There is a proposal in Albany to ban and/or impose a fee on single-use shopping bags. While they can have other uses (see your average dog owner), for a variety of retail purchases, reusable bags aren’t practical. Thus, here are a few prudent ways you can do your part to reduce the use of these:
Groceries: If you’re not doing so, consider the use of reusable bags. These are inexpensively priced, durable and washable. Besides using these for other larger-volume purchases, there are paper shopping bags still available, and are recyclable at the curb.
Recycling: Where single-use plastic bags are causing a real problem is at the Recycling Center. These do nothing more than jam up the sorting equipment, resulting in a number of shutdowns per day. You might think these are waterproof on a rainy or snowy day. They're not. Instead, consider buying and using store-bought bins with lids, or 64-gallon blue carts, which are available at certain home improvement stores. Certain recycling haulers also make these carts available for their customers.
ALL plastic bags and wraps (from mailed magazines and financial reports) should go to a store drop-off bin!
Leaves: The other kind of single-use bags which are a problem are trash bags used for leaves in the spring and fall. With the exception of a small percentage, these automatically go to the landfills as these bags come in dirty and arn't compostable. At leaf time, consider the use of paper yard waste bags and/or reusable containers such as old or new trash cans, or 20-gallon store-bought tubs.
Consequently, with a little planning, the heavy hand of government shouldn't be needed to help reduce the amount of plastic material being improperly thrown out.
Jeff Goldblatt is a member of the New York State Association for Reducation, Reuse & Recycling; the New York State Association for Solid Waste Management; and the Solid Waste Association of North America.