Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reusing Plastic Baggies (I Mean Ziploc!)

Where I live in San Mateo County, single use plastic bags, like those you may be accustomed to receiving in grocery stores, are now taxed ten cents. In nearby San Francisco, the bags are banned altogether, but stores have the legal option of providing a paper bag, compostable plastic bag, or reusable bag for at least ten cents per bag. Apparently, San Francisco became the first U.S city to ban plastic bags in grocery stores in 2007. Then in 2013, they expanded the ban to include all stores and restaurants.


Despite the inconvenience (as I am still working on the habit of remembering to actually bring my pile of reusable bags with me), I appreciate the move to spare our landfills, streets, and oceans from some of the 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags produced per year. I definitely see a significantly higher number of people bringing their own reusable bags to the store after the tax started, even though it is only ten cents! I love how such small things can really change our habits! And I am excited to see that a lawmaker in my home state of Connecticut is now proposing a similar tax.


On a related note, I thought it would be fun to share a small plastic bag idea you can implement in your own home to spare the environment (and your wallet). Full disclosure: this idea comes entirely from my mother-in-law!

I am no longer talking about the big plastic grocery bags here, but about the small ones you buy in a box, like Ziploc storage bags. Growing up, I often used plastic sandwich bags, freezer bags, etc. to store food or other items. After I was done with them once, I threw them in the garbage. But did you ever consider that these bags can actually be washed and re-used?

In our home now, after we use a plastic baggie to bring carrots in our lunch, we turn it inside out and wash it with a sponge when we get home. The next day, it is dry, and we can bring our fruit in it. A few days later, we can send a friend home with some leftovers in the cleaned bag. The bags hold up well over two or three hand washes.

I do have some "rules" about the bags that I try to follow. For me, once a bag has had raw meat in it (like when we freeze chicken breasts in plastic freezer bags), I do not feel comfortable washing and reusing it, as I personally feel concerned that bacteria may still linger in the corner nooks. Also, once a bag gets a little wear (I am not talking about holes, but just a bit less smooth and shiny), I no longer use it for anything that requires an air-tight seal, like liquids, fresh produce, or frozen things. But I can still use it a few more times for less demanding purposes, like bringing almonds in my lunch or storing pens and pencils. After many many uses, it does eventually wear out completely, but at least I feel like it has served its time before going to the landfill.
Plastic baggies drying with some other dishes on our counter.

Of course, there are other containers we use regularly that are even more durable and long-lasting than bags and that spare the environment even further. These would be containers like Tupperware or the now-trendy and environmentally friendly alternative - glass jars. I highly recommend using these types of alternatives as often as possible. But for now, I still use baggies for some things, and I definitely feel better about using them more than once, as opposed to tossing a perfectly good container in the trash.

Do you have any simple things you do in your household to spare the environment and/or your wallet?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the sweet comment you left on my blog! I really appreciated it! <3 Come back, any time!

    P.S. - This is a great post. I always try to re-use plastic bags as much as possible, including the zip locks. I agree, that if they held meat/poultry, they probably shouldn't be used more than once unless they're strictly freezer bags. Maybe then it wouldn't be too bad? I also reuse dryer sheets! :DDD

    - Anna