Drowning in Plastic Bags

Bag full of bagsBecause I live in California where everything costs 15 times what it does everywhere else, I work several jobs. This isn’t exactly where I planned to be at this stage in my career, but life is funny that way. I’m grateful for the jobs I have. Because of them, I can pay the bills and eat, which, as you know, is very important to me.

One of my jobs is working as a sales associate in a women’s clothing store. I love my co-workers, I love this store, and shallow though it may be, I love nice clothes. They make me feel really good and if they make me look thin, I really love them. Maybe it’s because I always got hand me downs as the youngest kid — or maybe I actually am shallow.

But here’s what I’ve learned. Every item that comes into our store, comes individually wrapped in plastic. Think about that. When your eyes scan a clothing store next time, imagine every one of those pieces covered in plastic. That plastic is not recycled.  Not in my retail store and probably not in most stores. (Although when I worked in Pittsburgh there was a co-worker who was a crazed recycler and tossed our retailer’s plastic bags in the plastic bag recycling bin at the grocery store.) It’s nice to know I’m not the only obsessive plastic bag hater.

I’m guessing there’s no recycling because it would be a hassle or expensive, but imagine if each retailer decided to make a difference by recycling the mountain of plastic that comes into their stores every day. Walmart, Macy’s, Target, JC Penney, Sears, Nordstrom, K-Mart, REI, Dicks…my head practically explodes when I think of how many retailers are out there and how much plastic that amounts to on a daily basis. Think how much less would be in our landfills and how wonderful the public’s perception of each store would be if they did that.

I saw an article online a few years ago about a Japanese man who created a machine that turns plastic back into oil. I think this is a fantastic idea, but for some reason no one is doing it on a large scale yet and I don’t understand why…must be money.  I’m sure my businessman brother will explain to me that there’s not enough money in it, which is why people aren’t doing it, but aren’t we better than that? Why can’t we just do things because they’re the right thing to do to save our planet? Here’s a link to the story. Man Invents Machine to Turn Plastic Into Oil.

In an online article by ABC News called, “Retailers Push Reusable Bags to Save Money, Environment,” they do mention that retailers are starting to consider the environment and are selling reusable bags. Stella McCartney and Hermes are two of the first to do it, and I applaud them for taking the time to think about the earth. It’s only so big, and once it’s covered in all our garbage, it’s going to be pretty disgusting. Many places are already covered in garbage.

close up bags.JPG

The bags I recycle to use for Topper’s poop.

Every day when I walk my dog, and yes, unfortunately I do use a plastic bag to clean up his poop — I use the one the newspaper is wrapped in every day (See? There’s something else I should stop doing – getting a paper! The list is endless, and so is this sentence.) I see so much trash on the street, it’s sickening. I do pick some of it up, but why aren’t we teaching our kids not to litter? (I knew I shouldn’t have gotten started on this because now I won’t shut up.)

Anyway, the reusable bag article goes on to say, “Americans throw away almost 100 billion plastic bags each year and only 1% to 3% are recycled.” As I’ve said before, I’ve been recycling my plastic bags for years and have been mocked for it by friends. Here again, is the shot of my Plastic bag dryer  bought as a joke, but I use it all the time! It’s available at Amazon and other places. good plastic bag dryer

And don’t get me started on dry cleaners. How much plastic must they go through? Is it necessary? Maybe they should ask if you want a plastic bag, instead of just giving you one.

I think we need to create a movement to push big retailers and drycleaners nationwide to start recycling their plastic bags AND we need to start bringing our own bags to the store when we shop – not just for groceries, but for everything. Why bring home bags that just get thrown away when we don’t have to? If we can do it when we grocery shop, we can do it when we clothing shop too. I don’t shop much, but from now on, that’s what I’m going to do.

And next time you go into your favorite clothing store, ask them if they recycle their plastic bags. If they say no, call or contact them via email and tell them to start. (Many links are listed below — now you have no excuse.)

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could start something here? Below this post are the articles I reference and the links to contact large retailers. If you like this idea, then please share this post, like it and re-post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or wherever else it will get some attention, and tell your friends to do it too. I’m sensing a movement here.

Let’s do something about this. I know I sound idealistic and naive, but somebody has to be idealistic and naive, and who better than me? I swear after this detour into recycling I will get back to cooking, baking and avoiding arrest.

“Fast Fashion, the Second Dirtiest Industry”

“Waste Couture, the Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry”

“Where Does Discarded Clothing Go?”

