Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Confessions of an Eco-Jerk... Fantastic Plastic.

Ahhh, plastic bags. So strong. So versatile. So crinkly underfoot.


I thought I'd kick off my Eco-Jerk confessions with the plastic bag issue - an oldie but a goodie! Plastic bag use is one of THE most unsustainable aspects of our society. Made using lots of energy and non-renewable resources, used in large numbers and discarded without reuse, non-degradable, clogging up landfill, choking animals... and so on.

For a long time, I felt vaguely guilty about using plastic shopping bags so often, but that did not compute to actually bringing my reusable bags. It just seemed too hard, and, well, everybody else was still using them! (Funny how often that excuse pops into my head). Plus, it just seemed like a token gesture to reject plastic shopping bags when practically everything else came covered in plastic wrapping and packaging.

Over the last few years my green conscience has grown. For me, being eco-conscious used to involve half-hearted recycling. If the bin wasn't too far away. Now I see the greater importance of reducing consumption altogether, and thoughtfully reusing what I do accumulate. This has FINALLY driven home the need to avoid accumulating plastic bags.

Saying no to plastic
Things I am doing to reduce my plastic bag use (nothing new here!):

1. Providing my own bags at the shops. Mostly. See below.

2. Not buying plastic bags: garbage bags, bin liners, sandwich bags.

3. Avoiding over-packaged products and bulk-buying.

4. Washing and reusing zip-lock bags. I was inspired to do this by Amanda Hunt's article in Mixtape zine issue 4.

Saying yes to plastic?
*Gulp* - I do still actively use plastic bags. Mostly, I line the kitchen bin with shop-bags, which I get intentionally for that purpose. I detest bin-juice! I've wondered about what other people do in this instance. Does anyone go plastic bag free and just wash out the bin? If so, tell me. Am I just being wussy? I need inspiration.

I'm also wondering about biodegradable/water-soluble plastic bags. I've seen such products online and they sound great. Why aren't they stocked in supermarkets? A bit of light bedtime reading (!) suggests that they're more complicated that they sound. First, there are many different 'degradable' products, some far better than others, and not all very sustainable to produce. Second, they still require the right conditions to break down, and it's not likely that many will end up in such conditions. Most of these bags will also end up sitting in landfill for centuries. Would buying them be just a band-aid solution?

Having FUN with plastic!
Anyway, let's not get too heavy. Here are some cool crafty things I'd like to try with plastic bags. When we have a stockpile, which we currently don't (hurrah!).

1. Reusable lunch bags: Check out this fabulous idea at Consumption Rebellion - spunking up zip-lock bags to reuse.

2. Knitting and crocheting with plastic bags? Get out!

3. Fusing plastic bags to make other longer-lasting bags (also at Craftzine).

Have you done anything fun with plastic? Apart from suffocating the spouse, of course...
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  1. Hi Gina... Love your plastic bag story :)
    I really try to not use them too but they still end up at home. so i give them to our local thrift store. They reuse them. Or our local daycare use them to wrap dirty nappies. I go naked with my bin. But I have a little compost bucket which I wash out.
    Remember crocheted bread bags. I had a hat. Gorgeous!!!

  2. I buy degradable plastic bags from the supermarket for bin liners. They definitely do break down, I know because I have stored wool in some, no special conditions, in a dark cupboard, and they have totally crumbled.
    They are not perfect but they are better then non-degardable ones.
    You could always wash out your bin, I know some people who do. Perhaps that could be a man job?
    I still sometimes forget my shopping bags and end up with more plastic bags, I use them in place of glad wrap, and also sometimes cut them up and crochet with them. Loved those links by the way.

  3. Ah yes, I remember cutting up bread bags and crocheting them into toiletry bags! Strangely satisfying!

  4. Right - you've hit the nail on the head with this one. The only time I use plastic bags is for the bin liner... and I've been wondering what the hell everyone else is using! The washing-out everything seems to me counter-productive because I'm then using excess water (of which I am an fiend about). So it's great you've raised this, and thanks to crafty above for mentioning the degradable plastic bags... I clearly didn't know about these. Guess what I'll be buying on the weekend :)

  5. I thought of you today when I used a mushroom paper bag for beans at the vegie market instead of a plastic one. At least I can chop that up and put it in the compost! I don't know why I didn't think of doing that before, duh.


“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
~Albert Einstein