It’s been in the news lately that certain cities are banning those little plastic grocery bags you get at the food stores. Our landfills are choked with them and yet they manage to find their way into our waterways and wilderness places, even harming the animals who are unfortunate enough to accidentally ingest them. They don’t biodegrade properly and there’s some evidence that chemicals in the plastic leach out into the environment.
Getting rid of those darned plastic bags
For years I have taken the “reuse” part of the Three R’s of Conservation (reduce, reuse, recycle) seriously; I keep my grocery bags (doesn’t everybody have one of those plastic bag holders with the holes in them from Ikea?) and use them to line my household garbage cans. A while ago I started using canvas (reusable) bags for my grocery shopping, but soon found that I nothing with which to line my kitchen and bathroom garbage bins. I ended up in the ridiculous position of deliberately not using my reusable grocery bags so that I could have some plastic bags with which to line my bins. The alternative was to buy those “kitchen sized” garbage bags, and that just seemed even more ridiculous (and a waste of money).
I even wrote of my predicament to a blog about “living green” (sorry, I’ve forgotten the name). We discussed using paper bags instead, but of course that means wasting forests. People also mentioned some garbage bags you can buy that are apparently biodegradable, but that seems like a whole lot of trouble (you have to purchase them online) and an added household expense for what literally amounts to garbage. The only other suggestion was for me to reduce my waste as much as possible. But I already do that: I compost, recycle anything and everything I can, and have reduced our household waste to 1 can a week (of that I am proud; our district allows 2). When I imagined our district and local grocery stores banning plastic bags I thought “That’s great – but am I then going to have to buy plastic bags for my garbage?”.
Turns out, the answer was so simple I’m gobsmacked that it never occurred to me before. I was over at the Earth Friendly forum of our homeschooling program’s online community reading a discussion about composting. Someone wrote that it grosses them out to store their compost in a container until they take it out to the bin – something about the smells and rot going on inside made her queasy, and she would spend an OCD amount of time cleaning and sanitizing the darned thing. Now, I use an old tupperware container that sits on my kitchen countertop and into which I dump my kitchen scraps. When it gets full I take it outside. I have to do this every 2 to 4 days, and sometimes I confess there’s a bit of nasty going on inside though it’s not like I’ve made primordial soup. I just wash it like I would anything else, with a bit of dishwashing soap (7th Gen, ‘natch) and hot water. It is *plastic* after all.
And as I mused about this woman’s queasiness over placing raw vegetable matter in a plastic tub it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks: if I can handle days-old banana peels and tomato pulp why do I need a plastic bag to line my kitchen garbage bin? Why not just dump my refuse right into said kitchen garbage bin – which is plastic after all – and after I’ve emptied it into the big cans (the ones that go out to the curb each week) simply wash the bin with soap and hot water??
I can’t believe it had never occurred to me to just “go naked in the kitchen”. Okay, I’ll confess at first the idea really gave me the heebie jeebies. It is *garbage* after all. Yuck, poo, stinky, sloppy! But really, how hard is it to clean the bin? No harder than cleaning the compost container. And so…with a bit of trepidation, two days ago I dumped out the last plastic shopping bag full of garbage into my can and replaced the bin under the sink with nothing. Naked. No plastic lining.
And you know what? It’s totally fine! My garbage isn’t actually all that disgusting. And its not like it sits under the sink there for days on end. Every day or two I just take it to the garage, dump it in a can, and clean it with hot water and soap in my laundry tub. Okay, the can *does* now have to be lined with a big green garbage bag, as per city regulations. I can’t have loose garbage in there. So I suppose it might be worth looking into those biodegradable bags for the big can liners (but I always have a supply of those big green garbage bags around anyways so it’s not really an extra expense). But I sure do feel good about the fact that I am now no longer dependent on those little plastic grocery bags and can happily look forward to the day when our region bans them as well.