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The national flower

April 11, 2012

Yes, I know the joke about plastic bags being the new national flower is an old one but the issue remains. Admittedly I haven’t noticed that much trash in the veld or stuck to barbed wire fences lately but I happen to think that’s simply because the government has improved their cleaning efforts and a lot of trash would have washed away in all the rain we’ve had lately.

I don’t want to seem cynical, but considering how few people I know who re-use bags I feel this issue needs to be addressed. I feel so strongly about it I even emailed TLC channel a while ago and complained about how many plastic bags they feature on their Extreme Couponing programme. I felt it was irresponsible to show new plastic bag after new plastic bag being packed with the customers loads and loads of stuff. It sends a message to people that using new plastic bags is ok. People on TV are doing it so it must be fine. What they don’t show is that that bag probably ends up in the bin and inevitably in a landfill or worse, the ocean. I got quiet a nice response from the channel and interestingly enough they have been showing less plastic bags lately and more re-usable ones so I feel better. I feel leading by example is important and this is where responsible behaviour on TV can help.

A lot of people I know do understand the need to start re-using bags but find it a hassle. The most common problem is that people forget to take the bags with them or don’t have enough bags. Not having enough bags already proves a point. If you have ever been grocery shopping you should have received a few bags (even just one). Why don’t you still have it? Why did you throw it away instead of saving it in your pantry or laundry? It’s simply wasteful. If you don’t have enough bags then save the ones from your next shopping trip or buy a few re-usable bags. There are really beautiful bags on the market. Woolworths has especially nice ones, a lot of which help raise money for wildlife protection through their sale. Just remember that you don’t need fancy bags though, anything that holds groceries will do. I saw a girl and her mother load up a cardboard box with groceries the other day – just as effective.

If you are forgetting bags in your house or car before the shop then all I can suggest is that you start treating bags as you would your handbag or wallet. Shopping bags are essential for shopping as is money or a grocery list. It’s really that simple. I have successfully remembered to take bags with me for over a year now because doing so has become a habit.

I have a selection of bags in my pantry that I select from depending on what my shopping plans are. Big canvas bags are great for groceries and going to the Neighbourgoods Market. Plastic bags are best for frozen goods and milk as they don’t mess in your car. Small CD store bags are ideal for collecting used batteries in and then taking them to the nearest recycling bin.

I know a lot of people will say that getting new plastic bags are handy because you can use them as bin liners or to send goodies home with your domestic worker. I accept this and commend you for not throwing them straight in the bin. However, please consider buying a few cloth bags for your domestic worker and encouraging them to bring those bags back to work with them every day. This will help them practice re-using items and will leave more plastic bags for bin liner duty.

This is a long blog about a small change but as you can see there is a lot to consider and a lot of habits that need to be altered, so for a lot of people it’s a big change. Do keep trying at it though and you should succeed. Just remember to wash your cloth bags every now and again as they get grimey – yes, another thing to remember.

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