The Five Rs: Number one = REFUSE

Canal debris

Image by Polandeze

One of my big pet peeves is plastics and, denture to be specific, and plastic bags. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell me I can “just recycle them” that doesn’t change the fact that they are a)made from oil and b)rarely ever recycled. (And recycling is the LAST R people!) Where I live we are still waiting for curbside recycling – I do have it but that is because I gladly pay the $12 a month to have an independent company come and take my recyclables away – including plastics which, when City-run curbside recycle starts next year, won’t be included.

This article on from May sums up many of my feelings about plastic bags and the new trend of making ‘biodegradable’ bags (or anything else for that matter) from corn.

Canadian plastic bags have washed ashore in Scotland and bio-degradable bag production has helped to sky-rocket corn prices for Mexicans.

One plastic bag — one of 9-15 billion bags consumed annually in Canada — is of use for about five minutes but can take one thousand years to “break down,” only to contaminate groundwater and enter the food web.

Right now it is trendy to switch over to bio-plastics (like corn or potato-made disposable plates & cutlery) but that doesn’t really address the problem at hand.

Often perceived as the lesser of two evils, biodegradable bags are simply “substituting one bad habit for another,” says Tracey Saxby, co-founder of Greener Footprints and BC’s foremost anti-plastic activist. The eco-friendly moniker for these bags is misleading, as degradation is only possible in precise soil conditions and the production of these bags may effectively use up more resources — rendering them less an alternative than a close cousin to their plastic counterparts.

So how does this lead us to the five R’s? Well, the first R is to REFUSE and with plastic bags (or so-called bio-degradable bags) it is pretty much the simplest step there is. With crowds lining up around the block to purchase the trendy “I am not a plastic bag” bag, even I felt the need to inform the person at the health food store the other day that I had used all my non-plastic bags at the farmer’s market and had none left (to which she replied, “that’s a good excuse” as she laughed at me – which I obviously deserved since I was being so lame).

So what is the solution? Well, since I am not going to stand in a line up at 3 a.m. in the morning for anything that isn’t Harry Potter related (and even that is iffy, I need my sleep) and I see no need to order these online no matter how cute they may be – the only solution is to go about making some more of my own. So, in traditional sewing-bee manner, some friends and I are getting together soon and having a grocery bag making session. I have a closet full of fabric (most from Value Village, that place is a goldmine for fabric!) that has been gathering dust for the last year which fits nicely into another R – REUSE. I imagine between the lot of us we will be able to come up with a decent design and a number of bags that can be used over and over again thus REDUCING the number of Canadian plastic bags used by a (incrementally small) fraction. The plan with making our own is to make ones that roll up small and can be carried everywhere so I never have to be that lame-ass person making excuses at the check out line ever again.

And thanks to everyone who left comments & suggestions about our trip to Ireland – I will be addressing them in a separate post.

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