A simple solution to plastic bags

Listening to the new country song by Miranda Lambert, “Automatic” makes me think of some of my younger days and growing up. I also think about how times have changed from when I was a kid playing in the creek to the streams and creeks today.

Now, 20 and 30 years later, I take students to creeks to experience the outdoors and learn about habitats, macroinvertebrates and water quality.

But sadly, the streams now have litter and trash in them. I don’t recall plastic bags and nasty trash in the creeks when I was a kid, but like most things, things change — seems like that’s automatic.

Ban the bags

I see farmer’s fields littered with plastic bags. Equipment gets tangled in plastic. I see bags stuck in trees. I know they get swept in creeks and streams and out into our oceans.

Unsuspecting wildlife and even livestock eat plastic bags, and die from them. Plastic bags end up breaking into microscopic pieces over time…but they do not biodegrade; they do not decompose.

We end up eating plastic back in the food chain as seafood digests the tiny plastic particles in the ocean.

Plastic bags require oil to make. I’ve read that as much as 90 percent of plastic bags in the U.S. are not recycled. What a shame. Throwing them away is like dumping 12 million barrels of oil. But that’s not the worst of it.

They don’t end up properly disposed of or recycled; many end up as ugly and deadly litter. So this isn’t about picking up litter, which you should, it’s about eliminating litter in the first place! Let’s start with NOT using plastic bags!

A simple solution

My plea and request to anyone reading this is quite easy and simple. Reusable shopping bags. They are very affordable, can hold many groceries, clothes, books, etc., and do not tear when you haul them from the vehicle into your house!

Rarely do you see these littering the landscape. The only problem is the shopper in the household must go through some training (remembering) to keep them in the vehicle and take them into the store.

After that, reusable shopping bags are a no-brainer and one of the easiest things someone can do to help our beautiful planet. So please, reduce the use of plastic bags altogether.

If you do happen to get a plastic bag, then follow the other two R’s —either re-use it, or re-cycle it properly. In my opinion, there is no excuse for people to have a huge shopping cart full of plastic bags, or a closet or drawer full of plastic bags. It’s so simple and easy to get four or five reusable bags and keep them handy!

Honor the fallen ones

It sneaks upon us, this Memorial Day weekend. I find it hard to believe the end of May is nearing. I think it must be in part because we never really had much of a spring — winter seemed to hold on here in Ohio for a long time.

But let’s not forget what the last weekend in May is about — it’s Memorial Day weekend. Not about graduation, picnics, parties, the start of summer or shopping. It’s about taking time to honor and remember those that have died while serving in the military.

Those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms and who sacrificed so we can enjoy the graduations, picnics, parties, the start of summer and shopping. Let’s honor those by remembering them, but also by making a change for the good.

They died for the county they love. Americans take many things for granted; our freedoms, natural resources, fresh water, bountiful soils and our beautiful landscape. So honor those who fought for our country by keeping this country beautiful and clean — it’s the least you can do.

Have a great Memorial Day!

About the Author

Kelly Riley has been the Education Specialist for the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003. She earned her B.A. Degree in Education from University of Akron and was previously a teacher with the Tri-County ESC. Kelly can be reached at (330)-262-2836 or by e-mail at kriley@wayneoh.org. More Stories by Kelly Riley

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