Thursday, July 8, 2010

"But I put them in the recycling bin!"

We've all heard that one, haven't we? "Well, sure I use plastic bags. But I recycle them." Try as I do to point out the futility of that practice, I still hear it over and over.

The futility I mention was so very clearly shown to me one day last week as I stood at my kitchen sink, looking out the window onto our street below. We have front-row accommodations to a fairly busy street, lined with apartment complexes and palm trees. I looked out as a recycling truck went by. It's hard to tell them from regular trash trucks, isn't it? That alone speaks volumes to me, but I feel rather solitary in that. (I'm sure I'm not, but apparently I don't talk to the right people enough.) So, here goes this big huge noisy truck rumbling down the street, and out from the top floats a plastic bag, serenely leaving the rest of its plastic brethren behind to become another piece of trash, attempting a dream journey to the beach, to the ocean, to join someday in the Pacific Gyre, if it is lucky enough to make it that far. Every bag's dream.

Yes. You use plastic bags because you think that putting them in your recycling bin or that collection bin at your grocery store absolves you from responsibility. You've "done your part." It's OK to use them because they are going RIGHT back into the mix, right? WRONG. It is far easier and less expensive to make new plastic bags than it is to recycle them. So while they may be collected, they are NOT likely to get recycled. They are sitting in giant warehouses and shipping containers until someone figures out what to do with them or what third world country can be scammed into taking them. They float away from their groups and get caught in trees, or float off trucks that gather them and head for the shores. Don't fool yourself. Just. Stop. Using. Them.

Just as California is poised to start charging for these bags at stores (even though it will still be 2 years before it would come into being. I'll never understand that.), out comes a report that YOUR REUSABLE BAG MIGHT KILL YOU. Yeah, we all saw the alarmist articles. I laughed it off (because it is, after all, stupid), but a dear friend pointed out that it would seem to counter the upcoming bag-charging law, and keep people wanting their throw-aways. I was stunned that my cynicism slipped to where I missed that. (What's wrong with me???!) Any person with 2 grains of sense in their head can make sure their reusable bags aren't breeding grounds of e. coli. Frankly, if someone does NOT have enough sense for that, I say leave the gene pool quietly and thank you very much for playing. But that's me.

What happened to The Bag from the Truck? It fluttered away between some buildings. I hope someone was able to catch it as it rested on its journey, and that someone would try to get it to a proper bin (of futility) again, but there are no guarantees that it will stay there either. The Bag from the Truck clearly has its destiny in mind. It wants the Gyre. It will not be contained.

Just another day in the life.