Here in Wales, we’ve been paying 5p for each of our single-use plastic shopping bags since October 2011, and the scheme seems to work. Less than a year after the launch of the charge, retailers were seeing reductions of plastic bag use of 35-95%. The same thing happened in Northern Ireland in 2013, and Scotland is due to catch up in the eco-race against the plastics in October 2014.
Carrying reusable shopping bags around with you may seem inconvenient, but if you make one of those bags your handbag or backpack, you can just scrunch the rest of them inside ready to carry your groceries home. It’s a simple (but very effective) sustainable shopping technique. I’ve accepted only a handful of plastic bags over the last few years – and those under the duress of the mere thought of lugging the weekly shop home without the reusable bags I left behind in the kitchen – and my trusty hessian sack is still going strongly despite the weekly manhandling and over-packing.
Plastic bags aren’t only ugly, but dangerous too. As they clog up landfill sites, they contaminate the soil and water around with the pollutants in the plastic. Frankly, we’re all better off not using them. So what could you use in their place?
Reusable Plastic Shopping Bags
There are plenty of reusable plastic bags around, and we’ve all come across the so-called ‘Bags for Life’ which the supermarkets began to sell alongside their throwaway options. These bags are recyclable, bio-degradable, durable, lightweight, strong, foldable, washable, and air permeable, but they’re still made of plastic which can leak harmful chemicals given the chance – and that isn’t ideal.
Natural Woven Reusable Shopping Bags
Woven bags, such as the loyal hessian companion mentioned earlier, are pretty nifty. They’re made from all kinds of natural materials such as cotton, jute, bamboo, and hemp. These are all great materials which are sustainable and non-toxic. When the time comes to replace my hessian hero (inevitably this will come about in public, with me surrounded by tumbling groceries), and once I’ve made my way through the six or seven other bags in my bag-for-life mountain, I’ll be moving on to a sustainable hemp replacement.