by Petra Pansky
Reusables are not all they're cracked up to be.
So, Walmart has halted the availability of plast single use bags at it's stores in Canada as of this week. Everyone is cheering about how wonderful that is, how it's helping the environment, etc. I'm not totally convinced it's such a great idea, unlike most people. At least not for people who have groceries delivered to their home. As it happens, I'm one of those people.
When I learned about Walmarts new bag policy I wondered what they would be using instead of plastic bags. So I called them and asked. Customer service told me that paper bags are now being used in addition to "reusable" bags which they reserve for frozen items. These reusable bags are the ones that look like their made of material, but they are actually made of a type of ... plastic! This plastic is called "polypropylene". After looking up info online about these bags, even though they are called biodegradable, I discovered they don't decompose much faster than your average plastic grocery bag.
"...when PP (polypropylene) is abused or disposed of improperly, it can be toxic and harmful to the environment.
Products made of PP which are dumped in landfills can take around 20-30 years to completely decompose, and unfortunately, most residential recycling receptacles and local recycling centers are not equipped to recycle PP, which requires either companies or individual consumers to seek out companies which handle polypropylene recycling."
I don't understand why they call them single use plastic bags. I'm sure I'm not the only one to reuse plastic grocery bags as trash can liners. Other people use them to scoop what their dogs have pooped. I don't think anyone will be using a reusable bag as a replacement for pooping & scooping purposes. I asked customer service if customers can return the reusable bags to the grocery delivery driver the next time they place an order. I was told no.
I cannot use the reusables in the same way I used the single use plastic bags ie: as a liner for my bathroom trash can, because they're thicker and a little larger. I experimented and half the trash can is occupied with the trash bag, which means if I use them for this purpose I'll only be able to fill the bag half way. How wasteful since I rarely use grocery bags for anything else.
What's the point of switching if you're simply replacing one type of plastic for another?
In my opinion, stores which promote the use of reusable bags should also be required to have a system in place whereby customers can return their used polypropylene bags for recycling. The entire cycle, from initial creation to final disposal needs to be taken into account, and everyone needs to be involved - sellers, users, and manufacturers.