BYOB: Bring your own bag?
Published: Sep 17, 2013
If we are like most countries around the world, each person in The Bahamas uses about 200 plastic bags a year and I bet most of us recycle these, not necessarily out of a desire to be environmentally friendly, but because – face it – it saves us from buying so many expensive garbage bags.
We use them to line small garbage bins, take clothes to the laundry, pack our beach picnic and unfortunately many of these bags find their way into the water and are mistaken for food by our marine life.
As you go about your regular routine this week, no doubt you will observe our wasteful attitude towards these bags. I would like to see packers ask whether we want a bag or not, especially when the purchases are small and we might already be clutching bags from other stores or, if you’re like me, your hand bag can be described as a hold all.
It’s OK to stop the packer giving each grocery item its own bag and then for good measure doubling the bag – I’ve done it. Unless you plan to walk home, and most of us don’t walk very far from the look of it, this practice is ridiculous.
Of course, if we had to pay 10 cents for each bag we used, I think the wastefulness would reduce dramatically. This fee, not tax, could be allocated to not-for-profit groups aimed at helping to keep our beaches and other public spaces clean.
The Irish were successful in reducing plastic bag use by 75 percent through a 20-cent charge for each bag. These bags do account for a small percentage of trash but the fact that they purportedly take hundreds of years to biodegrade and are harmful to the marine environment is a cause for concern.
According to Natural-Environment.com, plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food. Between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year and the manufacture of plastic bags add tonnes of carbon emissions into the air annually.
Some countries like Haiti are trying to curb the plastic bag and styrofoam container use that is so problematic to those charged with minimizing litter in their streets and waterways. To their credit, they have imposed a ban on these items beginning August 1 this year.
We owe it to ourselves to cut the use of these bags and there is a real business opportunity to penetrate the market with reuse bags. This is equally important for our enjoyment of the environment and indeed to protect our livelihood. I live for the day when BYOB will universally be understood as Bring Your Own Bag.
• We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sonia Brown is the principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.