One grocery store alone can distribute thousands of produce bags every day. And even before COVID, convincing the public to bring reusable bags for their produce (or bulk food) was a challenge. Convenience is king.
Some stores have opted to use bags made at least partially from post consumer recycled plastics, but as we know, plastics can only be recycled so many times before they break down into unusable matter. Will this bag be recycled? Or will it get stuffed into a larger bag of plastic bags stored under the kitchen sink cabinet.
What’s the big deal with plastic bags?
Sorry did that sound like Seinfeld standup? Unintentional.
Plastic bags, like all plastic, start out as fossil fuels. But plastic doesn’t decompose into safe organic matter like a carrot, for example. Some plastics are not recyclable; plastic bags cannot be recycled (in most places). And even the plastics that ARE recyclable can only be recycled a certain amount of times before they break down into useless micro-matter. Plastic ends up as toxic waste in landfills and the ocean. In nature, birds and marine life often mistake shredded plastic bags for food, filling their stomachs with toxic debris, which is deadly and has resulted in plastic chemicals bioaccumulating up the food chain.
So what’s the solution? Given how difficult it has been to convince the majority of people to carry reusables, are compostable produce bags the answer? They could be, but we run into the same problems: where are they compostable? In my backyard or do they have to be processed in a facility?
Who is GOING to compost them? Me? You? The dude who doesn’t care enough to bring his reusables or recycle? I don’t expect him to start composting.
A similar issue arises with closed-loop systems. People have to be willing to bring the materials back to close the loop.However, if stores offered an incentive for doing this, like points that could go toward purchases. Maybe then it would be worth their while.