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No plastic, no problem: Advice for the first week of New York’s bag ban

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Today is the first weekday since New York’s bag ban went into effect. The state is one of six states and hundreds of cities and towns with laws on the books banning disposable plastic bags. New Yorkers across the state use 23 billion plastic bags per year, each for an average of 12 minutes. Millions of barrels of fossil fuels go into producing these bags; after their vanishingly brief useful life is over, they become a leading source of ocean pollution, threats to wildlife, and landscape-blighting litter, not to mention obstructions that clog up recycling machinery. Single-use plastic bags exemplify our destructive relationship with our planet, and they've got to go.

Replacing such a ubiquitous object might seem daunting (the plastics industry would very much like you to think so), but fear not! Most of us at Frontier Group live under a bag ban law, and it’s… not actually a big deal. I polled the group and compiled the following helpful hints to help you negotiate this change to your lifestyle.

Susan has the longest experience with a bag ban (nice going, Santa Barbara!).  She suggests:

  • Reusable canvas bags are useful for shopping, but also as totes for the beach or the park. 
  • Just think, now you can make a really cool bag your go-to housewarming gift. 
  • Always have a bag in your backpack/purse.  There are really tiny squished ones that come in very small packages.
  • Put your reusable bags back in the car after you unload them. Immediately.
  • If you use plastic bags to line your wastebaskets, start not replacing them every time you empty the trash -- you can just dump that trash into the bin, after all.
  • Ask your Depression-Era relatives for the extras they've been stockpiling for years. They'll be so happy.

Adrian in Boston says:

  • You can still get plastic bags for weighed fruit and vegetables – but consider getting a mesh bag specifically designed for produce.
  • Knowing how much stuff fits in two reusable bags helps me stay focused and on budget while shopping.

Elizabeth reports from Santa Rosa, California:

  • If you subscribe to a physical newspaper, it will probably still be delivered in a plastic bag that’s the right size for picking up after your dog.
  • Reusable bags can offer an opportunity to reminisce. I have one that was made from a banner at a special event I attended, another that was handed out as swag at a memorable bike ride, and a third that reminds me of the city where I used to live.
  • Consider the new rules an upgrade. You probably aren’t ordering from plastic menus or drinking out of sippy cups anymore, either.

And some more input from Bostonians…

Tony observes:

  • It's OK to carry a couple of things out of a store in your hands. Nobody is usually that interested in what you bought.

RJ offers:

  • Remember, you can always buy a bag if you forget one.
  • Start keeping your purchased or reusable bags in various places - in your kitchen, in your car, in your bag, in your desk at work.
  • You’ll start to find that a lot of weird plastic bags come into your life that you can use as trash receptacles. Get the paper? Comes in a bag. Order a coat off Amazon? Usually comes in a bag in a box. You'll be surprised how many plastic bags there still are in your world.

Gideon, a diehard Patriots fan, has this advice:

  • Canvas bags are harder to cut eye holes in than paper bags, so be sure to get heavy-duty scissors before you head to the Jets game.

Photo Credit: Ege Soyuer via Flikr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0