Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about whether stores should eliminate plastic bags. As more and more places begin banning plastic bags, Rice County’s plastic bag situation will soon be under consideration.
While plastic bags do have negative effects on the environment, there are ways to lessen plastic’s negative effects. Plastic bags should not be banned. Instead, eco-friendly strategies should be implemented.
First off, people should be encouraged to reuse plastic bags. Stores can, and often do, have places where people can put used plastic bags to be recycled. These used plastic bags can be reused at check-out tills. In this way, plastic bags will not be wasted, but will be put through an endless supply of usage.
Not only can plastic bag recycling bins be placed in stores, but the drop-off spots could also be placed around the community so that people can easily access these sites.
Furthermore, stores can set incentives for people to bring their own bags. Target is one example of a store that does this. If you bring your own bag to a Target store to place your items in, Target will take $0.05 off your total purchase.
While this does not seem to make a huge difference to your budget, each trip to the store will save you a little bit of money, and honestly, every little bit counts.
The only problem with this solution is that these policies need to be more well-known. Many people do not realize that Target will pay shoppers for using reusable bags. In order to fix this, stores can advertise that reusable bags will result in a $0.05 reimbursement.
Another way to help this problem would be to have businesses sell reusable bags at every cash register and ask each customer if they would want to purchase a reusable bag. If people have easy access to reusable bags, plus an incentive like Target’s to use reusable bags, people will likely use the reusable bag and be more environmentally friendly.
Furthermore, by asking customers if they would like to purchase reusable bags, shoppers would be conscious of their plastic bag usage and therefore potentially feel guiltier about choosing plastic. People would then be making conscious efforts towards a cleaner environment.
Eventually, after implementing more environmentally conscious actions, stores could begin charging customers for plastic bags. The price would not need to be expensive, but just high enough to encourage shoppers that it would be a better investment to use reusable bags.
“People will associate being environmentally conscious with saving money.” – Mickaylie Bade ’20
Even if you are normally very economically conscious and use reusable bags, there are always off days when you might forget your reusable bag when you go shopping. Off days happen and shoppers should have access to a plastic bag on those occasions.
Without access to plastic bags, you might have to carry each individual item in your arms since you cannot access a bag, which is one of the last things you want to do after shopping.
Additionally, plastic bags are multi-functional. You can use plastic bags over and over again. They can keep wet items separate from dry items. They can be used to clean up after pets, especially when walking a dog. When put over shoes or wrapped around a person’s knees, plastic bags ensure that a person’s shoes or clothing do not get dirty, especially when working in a garden-like setting. Additionally, they can also be used as stuffing when packing gifts or boxes.
Furthermore, by incentivizing environmentally-friendly actions, people may subconsciously associate eco-friendly techniques into other aspects of their lives. In other words, people will associate being environmentally conscious with saving money and feeling good about oneself. Those associations will encourage further environmentally healthy decisions.
If Rice County was to completely ban plastic bag usage, people would not have this opportunity to grow into environmentally conscious people on their own.
Mickaylie Bade ’20 (Bade1@stolaf.edu) is from Hutchison, Minn. She majors in English.