The Time Has Come To Stop Using Plastic Bags

by Katy on October 23, 2008 · 10 comments

The following is a reprint of an article I wrote in June for the The Non-Consumer Advocate. 

Want to save the earth, but don’t know where to start? Here’s a simple suggestion — stop using plastic shopping bags!

It is estimated that 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are now produced annually for the world market. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter every year. 

They’re poisoning marine life, littering our planet and causing massive environmental damage. 

Many countries now ban the use of plastic bags, period. Yet here in the United States we hold off from taking a stand.

Here are some ways other countries address the issue:

  • Ireland instituted a “Plas Tax”  charging shoppers 33 cents per bag. A huge success, with an almost immediate 94% decrease in plastic bag usage. The money raised then goes to cleanup projects and environmental issues.
  • Bangladesh banned plastic bags after finding that bag-clogged gutters were the primary cause of flooding during the monsoon season.
  • The Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has enacted a complete ban. Anyone found even using a plastic bag could face up to seven years behind bars, or a fine of up to 100,000 rupees ($2,000).
  • Even China announced a ban on free plastic bags, given with purchases. 

If all these countries can enact change towards a plastic bag free world, what are we waiting for?

It doesn’t take a huge effort. Many stores sell inexpensive re-usable shopping bags. Or you could simply gather up all those canvas tote bags you already own and start putting them to use.

Join me in my challenge to stop using plastic bags.

C’mon, Non-Consumers, it’ll be fun!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie October 24, 2008 at 5:46 am

In many countries, there is a charge for each plastic bag you take.


Dan Wood October 24, 2008 at 8:04 am

Great article! I had been planning on asking the manager of the local Trader Joe’s (where many people bring their own bags anyhow) to try a pilot program at our local store to see how effective it is to charge a nickel a bag or something.

BTW you missed the one about IKEA starting to charge for bags. A big first step for this to happen in the United States!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 24, 2008 at 8:17 am

I’ve been doing this for a while now…I didn’t have to even buy any bags! I just gathered up all my canvas bags to use. After I unpack my groceries, I put all the bags right back in my car, so that there’s no way I can forget to take them to the grocery store(I used to always forget them).


Gina October 24, 2008 at 9:11 am

This may sound really dumb, but what do you all use for garbage? Putting the garbage directly into the bin seems rather gross.


thenonconsumeradvocate October 24, 2008 at 11:28 am


Not a dumb question at all.

I do line the kitchen and bathroom garbage with plastic grocery bags. I have a stash that I’m slowly using up. My family is currently producing a half bag of garbage per week, which I do take out once a week, (otherwise there’s a stink that “dare-not-speak-its-name” situation.)

I know this is not ideal, but I do feel it’s the best solution I’ve been able to come up with. It would be gross to put garbage directly into the can, and against the rules as well. We used to line the can with a separate plastic bag, which we no longer do.

Ideas anyone?

-Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


nomadneedles October 24, 2008 at 11:57 am

I do this too, but I’ve also been composting since last spring and I was shocked at how drastically my trash was reduced. Food scraps go in the worm composter now. It takes literally weeks until the other trash needs to go out. I agree with Katy, it’s not a perfect solution, but much better than before. I also like to make it a personal challenge to see how long I can make my current plastic bags last. It’s second nature to wash my ziplocks. I cannot remember the last time I purchased a box of these…long long ago…


Magdalena Julie Bragdon Perks October 24, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Our local supermarket charges 5 cents per bag, and still people fill them up by the dozens! And this market has constant supplies of $.99 reusables that are easier to pack and carry than the plastics. Come on, people! Show some smarts here!
I’m still using the inadvertent plastic bags for trash – we live in an apartment where it is impossible to compost, so I have a bit more trash than Katy. I avoid buying things that are heavily packaged, looking for plain paper wraps or recyclables. It was really good when we cooked and heated with wood, since the paper wrap could get burned (not plastic though.)
My husband and I don’t drive so we usually have a backpack with us, and I try to carry a spare canvas bag at all times.


Gina October 24, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Sometimes for me it is a challenge to not feel guilty, even when I feel like I am doing my best and making big changes in my consumption habits and awareness. Compared to most people I know I live a pretty simple and low impact life, but there is always so much more that can be done! Goals are good, guilt– not so much.

Thanks so much- you are an inspiration.


Mrs Green October 24, 2008 at 11:52 pm

Excellent post – stopping carrier bags was the first thing we did in our awareness of the environment and it’s so easy for everyone to work up to.

Gina, I’m finding that by the time I have composted all that can be, reduced food waste to zero (we’ve been working up to that) and recycled everything; the things that go into the bin are dry so there is no need to line it. We wash and dry packaging so that there is nothing wet going in there and nothing stinky, which means no plastic to line it with.


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