Plastic bags are commonly used in grocery and department stores. While convenient, the single-use bags don’t biodegrade; ending up in garbage dumps across the country. These light weight bags are easily carried by the wind and can end up being washed into streams, rivers and lakes where the plastic will slowly break into bits and release toxins into the waterways. In addition, the smaller pieces make the bags easier for fish, birds and mammals to ingest, which causes choking, strangulation and poisoning.
The controversy over using plastic shopping bags has gained a lot of press over the past few years, and communities across the country have either banned or are working to ban plastic bags. The city of San Francisco, California has already banned the bags and charges $0.10 for paper bags; encouraging shoppers to remember their re-usable bags. Additional cities and counties across the country are considering similar bans or already have such controls in place. Many regions also encourage the recycling of plastic bags by requiring stores to provide plastic bag recycling bins. While these bans and fees represent progress, these are big changes and can take a long time to make a noticeable difference in the health of our watersheds.
While the news can be discouraging, there are things we can all do right now to help:
- Pick-up a few re-usable bags and always remember to take them with you when you shop.
- Don’t use plastic bags for your household trash. Instead, compost your food scraps and throw non-compostable items directly into a garbage can. Recycle as much as possible.
- Pack lunches in washable bags or containers instead of disposable sandwich and snack bags.
- Volunteer with the EPA as a watershed steward in your local community.
- Sign-up for local creek and beach clean-up days.
- Report polluted waterways to, or volunteer with Creeklife.
Creeklife works to raise funds for clean-ups as well as finding people to assist in the cleaning efforts. For more information on protecting watersheds and rivers from the harmful effects of plastic, visit our
Posted by Mark Contorno