Service of a Drop in the Bucket: Another Move to Heal the Environment Just to Make Us Feel Better

February 27th, 2020

Categories: Garbage, Plastic

At the end of the month New Yorkers won’t be getting “single use” plastic bags from grocery and other stores.

I put quotes around “single use” because I use these bags for many other things. If I have leftovers I first wrap them in aluminum foil and cover the package in one of these bags, instead of a new one, so the food doesn’t leak in freezer or fridge. I also use them to hold wet garbage that I toss down a shoot in the garbage room.

I wrote the topnotch, smart apartment building manager to ask if he was going to alert the tenants about garbage protocol so they don’t use paper bags [which New Yorkers will now get from stores at 5 cents each unless they have their own bags] to send wet garbage down the shoot. These would drip on hallway carpets and mess up the shoot as contents break out of the weakened wet paper on the trip down as many as 38 flights.  I could tell he thought I was nuts and told me to buy plastic bags. I’ve lived here a year and haven’t bought a single one for garbage.

Articles about this environment-saving move report that there won’t be any more plastic bags but don’t mention that some put them to use and what to use instead. I heard a promo on NPR about a crisis for dog walkers who use the bags to pick up after their pooches. When I had a dog, that’s what I used.

Here are my objections:

  • I bought garbage bags when I lived in a house. They are of a far heavier plastic than the single use variety so where’s the savings to the environment?
  • Many NYC apartments have microscopic kitchens. They don’t have room for standard size trashcans. The small bags that fit the small cans are hard to come by—I haven’t found a box.
  • I ordered a cartridge for my printer from Staples because they didn’t have my brand in the store. It arrived in a large box with inflated plastic bags to keep it from rattling around. Speaking of waste! See the photos above and below. There are far more impactful changes to be made in my opinion.
  • A stack of single use plastic bags are easy for a deli or bodega to store. Paper takes up far more space.
  • Car owners keep a pile of bags in the trunk. Few Manhattan dwellers shop for groceries with a car. Returning home from work someone with a briefcase doesn’t usually have a bag in which to store a quart of milk so they’ll buy a paper bag which will translate into more voluminous garbage and ensuing energy to dispose of it.
  • We take home rotisserie chicken in large plastic containers with plastic domes. Like the big deal restaurants made of substituting paper for plastic straws, this move is another drop in the bucket with more PR than actual impact on the environment.

What do you think? Do you toss single-use plastic bags or put them to use?

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12 Responses to “Service of a Drop in the Bucket: Another Move to Heal the Environment Just to Make Us Feel Better”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    We couldn’t agree with you more… Those paper straws are just as much of a mess as the plastic and it only eliminates a fraction. And as far as the so-called single use bags, that is what so many of us use as garbage bags, making them multi use. And then to start buying single use garbage bags in the grocery store, puts us right back to square one! It’s a really tough call. I guess We have to start somewhere! But start on a broader scale? Maybe? Thanks for bringing up the topic.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    If the move is to alert more people to environmental issues it will have impact. On the environment, not so much.

  3. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward on Facebook: I like the idea to get rid of them for environmental reasons, but how many trees will need to be harvested for paper bags, or the cost of recycling? Truly a double edge sword.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Edward,

    On a trip to France when I was 10 I remember the white cotton string fishnet bags Parisians used to carry home groceries which are still for sale here in many colors though I haven’t seen people use them–I’ve seen them on stunning displays at an international gift show.

  5. Brian Breese Said:

    Brian on Facebook: Whole thing is about money for the state only. They saw an opportunity and they jumped on it. It has nothing to do with plastic. We buy mayonnaise in plastic all our condiments are in plastic or our juice bottles are in plastic all our sports drinks are in plastic. Think about how many things we buy that are plastic they get thrown in the garbage. It has nothing to do with recycling plastic. Otherwise they would make us recycle all the other goods we buy in plastic.That’s just the way they open the door.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Brian,

    So true.

    In my apartment building–510 apartments on 38 floors–we are asked to divide the garbage: wet, paper, glass/plastic. For an entire floor there are only two containers and a shoot. The two containers are emptied several times a day and the garbage room is kept spotless. But my point: the two containers are never full. I can’t believe that all these people are as careful as I try to be. I suspect they dump all of their garbage down the shoot, ignoring the paper and plastic-only containers. At my office people toss paper in the plastic garbage container and vice versa. Can’t people read? We have a long way to go.

  7. Kathleen Said:

    We accumulate a bag of plastic bags and give them to our local library. When library patrons take out a stack of books and/or videos, the librarian puts the items in one of our plastic bags. Hopefully, the library patron will recycle the plastic bag.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    There you go! What a good idea. If I didn’t covet them, I would consider doing the same. Fabulous.

  9. Brian Breese Said:

    Brian on Facebook: I believe only about 10% maximum of people are recycling properly. And I believe full heartedly that the garbage companies are dumping the recycling into the regular garbage and burying it. I actually know that to be true on certain occasions as a matter of fact. I have seen the recycling truck meet up with the regular garbage truck on the side road and dump everything into the regular truck there goes all your recycling all your efforts. It’s about money.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Brian,

    I wish I could prove otherwise. When we had a house Homer would pack the papers so carefully in Adams paper bags—they could have been gifts the packages were so neat. Bottles —glass and plastic —went free in one bin; the paper in another. We’d bring them to the dump and it looked like many others did the same. Sad to think they weren’t kept separate.

  11. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: We don’t have access to environmentally friendly compostable or degradable products YET on the scale we need at AFFORDABLE prices but it is coming!!

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debbie,

    They need to be sturdy and as you underscore in all caps, affordable. If there’s enough money in it fine. If not it may be a while for a do-good corporation to take the task in hand.

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