L.A.’s Plastic Bag Problem Hasn’t been Solved…

“Bag Hangers”

“Can I Recycle Plastic Bags in the Recycling Bin?”

Contact Link for Walmart

Contact Link for Macy’s

Contact Link for Target

Contact Link for JC Penney

Contact Link for Sears

Contact Link for Nordstrom

Contact Link for KMart

Contact Link for REI

Contact Link for Dicks

Contact Link for Chicos

Contact Link for JJill

Contact Link for Costco

Contact Link for Kroger

Contact Link for Home Depot

Contact Link for Lowes

Contact Link for Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy

Contact Link for Home Goods, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Sierra Trading Post

Contact Link for Bed, Bath and Beyond

15 thoughts on “Drowning in Plastic Bags

  1. Fran, my guess is that you burn more gas each week in your Honda Pilot than you save by recycling a year’s worth of plastic bags and the fuel that Hollywood A-listers burn in their private jets would take care of all of Glendale’s plastic bags each year. If it makes you feel better to recycle the do it. As you mentioned, I already do it, but remember that progress in our standard of living has its’ costs. Unless and until it’s is cheaper to make from recycled than new it won’t happen and when government gets too involved the laws of unintended consequences will cause a new set of problems. Think of all the jobs that are created through technology and the improvement in our standard of living including clothes, housing, medicine and electronic technology. Would you rather be living in medieval Europe with less pollution but a much shorter and challenging life or today with all the benefits and associated costs? Technology certainly causes problems, but technology also can cure them and they do. Until then, do your part by getting rid of your iphone, computer, refrigerator, flat screen, nylons, medicines and your car and start tilling the soil and making your own clothes so you can do your part to end this madness that has allowed you to live a far better life than Louis XIV, Catherine the Great and Marie Antoinette. Brother Bob

    • My Darling Bob,
      I think there is definitely room for compromise in between where we are now and going back to tilling the soil. We just have to be willing to do it. If not, then it won’t matter how many jobs there are if people can’t live in the pollution caused by industry. I’m not suggesting that government get involved, I am hoping that the companies that are creating the problem will help solve it. Why not try to create a better world for our grandchildren?

      • Exactly my point. Do what you can but don’t agonize over the little things. We have a far better life today because of entrepreneurship and the application of technology to solve problems for society. Put all in perspective and understand the bigger picture. Also not sure who is creating the plastic bag problem – The bag producers, the stores that buy them or the consumers who choose to use them. My guess is if consumers refused to use, the the manufacturers would be out of business. Next time you go shopping tell the supermarket that you refuse to shop there until they get rid of plastic bags. Oh wait, didn’t you get arrested there last week? Maybe not a good idea.
        Love, Bob

  2. I’ve been using canvas bags for groceries for over 20 years. Even with all the talk about the evils of plastic bags I am shocked at how many people still take $100+ in groceries in plastic bags. I am not a fan of shopping but I do have a couple of big bags and I will take them the next time I head for SteinMart. The bags that do land in my house (mostly fruit and veggie bags) are all recycled. This year I have started composting in an effort to recycle some trash. It is a good feeling to look in the recycle barrel on trash day and see it almost empty.

    • Wow Cathy, you are my role model! I would compost, but I live in an apartment and I doubt my landlord would go for it. Thanks for being so impressive. Please consider reposting my blog to Facebook, the more people we reach the better! xoxox

  3. Fran, it is so refreshing that you feel so strongly about this issue and took the time to add all of those links to your post. I really think you are onto something and raising awareness is just the beginning! Once I get some sleep I will hopefully be motivated to help get the word out 🙂

    • Bless you Monica! I really do think people just aren’t aware of how much waste we produce, it’s pretty staggering. Any help you can offer by reposting or writing to the companies is greatly appreciated! xoxox Wish you were here to mix me a drink!

    • You are going to get me in trouble Chas! Bob recycles too, but he understands the minds of big business people way better than I ever will, which is helpful. Thanks for always reading, you are absolutely fabulous!

  4. I remember hearing an interview where the guest spoke excitedly about the degradable plastic bag his company was manufacturing. It breaks down into a “soil-like” substance, he bragged. The host wanted a further explanation of that end product, which the guest could not provide.

    • I’d love to know who it was and what it broke down into. Hmmm….
      Thanks for reading Rob and please share so we can get as many people to write and make companies aware that they need to do something!

  5. I recycle my plastic bags at Gelson’s and carry about 15 cloth bags in my vehicle. There is No Excuse not to support this, other than Laziness & Dunce, like in “Duuuuh.”

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