Contributed by Carol Montgomery, Plastic Bag Committee of the Mat-Su Zero Waste Coalition
For the past ten months, a team of Mat-Su volunteers has been trying to reduce the numbers of plastic bags we see floating around our Valley. You may have seen us in front of grocery stores, at the libraries, in parades, at community council meetings, clean-ups and other events.
Grocery stores seem to love to give us plastic bags whether we need them or not. I’ve seen well-meaning checkers double bag a gallon of milk and a six-pack carrier, covering up the already convenient carrying handles of these containers. They’re free, so why should we care? But are they really free? If everyone in the Valley uses four plastic bags a week, that adds up to over twenty-one million bags each year! Only about 3% are recycled, so what happens to all these bags?
Even when disposed of properly, plastic bags catch the wind and blow out of landfills, dumpsters and garbage trucks. I think we all cringe when we see these bags littering our roadways and scenic views. Not only is it bad for tourism, but animals, including our own reindeer and caribou, like to eat them and they die when the plastic blocks their gut.
Eventually these bags end up in our rivers, lakes and ultimately the ocean. They don’t biodegrade, but break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic that get eaten by plankton and other sea creatures. Salmon eat the plankton and so it comes back to us on our dinner plates. I don’t think anybody wants this.
We understand that plastic grocery bags have their uses. Many people line their trashcans with grocery bags. But how many do you really need? Instead of adding to the twenty-one million bags in the Valley every year, BYOB or bring your own bag. A sturdy reusable bag can be used hundreds of times, holds more, is easier to carry and doesn’t tear or flop around in your car.
So BYOB and talk to your friends and neighbors about using reusable bags. Let’s work together to spread the word and reduce this wasteful habit. Just say “No” or “No, thank you” to plastic bags.