Choose Reusable Bags
Life in plastic is in fact very far from fantastic.
How far we’ve come. Back when this Butterfly first went online, in around 2010, ditching plastic carrier bags was a fringe issue for the chronically self-righteous. Back then I was a social pariah, turning down plastic bags in a panic, sometimes emptying an unsolicited bag at a checkout, getting a look of barely-interested befuddlement for my trouble. It was a different time. Now we have charges and outright bans around the world. Bangladesh was first, banning the useless shits in 2002, and between 2010 and 2020 there followed bans in 75 countries and prohibitive charges in another 37. All since this Butterfly first went online. I’m not saying it’s a direct result of this Butterfly first going online, but I am going to finish this sentence with three dots to imply maybe, somehow, maybe…
Plastic bags are reverse Butterflies. They’re a stupid-ass thing we’ve been using for years, with billions of individual uses adding up to one of the biggest, stupidest asses we’ve ever come up with. The badness in the mass bagness comes in how they’re made, how harmful they are and how long they take to biodegrade. They’re made from dirty-bad oil, a massively polluting fossil fuel we’re going to have to start doing without. When we’re done with them they like to clog up the oceans and murder as many fish as possible. And it’s estimated they take about 500 years to break down. I say estimated because no one’s been able to check for sure. There was hope in George Burns but since he bailed we’ll just have to imagine in the year 2520 a future environmentalist will look on as the last molecule of a carrier turns to dust and say, “Yep. 500 years.”
The bans and charges have helped bring their numbers down. Since England introduced a 5p charge for single-use bags their use in supermarkets has declined by more than 95%. That’s amazing! Penalties work. Legislation works. It proves, if there was ever any doubt, that while we’re pissing about with Butterflies, trying to be individual heroes, it’s systemic change that will get things moving.
There remains some Butter to be Flied, however. While the massive reduction in single-use bags is exciting, people seem to have switched to reusable plastic bags that have a longer lifespan but the same massive deathspan, with fossils still being fuelled to make them. As recently as 2019 supermarket plastic use was still increasing as people bought billions of reusable plastic bags – an average of 54 per household per year. Those figures suggest bags are not being used for life. Instead, millions of dipshits are using reusables as single-use disposables, using thicker plastic than before the bans and charges kicked in.
That’s not for us. We’re Zeroes, damn it. Not for us, the shiny distraction of single-use plastics as if they’re all that stand between us and eco-oblivion. We’re going to use reusable bags made from sustainable materials – yer cloth, yer hemp, yer thick paper – and recycle the few remaining plastic bags we’ve got knocking about the place to close the loop forever. And then we’re going to get on with the real business of quitting fossil fuels altogether. After all, there’s more than one way to be a chronically self-righteous social pariah.
Choose reusable bags
Save the goddamn world
Photo credit: The Zero
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