Saturday, January 24, 2009

Excerpt from Trash Talk by Lillian Brummet

Book: Trash Talk
Author: Dave & Lillian Brummet

Excerpt from Pg: 21-


Production of plastic grocery bags actually consumes 40% less energy, generates 80% less solid waste, produces 70% less air pollution, and releases 94% fewer waterborne wastes than paper bags! Both can be reused and recycled, but paper bags can also be composted. Plastic bags accumulate quickly and many people want to reuse them, but they are soon bulging uncontrolled from our cupboards and drawers. There are now storage containers available to organize this, to be either mounted to a wall, or hung from a hook. They have a hole at the top where bags are contributed, and a hole at the bottom where they can be pulled out. We use two of them in our home, one for grocery bags and one for bread bags.

Grocery Bags

Many people bring their own cloth or canvas bags for their grocery shopping. Gudrun, our friend from Germany tells us there is often a deposit on shopping bags, and so the use of cloth bags is much more common throughout Europe. Relatively inexpensive, cloth bags can be washed and reused many more times than plastic and are unlikely to tear when full of groceries. The stores will have an easier time maintaining prices if there is a reduction in plastic bag demand.

Cloth bags are an excellent advertisement feature and would make fine customer appreciation gifts for your business with your logo on them.

The plastic grocery bags have so many uses in our home that we often run short of them. The most common reuse is for wastebasket liners. Why buy wastebasket bags for dry waste areas when we get them for free? A box of 24 bags costs $3.50 (more when tax, shopping time, and fuel spent getting to the store are figured in), and the average house consumes 2-3 boxes a year. So just by lining your dry wastebaskets with grocery bags, you could save $10.50 a year. It does not sound like much, but this is just one example of the many uses for these bags.

We use them to carry various things during transport for items such as used clothing that we are donating, or books we are bringing to a friend. We take them to farmer’s markets when buying fresh produce. Use them to store your own garden harvests in the fridge, or to send off with visitors. We take them to dog-friendly trails to donate to the bag dispenser at the trail head. Hopefully it may encourage other owners to clean up after their loved ones.

For those of you who have extras, you may want to consider donating to the food-bank or thrift stores, which are often in need of bags. Use when camping to store laundry and to keep items dry. Because they take up very little room crumpled into tiny, weightless bundles, we pack them inside paper towel and toilet paper tubes. To reduce weight in the backpack and prevent tempting scavengers, we make our camping and trail meals from dry ingredients. Dried meals only take a few minutes to absorb the hot water—reducing fuel consumption, lingering odors, dishes, and cooking time. We often cut bread bags to fit the size of the dried meals or snacks and then double bag the lot of them as an added insurance. This storage method reduces food odors, thereby decreasing the chances of enticing wildlife to the bear bag or backpack. On the return hike, carry a bag in hand and scan the trail for garbage. – see Clean Walking.

Years ago, we watched a news special on an elderly lady who made grocery bags into rugs. She tore the bags into rough, uneven strips and crocheted the strips together. She began the hobby just for herself, but the rugs became so sought after that she was kept busy with a constant supply of bags and requests. Looking at the rugs you would have never guessed they were made from recycled bags. Ruth, a very creative friend, used her over-abundance of bags to stuff her valance curtains.

Clear (Bread) Bags

Smaller plastic food bags usually come clear or translucent and, unlike shopping bags, have no holes. Sealed plastic bags (from frozen peas or powdered milk) can be cut open and reused many times as well. However, thin produce department bags often use water-soluble inks, so we do not wash them or reuse for food.

Using a sink of fresh hot soapy water, open the bag and swish around. Fill it about 3/4 full with the soapy water, grip the top together, lift above the sink and move it about to check for leaks. Where there are holes, there will be a steady stream of water. Throw those bags out or reuse them where a perfect seal is not required.

Rinse the bags and hang to dry. You can do this a few different ways. The simplest is to droop the bags over a full dish rack allowing them to drip dry. Or, pinch one corner in a cupboard door over the sink or dish rack. Some people have strung lines for the bags to hang with a clothespin but, again, it should be over a sink or drip tray. If you have the time, they can be dried by hand but a little moisture will remain, so leave the bags out in the open air for a while. In a few hours, turn them inside out so they dry completely before storing.

We reuse plastic yogurt containers to freeze foods but because they do not have a seal suitable for freezer use, we make sure by doubling up with one of our bags. After placing the full container in the bag, gather the top together and suck the air out before sealing it with a recycled twist tie, or simply tie a knot in the bag. Placing your sticky label on the bag eliminates the problem of getting labels off the plastic containers.

Use to store garden produce and home baked goods. At our home, they are used all the time for lunches on the go. Used for pet waste, used oil, meat scraps, and bones, bags will help contain and isolate offensive odors in the garbage can. A smelly can tends to be taken out whether it is full or not, resulting in more garbage bags being used.

Clear plastic bags can also be utilized in the greenhouse. This is where those leaky bags come in handy. We cover flats of newly sown seeds with a bag that has been cut open so that it lies flat. This provides a mini-greenhouse effect and keeps the moisture in. As the seedlings grow, prop up with little sticks so that the plastic does not sit on the leaves and cause rot. Insert plant pots into plastic bags to eliminate the need for drip trays. When cloning, create a mini-greenhouse by bringing the bag up over the cutting, and close with a greenhouse twist tie.

Zipper lock sandwich and freezer bags can be washed and reused more than a dozen times. Let us quickly estimate how much this one simple act saves the household money. At $2 a box, reusing the bags a dozen times saves your home $24. We are avid gardeners and between food storage and lunches, we save about $50 a year by reusing zipper bags. For this reason, we purchase the best quality we can find on the shelf. Recently, snack manufacturers have started to use strong foil bags with a zip top, making them ideal for reuse.

Food bags are not the only kind one can reuse. Our pet food bags are reused for sorting recycling, and to line the larger workshop waste bucket. Bags used to protect mailed magazines work well for containing odors in the garbage bag. The list goes on and on.

• Extend the life of the landfill.
• Save money by reducing the number of bags you need to buy (along with their packaging).
• Reduce the number of trips to the grocery store.
• Cloth bags:
- are very unlikely to tear when full of groceries.
- can be washed and reused many times.
- make an excellent advertisement feature.
- make fine gifts.
• Stores will have an easier time maintaining prices if there is a reduction in plastic bag demand.

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