How to Reduce Plastic Bag Use

plastic bag floating in the ocean to demonstrate the need to reduce plastic bag use

Recycling, reusing, and avoiding single-use bags.

If you’re anything like us, it feels like you have far too many plastic shopping bags around the house. These single-use bags pile up quickly. The bags are also one of the most frequent and recognizable types of litter. It’s hardly unusual to see them blowing around parking lots, sticking out of trees, and caught in bushes. According to a University of Waterloo study, the United States uses 100 billion of these plastic bags every year. National Geographic estimates we use one about one bag per resident per day. That adds up quick! The EPA states that less than 1% of this type of plastic is recycled each year, meaning the vast majority winds up in our landfills. We wish they ended up at our Austin recycling center instead. Here are our favorite tips on how to reduce plastic bag use.

These bags represent one of our worst uses of single-use plastic, and they are a terrible waste of resources and landfill space. Fortunately, using plastic shopping bags is almost completely avoidable. And when you find yourself forced to use one, there are ways to use or dispose of them properly.

Take your own bag 

The most responsible way to reduce plastic bag use is to stop using them altogether. But if you don’t want to juggle your groceries, you’ll need a substitute. There are plenty of wonderful ready-made reusable shopping bags, and some should even be available at your local supermarket. Materials include cotton, canvas, and long-lasting synthetics. You can also purchase reusable plastic shopping bags, made out of sturdy, easily-cleaned polypropylene. It may seem strange to trade one plastic for another, but this one will last for years instead of a single use. 

No matter what material you choose, reusable bags make all the difference. You can keep them by the door or in your car for convenience, and you can even make a fashion statement. Taking reusable shopping bags to the store is definitely the first step in successfully reducing your use of plastic bags.

Recycle plastic bags

If you end up with some plastic bags, you can still create positive change. As we said above, people in the United States recycle less than 1% of disposable plastic bags. By simply taking the initiative to properly recycle single-use bags, you’ll make a huge difference. Many communities, including our own Austin, Texas, offer curbside recycling. Other towns and cities have their own recycling solutions with bins or drop-off centers. And your local stores often accept plastic bags for recycling, generally near the entrances and exits. With a small amount of effort, you can find a convenient recycling solution that suits your situation.

Reuse your plastic bags

If you already have plastic bags, you might as well make the most of them! The same qualities that make bags terrible for landfills make them ideal for a variety of uses. Instead of bubble wrap, you can use bags as cheap packing material for shipping or storage. When you’re out for a walk with your dog, you can use a shopping bag to pick up after your pet. And there’s always the old standby: use shopping bags for small trash can liners!

Industrious individuals even use these bags for a variety of craft projects. For instance, did you know you could crochet with plastic bags? People have created everything all kinds of useful items, including crocheted reusable shopping bags.

Say no to double and triple-bagging to reduce plastic bag use

If you’re at the store without reusable bags, don’t worry. There are still ways to reduce your usage. Ask your grocery bagger to not double or triple-bag your heavier items. If you’re bagging for yourself, it’s a simple matter to use fewer bags. You may need to be a little more careful, but you’ll avoid the use of several unnecessary bags. These are small changes, but they add up over time!

Request paper instead of plastic 

This one is up to you. Paper bags take more water to produce and use more energy to transport, so they have their own share of problems. The production of paper bags leaves more of an ecological footprint, but they’re easier to dispose of responsibly. Paper bags can be composted or recycled, which keeps them out of the landfill. Either way, the best solution is still using your own reusable shopping bags.

Recycling household waste in Austin, Texas

If you’re in the Austin area, there’s a great solution for recycling home waste without waiting for pickup day or dealing with the lines at the drop-off center. Duke’s Junk Recycling handles all manner of residential junk, including furniture and mattresses. We’d love to make your recycling more convenient. Bring your junk to our new location at 6726 Burnet Rd., Austin, Texas, 78757. We can’t wait to meet you!

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