Day 66 / 365
It ain’t a new thing, plastic bag ditching, in fact, many cities have already banned them, with plenty more to follow. Here in Paris you pay for a plastic bag if you don’t have one helping incentivise the masses to keep one on their person and make a move towards the greater good. It has become socially unacceptable in the grocery store near my house to show up with out one. I’ve even heard one cashier, in response to a customer who had forgotten to bring his, say, “bahhhhh c’est une bonne chose que vous avez les mains monsieur” (welllllll, it’s a good thing you have hands then sir).
In her defense, she was right to drop some attitude on him (though there are surely more loving ways). Plastic bags cause a huge amount of issues for the earth and her inhabitants, it’s one of the simplest sustainable switches to make, and makes a huge difference to various living things.
Plastic bags are made from ethylene which is a byproduct of petroleum (oil). Petroleum is a non renewable resource which means once we’ve used it up, it’s gone for good. The extinction of petroleum might not be something you worry about, nor might you worry about the fact that the industrial mining industry is one of the most destructive industries this world knows. But the fact is, it is, it uses as much as 10% of the world’s energy and is the top abuser of arsenic emissions, cyanide and mercury poisoning, as well as child labour, human rights abuses and swift landscape damage.
|LEOTIE LOVELY upcycled vintage tote|
* pretty much all this info comes from THIS infographic which is much funner to read than the following rhetoric
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. Once we’ve had our way with them, they find their ways to the landfill, oceans, rivers and parks, but the story doesn’t end there.
Plastic contains toxic chemicals including phthalates, flame retardants, and bisphenol-a, all of which are harmful to humans and wildlife. Of those original toxic chemicals, more adhere as plastic brakes down. This broken down toxic mess makes its way to one of the five gyres (bigger than Texas) where it is then dispersed throughout the world’s oceans. In plastic tested from The North Pacific Gyre, 40% contained pesticides like DDT, 50% contained PCB (banned by the U.S congress in 1979 for having various neurotoxic effects) and 80% contained PAHs (carcinogens).
Once in the Oceans, these plastics break down (not biodegrade, just break into pieces) through photo degradation into toxic microplastics (or microscopic synthetic granules) are ingested by marine life.
There are various horrifying ways this happens. One, for example, is that they ingest the floating plastic mistaking it for food and they die of starvation or toxicity as their stomach becomes filled with plastic. Another way, is that they get entangled in plastic bags and other plastic products and as a result drown or die of suffocation. Other marine life absorbs the toxic pollutants and either die of toxicity or we eat them, ingesting the toxicity they’ve been bathing in and the microplastics as well.
|LEOTIE LOVELY upcycled vintage tote|
Because no human has lived long enough to see a plastic bag decompose, there are arguments about whether it takes 1,000 years to decompose, or whether it ever really decomposes at all. Because plastic bags are made from polyethylene (a petroleum-derived polymer), micro organisms (the true gods of any circular story) don’t recognize it as food and thus, it can’t be digested by them and given new life. Because we don’t live long enough to watch it happen, some scientists did ‘respirometry tests‘ in which they placed things like newspapers, plastic shopping bags and banana peels in microbe-rich compost containers to see what happened. The newspaper and banana pees decomposed in days or weeks … the plastic bags are still working on it.
Removing non-compostable plastic from your garbages and drawers is a great idea too. I wrote yesterday about ways to get yourself away from zip lock bags, tupperware, and plastic wrap here, but you can also buy compostable plastic bags for your bins which will decompose in the landfill once your garbage makes it there. You’ll find tons of options in your grocery store, or on Amazon here.
It’s a pretty simple switch, stop using anything made with plastic and start using things made with natural materials. Here are a few eco + ethical suggestions to get you going:
Shameless promotion again but we gotta pay the bills somehow! I’ve got this style of tote which comes in various upcycled fabrics (email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a different print). It is eco friendly, ethical and Love made in London. SHOP LEOTIE LOVELY HERE
[NASH PRINTS IT]
Part of a collective which employs a small community of seamstresses under fair working conditions to create beautiful totes on African fabric created by a collective in West Africa. SHOP NASH HERE
British brand Cossac has some cute totes made with recycled fabrics with cute little quotes like “Come As You Are” and “Object Trouve”, plus they’re on sale! SHOP COSSAC
[DHARMA DOOR USA]
Has super cute fair trade shoppers, totes and hemp string bags made from sustainable materials which are super stylish. SHOP DHARMA DOOR
I’ve got to admit that brands using words like eco, enviro, ect.. that don’t actually make their products with eco friendly materials and don’t use ethical practices in their production are just greenwashers who kind of make me feel grumpy, but this is one of the few exceptions I’ll let them get away with it, and one of the few times I will promote manufactured materials as ‘good’ for the simple fact that they are better than plastic. I’m trying to get you to commit to is using a reusable bag and however that is done is mission accomplished in this case.
Most of the brands listed below are eco friendly. The reusable totes which collapse and are made out of polyester or nylon are strong, but ultimately not eco friendly so please keep that in mind when you’re making your choices!