Plastics & the Environment: We have to do better, Wisconsin!

One of our first stops in New York State last week was the Wegmans grocery store in Brockport. I grew up with this now well known grocery store chain and came to love it. Wegmans has a reputation for excellence – in how they treat their employees to how their stores are run and what type of shopping experience is provided for their customers. We never visit the Rochester-Buffalo area without at least one trip to Wegmans!

Wegmans on McKinley Parkway, Buffalo, NY area. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2021.

But, this time I noticed something different. When we checked out, we were asked if we needed a bag?! If? Well, I had a cart full of groceries, so yeah – I needed a bag or two or three or four… I immediately looked at the end of the conveyer belt at the check out – no bags, except for the reusable type they sell for ninety-nine cents. For a second, I was flustered. I’ll buy one of those, I stammered. And, then, I recovered – “Don’t you have bags anymore?” I asked the cashier.

“Oh, yes, we have paper bags,” she explained.

“Great, the groceries can go in those” I responded. I confused her and she stopped removing the tags from the reusable one. I explained myself. “Oh, I’ll still buy that,” I said.

Wegmans had gotten rid of their plastic, single use bags!

Wow! I was impressed!

Later in the week, we went back to Wegmans and took a reusable bag from my sister-in-law. She keeps a stack in her garage. My stack is kept in my car – in Wisconsin. Again, I did not think beyond this progressive grocery store doing something you’d expect from them.

The last day we were in New York State, we went to Kohl’s department store. I like Kohl’s and pre-pandemic, shopped there a lot. I kind of broke the habit of going when we were not supposed to be out and about in our communities. This was during pre-vaccination days, of course.

I found a couple of sale t-shirts and my husband found a pair of clearance pants. We checked out and again, were asked, “Do you need a bag?”

Again, I answered, “Yes, please.”

And, out came a paper bag printed with Kohl’s name across the sides!

Again, no plastic!

Not being handed a plastic bag felt so good!

Come to find out in October of 2020, New York State banned single use plastic bags. Okay, so Wegmans (and Kohl’s) were forced to give up their plastic and it wasn’t the progressive, environmentally friendly thinking I assumed it was. But, still the elimination of these bags is a key step in plastic waste reduction.

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping in my home town. I took five large reusable bags, but did not pack my own groceries. The bagger still used three plastic bags in addition to my five reusable bags that had enough room in them for more groceries. My meat was all enclosed in plastic bags. This was unnecessary, in my opinion.

Reusable Grocery Bags, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2021

I came home shaken. We need to do better, Wisconsin! As of February 2021, eight states have banned single use plastic bags. The states include, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. There is a summary of plastic bag legislation here.

Some cities have also have banned plastic bags. The list can be found in the article by National Council of State Legislatures in the aforementioned link.

Back to the question, “Do you need a bag?” I am asked this question routinely at Joann Fabric and I routinely say no. If I can get away without a bag at other stores, I will tell the cashier, I don’t need a bag – like I did yesterday at Office Max. If I know I have a lot of things to carry, I’ll bring my reusable bags. I stopped using straws more than a year ago. It’s more than possible to do these things.

The pandemic set us back on plastic waste elimination. Take out containers, gloves, shields, and other single use products were prevalent to help prevent the spread of the COVID virus. But, there will be other viruses and our environment needs some consideration. We need to stop single use plastic.

The Nature Conservancy published an article in January of 2021 entitled, It’s Now or Forever. The numbers cited in it are staggering! Did you know that 50% of single use plastic bags are discarded after one use?! The article tells of the Conservancy’s role in reducing plastic waste.

But, what about the every day person? What can we do? EarthDay.org has some suggestions for you and I, and all people, to reduce our plastic waste. In addition to reduce, recycle, and reuse, they also suggest, refuse, remove, and rally. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also suggests ways to reduce dependance on plastic. The two suggestions I like best are to cook more at home, and to stop buying water in plastic bottles! (I have a long history of abhorring the disposable plastic water bottle that dates back to 2003, at least!)

Although I am doing some things to reduce my plastic use and waste, I could be doing more. I am going to do more. Our planet deserves it. We deserve it. Our children and grandchildren deserve it.

Here’s one last thing to think about. Most people like the beach. Think of the most pristine beach you’ve ever been on. When I think of this, I think of Kapalau Beach on Maui or Hanakapiai Beach on Kauai or Horseshoe Bay Beach on Bermuda.

Horseshoe Bay Beach, Bermuda, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2007.

Then, imagine it with plastic waster strewn all over it.

Oh, the horror! Right?!

Then, stop using plastic!

Thank you!

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