Confession time…I have three main non-green habits. Yes, I have kicked most “bad” habits, but there are three that linger on. My sins are 1) using many resealable plastic baggies, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, etc, 2) regular deodorant and 3) regular toothpaste. So, why do I still partake in these unhealthy habits? Let’s take a closer look at why, and why are these considered bad habits? Today we will tackle the resealable bag obsession.
Resealable bags have gotten a pretty bad wrap as of late. My daughters’ school has introduced a “litterless lunch” program…in turn practically banning resealable bags! Recently, the issue of a school’s fight against the plastic bag was debated nationally. A kindergartener, in Quebec, was excluded from a class contest because his snack was contained in a plastic bag and not in an acceptable reusable container. Read what happened in this case in this National Post article. What did these bags do that makes them so hated? The answer comes down to two simple factors…how they are made and how they are disposed of.
Clearly, resealable bags are made from plastic…specifically polyethylene. Polyethylene does not biodegrade in a landfill. In fact some experts predict it may remain in our landfills for hundreds of years. If not disposed of properly, baggies can end up impacting on our wildlife. Birds, fish, whales and small animals come into contact and ingest this plastic. Scientists have identified the Great Pacific Garbage Patch…spots in the ocean where garbage, specifically plastic, accumulates. Companies, like Ziploc, are actually working on producing recycled and recyclable options. In fact, in the US Ziploc is starting a recycling program that rewards customers for returning their bags to be recycled…pretty genius. This move to waste diversion could make a huge difference in the opinion of these bags.
However, polyethylene is made from petroleum, thus contributing to our societies dependency on crude oil. The production of these bags has a great negative impact on our environment as a whole. From the oil that is needed to create the polyethylene to the large amount of energy that is needed to make the bags themselves. Until scientists can develop an adequate alternative these bags are still doing more harm than good.
So, why do I use these baggies…when I know better? Convenience…really that simple. It is easy to reach for a bag when I need to throw something into storage. How can I kick the habit of using and throwing away baggies? I already own numerous reusable containers…no problem there.
Reuse – It is possible to reuse things like aluminum foil, parchment paper and plastic baggies. Since they are normally neatly contained on rolls, we need to create a clean and organized containment system for the folded pieces of foil and paper. This lidded box fits neatly in my kitchen drawer.
Reduce/Recycle – Reducing the number of baggies I use is the next step. What I need is an alternative…
Recycled plastic bag baggie
You will need
- plastic bags – use old shopping bags
- waxed paper
- piece of fabric
- adhesive Velcro strip
- sewing machine – can be done by hand as well
* work in a well ventilated area *
1. select a plastic shopping bag
2. remove the handles and bottom seam of the bag, creating a large rectangle
3. turn the plastic bag inside out to avoid melting the ink printing on the bag, and making a mess
4. fold the bag in half, and in half again – make 8 layers of plastic
5. sandwich the folded plastic between two pieces of waxed paper – make certain the waxed paper covers ALL of the plastic bag – you don’t want your hot iron to touch the plastic bag
6. place a piece of fabric over the waxed paper
7. with the iron on medium-high setting, run the iron over the fabric/waxed paper – pressing firmly onto the folded plastic below
8. experiment with time and temperature – until the plastic is completely bonded together
9. if there are any bubbles in the plastic, return it to the waxed paper and iron again – must be completely without bubbles
10. cut the bonded sheet of plastic into a rectangle measuring approximately 20cm x 10cm
11. fold the sheet of plastic up 7.5cm up from one end
12. now sew around the entire perimeter of the plastic – creating a pocket
13. fold the top flap over the opening in the pocket
14. affix a strip of self adhesive Velcro to the flap and the corresponding spot on the pocket
This simple technique will allow you to use plastic bags like fabric. Not only can I use these little bags to store snacks for my daughters, I can also make an assortment of sizes and styles.
In fact, I used the same pattern and made a few fabric baggies too! Now my storage container is filled with reused papers and reusable bags. I am so excited to give them a try.
Next week we move on to bad habit #2 – regular deodorant…it’s getting hot in here!
How to fuse plastic bags – video
Plastic Not-So-Fantastic: How the Versatile Material Harms the Environment and Human Health: Scientific America