So talks are finally underway to stop giving out plastic bags for free in a bid to reduce a global plastic pollution problem. I started grocery shopping with my own reusable bags 5 years ago, and to date, I am still unable to clear my stockpile of bags. I found this singlet bag all the way from 2012, still in perfectly good condition, as if I have just gotten it yesterday.
Besides becoming litter when disposed of in an inconsiderate manner, plastic waste is creating havoc on earth for the same reason that made them so popular: their durability makes them hard to break down and go away after we are done with their intended use. The need for something to be lightweight and cheap to produce has created what seems to me as an over-reliance on disposal plastic products like shopping bags, takeaway beverage cups and food containers, straws, etc. These plastic items are usually good for only one-time use but the discarded plastic waste stays around for a very long time.
Actually, it is kind of a wasteful trait to be telling my kids that humans invented and produce plastic disposable items so that we can be free from the washing task after we are done with our lunch/ coffee/ bubble tea drink, and the pile of disposable plastic waste problem is for someone else to settle. Don’t we want to raise our kids to be thrifty and frugal? How do we do that when we keep telling them to throw away things that have been used for barely an hour in the case of takeaway lunch or beverage?
I am no expert on plastic waste management, but I have somehow found a few nifty ways to survive without a kitchen drawer filled with plastic shopping bags for the past few years, and I think I am getting better with each shopping day. While the bags will only be chargeable starting middle of next year, it doesn’t hurt to start saving a few more plastic bags now from choking the waterways/killing the wildlife/ending up on our dining plate.
Here are 6 tips on how I reduce my reliance on supermarket shopping bags and I hope they will be useful if you are attempting to cut out plastic bags from your shopping trips.
001. Replace waste bin liner with the newspaper
Like how Audrey Hepburn line hers in her kitchen, you can easily fold one following this video, or
do without a bin completely and fold a standing one like this.
002. Separate the wet kitchen trash from the dry ones.
It’s usually the wet trash that needs to be bagged in plastic to prevent leaks. The dry ones can be simply wrapped in newspapers before tossing. The amount of wet trash I produce in my kitchen usually can’t fill up a plastic shopping bag, so I reuse other packaging I have salvaged instead, see tip #003.
003. Rethink plastic shopping bags as the only trash bags at home.
The most common response I get from shopping without plastic bags is: “How do you bag your trash?” My answer to that will be:” Every darn packaging that comes with the things I buy!”
Like plastic bags, even these are quick to pile up since we live in a world surrounded by packaging. The photo above shows what I can accumulate in a day: a commercial bread packaging (when I run out of time to bake my own), a plastic bag from brown rice, and a Milo powder refill sachet. These can be my alternative trash bags but are often are too large for my wet kitchen trash, so I send them for recycling instead. I use smaller plastic bags from packing mushrooms, sugar, rice flour, and salt to bag my wet kitchen trash usually.
004. Reduce waste: Start recycling
Sorting out the recyclables will greatly reduce the amount of “real” trash thrown away. Starting a recycling corner to collect recyclables like paper, plastic, metal and glass containers. Deposit them into the blue recycling bins that have been conveniently placed around the estates instead of throwing them away as rubbish.
005. Reduce waste: the raw vegetable and fruit scraps
My kitchen scrap level is now super low since I make eco enzyme with raw vegetable and fruits scraps and send the rest for composting.
If composting or making eco enzyme is too complex at first, start with baby steps: make this citrus-infused vinegar with orange/lemon/grapefruit/pomelo peels and use it as an all-purpose cleaner. Simply fill a container with citrus fruit peels that you would normally discard, top up with white vinegar, and wait around 3 days. The nice smelling citrus vinegar can now be diluted for cleaning use.
006. Bring along reusable shopping bags
Now that the need for shopping bag as trash bags has been eliminated, it’s time to stop accumulating these plastic bags during shopping trips. The habit to bring at least 2 reusable shopping bags in my carryall tote, and more if it is a planned grocery shopping trip, has stucked with me for years. I mentioned here before that a cotton tote requires 327 times of usage for its carbon foot print to be on par with that from manufacturing a plastic bag. Clearly, buying a new reusable shopping bag every shopping trip because one forgot to bring it out is not environmentally friendly. Having a stash of foldable shopping bag helped me a lot, since it is convenient to toss one of these neat pouches into my bag and it stays folded inside my bag until I open it up to use.
We are definitely not the first in the world to be charging for plastic bags, neighboring countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia have already done so. Some shoppers who forget to bring their bag or buy more than they can fit into their bags will reuse shipping cartons discarded by the supermarkets to fill their purchase. I wonder if the local supermarkets will allow shoppers to do the same during the initial stage until they pick up the habit to bring their reusable shopping bags.
I am currently getting most of my fresh groceries from the wet market as I try to eliminate the cellophane bags that the vegetables are wrapped in. Let’s talk more about plastic-free shopping some day.