Plastic. It's so ubiquitous in our culture that it's hard to believe it has really only been available to consumers since around 1960. The below infographic shows us some of the awful truth about how much plastic waste we generate but it also provides tips for reducing it in our lives.
One habit that is now common among Americans who believe they are being "green" is taking t-shirt style bags (called carrier bags in the UK) back to the stores for recycling. One day it struck me as absurd when I observed shoppers carrying their plastic bags into the store, depositing them in the recycling bin, then leaving the store with brand new bags identical to the ones they had just dropped off. Once I took my plastic bags into the grocery store for re-use. I put them on the conveyor belt, just ahead of my purchases. The cashier took the bags and began to place them in the trash can. I'm not sure what went through her head at that moment. Did she think I was too lazy to discard or recycle my own bags? When I stopped her and tried to explain that I wanted her to put my purchases in the bags, she still didn't get it. Sigh.
Two strategies (among many) I've implemented to reduce plastic (and other disposable) waste is to buy the necessary plates and drinking glasses at thrift stores so I have enough place settings for when we entertain. Another way we cut down on the use of plastic bags in our business is to go to a certain big box store (one that I never shop at), go directly to the large box where they accept plastic bags for recycling, and take some home with me. Often, the bin is filled with unused bags that are tossed by cashiers when they can't get them open fast enough when ringing up customers. (Heaven forbid they take an extra second or two to get the bag open.) I usually ask the person at the customer service desk if it's okay for me to take some bags. I've gotten some strange looks for that, but I want to make sure they know I'm not shoplifting. Of course, for my own shopping, I carry reusable totes with me. And we have a number of customers who bring their own bags because, like us, they hate plastic.