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Triple-win Climate Solutions: Say no to plastic bags

Judy Covin

Oct 4, 2020

Asheville Greenworks says the average shopper collects about 500 plastic shopping bags a year — probably a low estimate. So what does this have to do with our changing climate?

All plastics are made from fossil fuels. Through their production, gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are released, contributing to global climate change.

Plastic bags have other downsides: 1.They are not biodegradable in landfills. 2. They are A major source of cancer-causing chemicals leaked into land and air.

Yet they make money for the oil industry. Elected officials allow them because this industry is a big campaign contributor — double what climate groups can donate. For 2020 the industry and its PACS have donated $1,514,901 to the campaigns of Trump, $215,804 to Tillis, and $302,092 to Biden.

What you can do now: Most of us are familiar with the three Rs — Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Actually, several more R’s are a part of this slogan. One that comes before Reduce is Refuse. Refuse is a good response to plastic bags. But what can we substitute?

Do we go back to paper? No, although they are compostable. Making paper requires removing trees, needed to capture carbon. We need to be planting trees, not removing them!

Reusable cotton bags are a great choice! Most grocery stores sell them and encourage their use — it saves them money. Reusable bags may be washed for indefinite use.

At first, remembering to bring them to the store can be a problem. I’ve used them for at least 40 years, and find if I keep them in my vehicle, at least part of the problem is solved.

I used to attach a sticky note to my steering wheel to remind myself to take them into the store, but habit took hold after a while.

Grocery stores could help customers by placing a sign at the entrance reminding us to bring our reusable bags.

Even during the pandemic, I know of no stores that don’t allow reusable bags, but they may ask you to bag your purchases. For fresh produce, groceries could help by selling reusable mesh bags. Ask your store to have them available. In the meantime, you may buy online.

Have plastic bags at home? re-use, or recycle at store recycling bins; some stores recycle #1, #2, and #4 clean bags. Bags containing carrots, potatoes, and bread are all recyclable.

If you have questions, call the corporate offices. Try to avoid recycling at or adding to our overloaded county facilities.

Win-win-win: 1) Every fossil product avoided helps prevent wildfires, mudslides, floods and droughts, which climate change is increasing in frequency and intensity. 2) Your children and grandchildren will inherit a livable Earth. 3) You’ll be a better steward of creation.

Who says — the experts:

Yale Climate Connections: “How Plastics Contribute to Climate Change”

What you need to act now:

Judy Covin is a strong advocate for mitigating the climate crisis, leading in our committee on plastics and landfills. Her husband Riley is a retired Presbyterian minister.

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