by Jennifer Witherspoon, DC EcoWomen Executive Board, Vice Chair of Communications
The Dollars and (non) Cents of Single Use Plastic Bags
Whole Foods recently selected DC EcoWomen to be a recipient of donations through its “Nickels for Nonprofits” program. Now through December 17, each time you use your own reusable bag instead of a plastic bag at any of the Whole Foods’ store locations in Montgomery County, MD, 5 cents will be donated to DC EcoWomen. Please be sure to specify at the point of purchase that you want your nickels to be donated to DC EcoWomen!
Why is this important? You’ll be supporting DC EcoWomen and our mission to inspire and empower women to become leaders for the environmental community, plus you’ll also be doing your part to reduce plastic pollution.
Plastic Bags are Suffocating the Planet
According to One Green Planet: Single-use disposable plastic bags are suffocating the planet, with 60,000 plastic bags being consumed in the U.S. every five seconds. Manufacturers produce plastic bags by using non-renewable resources, such as petroleum or natural gas. Plastic bags take huge amounts of energy to manufacture, transport across the country, and recycle. They don’t break down in landfill sites, but over time they release dangerous chemicals. Plastic bags are difficult to recycle, blocking the sorting equipment used by most recycling facilities. They contribute to a widespread, global litter problem.
Plastic trash washed up on the shore in Mexico. © John Schneider (via Flickr)
More Plastics in the Ocean than Fish by 2050
According to the Ocean Conservancy: Trash in the water and on the shore can be mistaken as food by wildlife, or entangle animals with lethal consequences. Plastic also attracts and concentrates other pollutants from surrounding seawater, posing a contamination risk to those species that then eat it. Scientists are studying the impacts of that contamination on fish and shellfish and as well as the possible impact it may have on human health as well.
Plastic bags were only introduced to the American shopper in the 1960s. In a business as usual scenario, researchers from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predict that plastic production will triple in volume from 2014 to 2050, and project that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.
Bag the Plastic Bag
Fortunately, cities, states and countries have been implementing bag fees since 2002. San Francisco was the first city in America to regulate the use of plastic bags in 2007 and Washington, DC soon followed with its own “Bag Law” – the first in the nation to impose a bag fee. Revenues from DC’s bag fee go to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund and have been used to implement a variety of watershed educational, trash capture and stream restoration projects throughout the Anacostia Watershed. Though reports have been mixed on DC’s overall success in reducing plastic bag use as well as how the funds are allocated, it seems clear that we can all do our part to reduce plastic waste.
Get Active, Fight Plastic Pollution, Spread the Word!
Let’s get into action to fight plastic pollution! Please join DC EcoWomen in bringing a reusable tote to shop at Whole Foods and ask that your nickel go towards DC EcoWomen. Put an extra tote in your purse or backpack for those unanticipated shopping moments. You can purchase an EcoWomen tote bag for yourself, or to share this holiday season.
The funds from Whole Food’s Nickels for Non-Profits program supports DC EcoWomen in hosting educational events such as our recent EcoHour conversation with Julie Lawson, the co-founder of Trash Free Maryland, who led efforts to pass DC’s “Bag Law.”
We’ll have a flyer available soon so that you can help spread the word in your office or in your community. You can also follow DC EcoWomen on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and re-share our posts with your community. You can post photos of yourself shopping with a reusable bag too! Please tag @WholeFoods and @DCEcoWomen and consider using hash tags such as #BagPlastic #NickelsforDCEcoWomen.
If the plastic bag was introduced to shoppers 40 years ago, let’s ban it in the next 40 years!