It’s in the bag

To the Journal editor:

Earth Day, a time to think about the state our our planet, is coming up on April 22.

A simple and easy but very powerful think that all of us do right is to routinely refuse plastic and paper shopping bags. Too many people are taking stores’ plastic bags to (carry) their purchases. The considerable cost of these bags to corporations is passed on to the consumer through higher prices.

I can attest that casual observation outside of Marquette’s large stores reveals the huge scope of this problem. All of us are impacted economically, and most tragically, our planet is suffering from an overload of plastic bags.

For a brief history, the plastic bag was introduced to the grocery industry in the 1970s as an alternative option to bulkier and more expense paper bags. Invented in Sweden in 1962, the single-use plastic bag was first popularized by Mobil Oil to increase demand for its product polyethylene, a fossil-fuel-derived compound. The thin plastic bag was disliked at first because a finger had to be licked to open it but retailers continued to push for the cheaper plastic bag and now it seems people cannot do without them at the checkout.

A strategy of the plastics industry to counter the negative perception of plastic bags is to promote recycling. However this is not a good long-term solution. The vast majority of plastic bags — 97 percent or more — never make it to recycling. They are used for small amounts of daily trash or cat litter and sent to the landfill.

We don’t need these bags and the bother of recycling them The easy solution is to carry reusable shopping bags. An old T-shirt can be made into a bag and cloth bags can be bought just about anywhere.

Plastic is persistent, lasting for hundreds of years, breaking into smaller pieces and leaching out chemical components, as it ages, but it never fully disappears. Animals that confuse plastic bags for food end up entangled, injured, or dead with stomachs full of plastic.

Along with carrying reusable bags, there are other ways to reduce plastic waste. Some of them are: Give up bottled water and styrofoam coffee cups. Get a stainless steel or porcelain mug to present for filling when buying coffee and a stainless steel bottle to refill with tap water. Carry your own containers for take-out food.

These simple actions will have powerful effects.