Paper, Plastic or the Planet?

Emily Vinson, writer

Many people have recently been talking about the way we treat our environment, with issues like climate change and reusable water bottles being hot topics. One way that some companies have tried to help the environment is by promoting the use of reusable bags in the grocery industry. 

Big Y, a grocery market that originated in Massachusetts, has recently begun to charge people 10 cents per paper bag if the customer does not bring their own reusable bags. Big Y aims to eliminate the plastic waste that plagues the oceans and can be harmful to sea animals. The supermarket company said that it uses 100 million plastic bags each year. These plastic bags can be choking hazards to marine life. 

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit organization that protects wildlife, the average family uses 1,500 shopping bags per year–only 15 of these bags are recycled. The bags that are not recycled are litter or are in landfills and lead to 100,000 marine animals killed annually; one in three leatherback sea turtles are plagued by plastic in their stomachs. 

Big Y is not the only supermarket chain encouraging the use of reusable bags. The Stop & Shop stores in Connecticut have worked towards removing plastic bags and have a 10 cent fee on non-reusable bags, but after June 30, 2021, there will be no more plastic bags at checkout.

Whole Foods stopped using disposable plastic bags in 2008, becoming the first U.S. grocer to do so. Whole Foods mainly uses paper bags in an effort to reduce plastic waste. The grocery chain also has switched to paper straws, as have many other environment-friendly institutions. 

While some may see these efforts to be more conscious of our environment as inconvenient, the thought of saving hundreds of different species from the danger of plastic waste is definitely worth the extra bag awareness. Next time you go to the grocery store, ask yourself: Paper, Plastic, or the Planet?

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