I wouldn’t go so far as to call for a complete plastic bag ban. As a pedestrian and biker, it’s not practical to carry canvas bags everywhere in case of an impromptu shopping trip. They’re also handy for picking up pet waste and reusing as trash can liners, which saves money on commercial trash bags while using less plastic. Of course, it would be better to compost rather than make trash at all, but until apartment buildings and dorms come up with realistic compost solutions for their residents, the need for trash can liners is a real one.

It’s obvious, however, that the plastic bag situation is getting out of hand. Grocery stores automatically bag and sometimes double-bag purchases without even asking first, and many of these bags are thrown in the trash immediately if not littered. The result of this is a whopping 60,000 plastic bags consumed every five seconds in the U.S. alone. These bags make their way into the environment, killing an estimated hundred thousand marine mammals and one million birds per year.

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German grocery chain Aldi does a great job reducing plastic bag waste by asking customers if they need bags and charging an additional 10 cents for each one, encouraging shoppers to bring reusable bags when they can. Original Unverpackt, Germany’s first zero-waste grocery store, takes things even further.

Original Unverpackt doesn’t offer plastic bags or sell anything that comes in a disposable container, instead offering grains in bulk bins and offering beverage stations where customers can fill up reusable bottles. I’d say they’re taking a step forward, but if you think about it, this is how shopping used to be before we got so dependent on packaging. Perhaps it would be wise to embrace a simpler way of doing things, and the challenge of coping without wasteful products we’ve gotten used to. Our ancestors didn’t have plastic bags, nor cars to cart large grocery orders around, but most of them got along just fine. Hopefully, we’ll see a zero-waste grocery like this in the U.S. someday soon!

Image source: Vimeo

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