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Eric Douglas: Bagging the bags (Part 2)

This is one of Joan Wilson’s current mats made from recycled plastic bags. Photo courtesy Joan Wilson

Judging from the emails and comments I received from the column two weeks ago about getting rid of plastic bags, I touched a nerve.

As a reminder, we only recycle about 10 percent of the 500 million to one billion plastic store bags we bring home with groceries worldwide. The U.S. alone is responsible for approximately 380 million bags. That is 380 million plastic store bags.

In an ironic twist, my next-door neighbor, Paul Mollohan, noted that on the day the column hit the streets, he found a plastic bag in a tree in our adjoining property. It had been windy and blown the bag in from who-knows-where.

I would be more than happy to do away with plastic store bags all together. It would take some adjustment, but we could all get used to carrying reusable bags in our cars. They are an eyesore and an environmental hazard. How many times, after high water, have you seen plastic bags wrapped around a tree on a stream bank? Or up in a tree after high wind?

Sea turtles mistake plastic bags floating in the ocean for jellyfish, one of their primary food sources. When they eat a bag, they end up starving to death, because the bag blocks their digestive tract.

I did hear from one reader who had an interesting use for the bags. Joan Wilson told me about a group of volunteers working through St. Mark’s downtown that take store bags and crochet them into sleeping mats for the homeless. They leave them outside on the bench where “Homeless Jesus” sleeps. The mats are 3 feet by 6 feet and take a couple weeks to produce.

One reader asked what it would take to convince the City of Charleston to join many other cities around the country in banning the use of plastic bags. I’m not a resident of the city, so I wasn’t a lot of help in that regard, but I did refer her to two members of the city council.

One thing that would cut down on plastic bag use, would be an incentive. The largest grocery store chain in the region used to give fuel points whenever you brought in your own bags, but that ended several years ago. If there are other groceries in the area encouraging shoppers to bring in their own reusable bags, I don’t know of them, but would be happy to learn.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com


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