Editorial: Changing our mindset on throwaway plastic

  • Kroger, parent company of Marianos, is discontinuing the use of plastic grocery bags at its stores.

      Kroger, parent company of Marianos, is discontinuing the use of plastic grocery bags at its stores. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted8/30/2018 1:39 PM

Our post-World War II parents and grandparents saved everything -- nails left over from a project, the coffee can to put the nails in. They might not need it now, but they'd find a use for it soon.

That philosophy of repurposing changed over subsequent decades as we embraced throwaway goods mostly made of plastic that often spend more time being manufactured than they spend being of use to you.

 

After their moments of utility, grocery bags, drink bottles, six-pack holders and similar items go in the trash, or are left on the beach after a picnic, or are tossed out of a car window. Even items disposed of responsibly blow out of garbage trucks or away from landfills, potentially contributing to the 8 million metric tons of plastic that enter the ocean each year, according to a 2015 study in the journal Science.

It's time to go back to putting a priority on reusable goods. Rethinking grocery bags is an easy place to start.

Stay with us here: There's no need to frame this as a blue/red issue. Let's try to resist being political during a discussion about, for pete's sake, plastic bags.

Consider that scaling back on their use is pretty easy, for everyone except the bag makers. It's not onerous for businesses, which can save a little money by not providing bags. Carrying reusable bags -- some of which stuff into their own small pouches -- in your car or backpack is not onerous for consumers.

Many people are on board, but others need a little push.

As an incentive to change, Chicago requires retailers to charge for plastic bags, as do other major cities. More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to combat single-use plastic, according to U.N. Environment, an agency of the United Nation. But in the U.S., a number of states, including Wisconsin and Michigan, passed laws specifically preventing towns from restricting plastic bags.

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Maybe businesses will save us. Last week Kroger, America's largest supermarket company and parent to Mariano's, announced it's phasing out plastic bags. The company is starting right away at some stores in Seattle but is giving itself until 2025 to meet the no-plastic bag goal nationwide.

That seems like a long time, but we hand it to Kroger for taking a step that has the potential to clean up the environment and help create a mindset of questioning the need for any kind of excessive or single-use packaging.

If carrying a string bag to the store makes you feel old-fashioned, maybe it's a good thing.

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