The challenge of the plastic bag
Turtles think they are Jelly Fish (me too sometimes!). Birds think it’s something tasty. They tangle themselves around propellers. I’ve seen fish eating plastic bags. I’ve had plastic stuck to freedive and surfboard fins. In the open high seas, we thought we caught a fish but caught a plastic bag. Plastic bags are the number 1 enemy for marine life.
The good news!
The plastic bag is one of the easiest plastic items to replace with an ocean-friendly action. Most of us, still use plastic bags, not because we want them. We know it’s not the way to go by now. We simply forget to bring reusable bags in the first place, and the availability doesn’t pressure slightly hard enough to create the essential habit of always bringing your own bag. Good things are being done. On EU level goals have been put in place to ‘drastically reduce’ bags. Shops have started charging for plastic bags now, and more and more countries and municipalities start banning them altogether (hoorah Hawaii and Delhi, Rwanda, Bangladesh, and Antigua) (Here‘s a cool map on bag bans). In the Spanish Balearics, bags are banned as from next year. In Italy, you now have to pay for your bag when getting veggies. Many of these bans, start in 2019 or 2020. Who’s next? It takes time and many countries haven’t pledged yet to ban the bag. The good news: we can start NOW! Big positive ocean changes can come from individuals taking the lead.
A few facts on the current plastic bag situation
1 second of manufacture from oil. 20 minutes of use. Up to 400 years of decomposition in nature (1). 1 Million plastic bags are in use around the world, every minute. (2). 3.4 million tons of plastic bags are produced in the EU each year, equivalent to the weight of more than two million cars. (2). In the United States 12 million barrels of oil are used in the production of the 100 billion plastic bags produced each year (3). 200,000 plastic bags go to landfill every hour (4)
What can you do against the plastic bag?
#PlasticFreeNomad Bag action hacks
- Consume less. Carry less waste in and out. Do you really need to consume all that? Reduce supermarket consumption. Shop at the farmer. Shop Local. Choose food that’s not wrapped in plastic. Which also helps to reduce the number of plastic garbage bags you use. Grow your own and compost food if you have a fixed place. Learn about seasteading if you have a boat.
- Be equipped with reusable bags. Always bring a reusable unit to put your groceries in. This can be a canvas bag, backpack, box, basket. Bring fresh produce bags so you can say no to the thin plastic bags that are sometimes mandatory at the veggie department for weighing.
- If you have foods delivered to your house or boat, mention ‘no bags’ with your order. Or if bags happen to happen, ask the deliverer to take them back.
- Reuse plastic and produce bags if you have had an error.
- Spread the word, join campaigns like #banthebag. Start a chapter in your own town to speed up the ban.
- Rethink. Rechoose. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Waste is not an option anymore, knowing what we know now.
Make your own bags from an old t-shirt (like they have done in Malaysia) or an old spinnaker or kite. My mum made me a few which I use as travel organizers and produce bags for years already. Or make one on the spot, like this dude;)
Hack the Plastic Bag – Ideas
Oceanpreneurs on top of the wave
Bye Bye Plastic Bags is a social initiative set up by the two young Balinese sisters Melati, who I met at Our Ocean, and Isabel at the age of 10 and 12. A few years later they spoke at +200 events, set up +17 teams around the world, donated +1500 educational booklets to schools, and gave +12.000 reusable bags to communities. These ocean heroes now empower youth all around the world to lead change in their community.
Learn more about the Plastic Bag Challenge
Some more fact from PlasticBagFreeDay Plastic pollution: countries show their true colours on the International Plastic Bag Free Day Watch Documentaries. Here are a few recommendations.
Learn more about this campaign and navigate to more #plasticFREEnomad hacks
As always, opinions are my own. No organisation or brand is paying me to write this or mention them. Sometimes links to ocean-friendly alternatives to plastic contain affiliate links. If you’re looking to purchase something, huge thanks if you purchase it via this website (but try to find it locally first! ). At no extra cost to you, orders and bookings through this website give me a tiny piece of the pie that help me keep investigating, exploring and creating content about on ocean action and solutions! Here are more ways to support ocean awareness and action. Splashthanks!