you might feel more motivated to use reusable bags, because you will know that even though it is a small change, it is a better choice, and it can make a difference in your personal life.
2. Bring your own reusable bag
Learn how to create a habit
Quite obvious is to bring your reusable bags. The challenging part is to remember to take it. A few tips that can help you to remember your bags are:
Put it in a visible place near your front door.
If you have a car, keep 1-2 bags inside.
Put an essential item in your reusable bag. If you put your keys, phone, purse, or another important thing, you will be most likely to remember to bring it with you.
If you write grocery lists, write “Bring bags” as the first item on your list.
Hang them on your doorknob.
3. Refuse plastic bags
Be an example
Even if you forget your bag, you can still refuse a plastic one.
Plus, sometimes you are given a single-use bag, even if you don’t need it. Refusing it, and (politely) reminding the cashier that they are bad for the environment, is another simple way to reduce the use of plastic bags.
Simply tell the cashier you’re going bagless and carry stuff out in your hands instead. And learn for the future to bring your bag! 😀
4. Use a box from the shop
Think outside the box
In case you are buying more things, and you forgot your bag, roam around the shop and look for a box. There’s almost always a few in the veggie section. If you can’t find one, ask the staff for one. They often have a lot of them.
5. Empty the trolley directly in your car
Still no need for a single-use plastic bag
If you have a car, put everything back in the trolley after the checkout. Then, go with the cart to your car, and put everything inside, without the need for a single-use plastic bag.
6. Get a small foldable bag and keep it on your key chain
For most people, the most challenging aspect of this is remembering to take their reusable bags into the store. Creating a new habit can be hard.
That’s why you can get a small foldable bag, like this one on Amazon (comes with produce bags!), that’s specially designed to fit your key chain.
In that way, you will always have a bag on hand, because who goes out without their keys anyway?
7. Reuse your ‘single-use’ plastic bags
Behavior change against throw-away society
If you find yourself full of single-use plastic bags, simply take them with you next time you visit the store and keep using them until they are in good shape.
When they’ve been used and reused, and they’re at the end of their life, the only remaining option is to recycle them.
8. Repurpose your plastic bags
One of the best things you can do is to make a durable tote bag from single-use plastic bags!
If you have collected a lot of single-use plastic bags and you don’t know what to do with them, you can make a few DIY durable & reusable tote bags.
It is quite simple, and all you need is a few plastic bags, an iron, and a sheet of baking paper.
9. When shopping, always get additional bags
Maybe sometimes (or more often) you end up needing more bags than you got.
So, just be on the safe side and take most or ALL of your reusable bags! In that way, you won’t end up getting a plastic bag from the shop, because you can’t fit all of your groceries.
10. Recycle plastic bags
Research for drop-off locations
Recycling is another way to dispose of single-use plastic bags.
Most recycling collection systems can’t handle well plastic bags, so its best to find a drop-off recycling locations for plastic bags instead.
The easiest thing you can do is to look for supermarkets and grocery stores near you that provide plastic bag recycling bins.
Or do a quick online search, or ask friends and in local Facebook groups, and find the closest available drop-off recycling collection bins.
11. Don’t use plastic bags for your trash bin
Get creative & try new things!
A lot of times, an excuse to get a plastic bag is that most people use it to line their trash bin with them.
But the truth is that you DON’T need to use plastic bags for your trash bin. How else will I throw my trash, you might ask??? Well, there are 3 simple but effective alternatives:
1) Line your container with newspapers
Believe it or not, you can use old newspaper pages to create a “trash bag”. It is pretty simple, and there are plenty of youtube tutorials like this one:
2) Get a reusable recycling bin
A great alternative to a trash can is a reusable bag that has different sections for different types of trash.
The three separations will help you to sort recyclable materials: metal, paper, and plastic. It is comfortable to carry around because of the aluminum handle, and it is easy to clean.
3) Don’t line your trash bin with a plastic bag
It might not work for everybody, but you can rinse the bin between uses. Especially if you wash packages, that are dirty with food, and if you separate your trash *which you should!*, you won’t even have to clean it that often.
And remember to compost your food scraps!
