Last year was full of ups and downs. One of our favorite things that happened in 2020 was New York State finally placing a plastic bag ban and beginning to enforce the law in October, mandating that, “any ‘person required to collect tax’ must not distribute any plastic carryout bags to its customers unless such bags are exempt bags as provided for in the Bag Waste Reduction Law.” The Empire State’s plastic bag ban was signed into law in March, but a lawsuit challenging the law stopped the U.S. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from enforcing it until October.
Before the ban, New Yorkers were using about 23 billion plastic bags each year, according to the DEC. Additionally, the World Watch Institute concludes that 4 to 5 trillion plastic bags were produced in a single year and 100 billion plastic grocery bags are tossed every year by Americans alone. The plastic bag ban is intended to help the state cut back on litter and reduce greenhouse emissions caused by plastic bag production. The Bag Waste Reduction Law is a great demonstration of New York’s commitment to creating a more sustainable future.
Because we aren’t able to recycle single-use plastic bags, they end up accumulating and eventually become a massive portion of human-related ocean pollution that crowds the seabed. These thin, polyethylene plastic bags are devastating to aquatic life, resulting in the death of countless sea creatures every year. Like so many other plastic products, single-use grocery bags do nothing more than clog up the machines used to recycle other materials. Not only is the polyethylene impossible to break down and reuse, but it can take up to 1,000 years to completely decompose in a landfill. Roughly 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually fills up our oceans. Even if single-use plastics make it to the landfill, they can still cause harm to the environment. Landfill liners can leak harmful pollutants into the watershed, including plastics on top of landfills.
New York now stands with four other states that are presently enforcing plastic bag bans. These states include Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Vermont. Maine, Delaware, and Connecticut also have bans set to go into effect this year. Even if your state doesn’t have a ban on single-use plastic bags, the best way to help to minimize the detrimental effects of plastic bag pollution is to avoid using them—always bring your own, reusable bags when hitting the stores! The best part about switching to reusable grocery bags is how easy and affordable it is to make the change. You can often find inexpensive, reusable bags at the grocery store you shop at. If not, you can browse Amazon for a complete set. There are so many different shapes and sizes of reusable grocery bags available, and you can even purchase a mesh bag for your produce to forgo the plastic produce sacks.
Washable bags that are designed for multiple uses (like the ones made from cloth) are ideal. Be sure to keep them in your car and/or carry them in your backpack or purse so you always have them handy. Similarly, you can keep some hanging near your door or coat closet to increase the likelihood that you’ll remember to grab them on your way out. Just by bringing your reusable bags while shopping, you are helping prevent litter and waste.
Collectively, we can make a real difference and positively impact the environment around us. Refuse to use single-use plastic bags, even if it is not mandated by law. Find out how you can keep improving your environmental impact with Kiwi Energy, and stay tuned to our blog for more ways you can make more eco-minded choices.