With the steady wind in Tracy, it’s not hard to imagine how plastic bags end up stuck up in trees miles from where they were littered. Plastic has now outpaced all other litter, with 60 to 80 percent of marine litter consisting of some type of plastic.
There is even a plastic ocean, bigger than the size of Texas, off our coastline, caught in the North Pacific Gyre. Imagine a flotilla of plastic bags, bottles, thrown-away plastic containers caught in the vortex of currents, breaking down into a broth of plastic. Now imagine marine animals, birds and wildlife munching on the tidbits, mistaking the plastic debris as food.
Our food chain now is feeding on plastic. Want some oil spill with your shrimp or plastic?
Plastic grocery bags have been coined “urban tumbleweed” by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, the author of the plastic bag ban bill recently passed in the California Assembly. The bill, AB1998, having passed the Assembly and now before a state Senate committee, would ban plastic bags charge 5 cents for every paper bag used in a grocery store or pharmacy. To avoid the cost, all customers need to do is use their own reusable bags. The bill even has the support of the Grocers Association.
I can hear the naysayers becoming apoplectic, complaining about the burden of cost in these economic times, while forgetting about the hidden cost we already pay for disposable plastic bags.
We pay for the plastic, made from foreign oil. We pay for the bags, the cost passed onto us, the consumer, in higher food bills. We pay for the bags to be shipped to landfills, the 17.5 million that are thrown away each year. We pay for the clean-up, as the bags clog our storm drain lines, waterways and beaches.
If you’re a smart shopper, reusable bags will cost you no more than $1 apiece. They hold the equivalent of three plastic bags worth of food.
Start with five. Fold them up and store them in your car. Reuse them over and over again when you shop for groceries. In one year, you will save 552 plastic bags from being created, blown away in the wind, buried in a landfill, or eaten by wildlife. Five bucks is a worthy investment to save the planet.
For a change: Recycle your plastic bags. Don’t let them become litter in the breeze or flotsam for our waterways.
To make a difference: Buy reusable (non-plastic) bags. Buy enough for your largest shopping trip. Buy a set for each car, handy for all shopping trips. For more compact versions, buy stuff sacks that compress in size to the palm of your hand at www.reuseablebags.com.
To make a stand: Use your reusable bags at the farmer’s market to buy produce, the mall when you shop for clothes and shoes, and at Subway when you get lunch.
• Christina D.B. Frankel is a 20-year Tracy resident, architect and mother of three. Her column, Living Green, runs every so often in the Tracy Press. She can be reached at email@example.com.