2. Better options: Sustainable & reusable bags
1) Use what you already have
It can be a tote bag, backpack, plastic or paper bags, etc
2) Check secondhand stores
You can find awesome reusable bags in local secondhand stores, or you can find them in online secondhand shops, like depop, ThredUP, Poshmark, etc.
3) Recycled reusable bags
You can try to find recycled, reusable bags on Etsy or Amazon.
4) Upcycled reusable bags
Check individual sellers on Etsy and their awesome creations. For example, my grandma makes denim bags from recycled jeans.
She makes different sizes, models, colors, and styles. And they are all unique & single piece.
5) Reusable shopping bags with sustainable materials
We usually use single-use plastic bags for about 20 minutes. They are light and can travel long distances. That makes them a massive contributor to the pollution of our environment and killing hundreds of animals.
5 trillion bags are produced each year. And plastic bags represent LESS than 1 percent of the waste going to landfill.
Imagine how many more millions of single-use plastics are thrown away every single day.
Plastic is one of the most common material found in landfills and the ocean. It can take up to 1000 years to degrade, and to transform into microplastics.
It leaches toxic chemicals, which are harmful to your wildlife, and environment.
There have been single-use plastic bans and restrictions, but that’s not enough. Consumers, like you and me, need to understand the problem and to find better alternatives.
1) Stop using plastic produce bags – Also known as barrier bags; you can find these in rolls near fresh fruits and vegetables in supermarkets. Use reusable produce bags instead of these single-use plastic bags.
2) Educating yourself – Learn more about the problems of a “disposable” “single-use society.” This can help you to create some behavior changes that could make a significant difference
3) Refuse – Say “no” to single-use items, such as:
- Plastic forks & knives
- Grocery bags
- Coffee cups and lids
- Plastic water bottles
- Take out containers
- Disposable razors
- Plastic straws
4) Find reusable alternatives – Discover which are the single-use items you use on a daily or weekly basis, and switch to plastic-free items. For example, switch from:
- Plastic forks & knives –> Bamboo cutlery set
- Grocery bags –> Reusable bags
- Coffee cups and lids –> Reusable coffee mug
- Plastic water bottles –> Reusable water bottle
- Take out containers –> Reusable container
- Disposable razors –> Stainless steel razor
- Plastic straws –> Reusable aluminum/glass straw
5) Be prepared – Thing ahead, and try to remember to take with you your reusables! This might take some time because you will need to create new habits.
You may forget to take your reusables sometimes, but just know that to learn & remember, you need to make mistakes first. Don’t be too harsh to yourself, but simply learn from your slips.
Don’t be fooled by “biodegradable” plastic bags.
The truth is that a lot of energy and other resources go to create any kind of bag. That can’t be sustainable when it is an item that we dispose of after a single-use.
Furthermore, biodegradable plastic is very tricky – almost every material will eventually biodegrade, given enough time.
Most biodegradable plastics are made from traditional petrochemicals but designed to break down faster. The breakdown is reliant on temperature and humidity. If it ends up in a landfill, it will get buried, and the breakdown process will stop, because of the lack of light and oxygen.
Additionally, the waste management infrastructure in most places is not suitable for biodegradable plastics. And mixing biodegradable plastics with regular waste can hold some problems.
Related post: What is biodegradable plastic made of?
There is a common belief that paper bags are more environmentally friendly than plastic bags. However –
Don’t be fooled by PAPER bags, either.
Even though they sound like a good sustainable option, they are not. To produce paper bags:
- it takes twice the energy used to provide a plastic bag
- it requires much more water than the manufacture of plastic
- it produces more greenhouse gases
- they can’t break down properly if they end up in a landfill
Overall, it isn’t a “green” or sustainable option.
A benefit is that paper bags can be easily recycled or composted. This means that they are less harmful to the environment. But this is only the paper bag doesn’t end up in a landfill.
That’s why try to use your reusable bags or find better alternatives.
As you can see, there are plenty of easy and creative ways to reduce the use of plastic bags.
Moreover, it is essential to try our best, because while plastic pollution is growing, we, the consumers, can make a positive change.
Do you have any additional tips on ways to reduce the use of plastic bags?
Share them in the comments below!