Watch "Bag It" Documentary Free Online

Watch "Bag It" Documentary Free Online

"Bag It" is a fascinating short, 10-minute documentary about America's plastic grocery bag habit.  The filmmaker has posted it to the internet, so that everyone can watch it for free!  

Every year Americans use 100 BILLION plastic grocery bags once, then discard them.  Once!  All that waste and pollution from something that gets used for between ten minutes to half an hour, from the store to your kitchen.

Before it even gets to the grocery store, creating the plastic grocery bag is a nightmare of industrial waste.  The side effects from producing the bags is, as one interviewee says, more damaging than the bags themselves.  Aside from the petroleum to make the plastic, and the energy required to run the bag-making plants, the EPA says that plastic production uses "five of the six top listed chemicals that generate toxic waste."  Plastic grocery bags use propylene, phenol, ethylene, polystyrene, and benzene.

Everyone is familiar with the sight of plastic grocery bags littering the landscape, clogging storm drains, fetching up against wind-blown fences, and gradually strangling the growth of trees.  What most people don't realize is that those stray bags aren't the work of careless litterbugs.  

Plastic grocery bags have the perfect aerodynamic profile to be caught in the wind and blown away.  You would be hard put to design something better able to escape into the wild.  One expert in "Bag It" describes a study of a dump which found, bizarrely, that it contained no plastic garbage bags.  Where did they go?  It turns out they all blew away in the wind.

You have probably heard about the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch."  A lot of the garbage in the Pacific Gyre is escaped plastic grocery bags.  Ordinary people, you and I, throw away plastic garbage bags in the trash - but they end up being eaten by sea turtles anyway.

Only 5% of plastic grocery bags are recycled.  According to one interviewee, it costs about $4,000 per ton to recycle plastic grocery bags.  This is not a cost-effective project!  

Another interviewee raises an interesting point that has occurred to me in the past.   My county (like most counties and municipalities) does not recycle plastic grocery bags.  However, I can take them to the grocery store and stuff them into a recycling bin.  So how does Safeway recycle those plastic bags?  Do they all get shipped to some mysterious recycling facility, where Safeway pays $4,000 per ton to recycle them?  Or do they all get stuffed into the dumpster and thrown away on the sly?  

Kicking the plastic grocery bag habit and converting to reusable grocery tote bags is one small step on the road to curing us of our addiction to single-use plastic.  Grocery tote bags cost only a few dollars each, but can be reused hundreds of times.  I once calculated that every month I use my tote bags, I spare 400 plastic grocery bags.  Those numbers add up fast!

"Bag It" is set in Boston, which is considering banning plastic grocery bags entirely.  Other cities are looking at taxing the use of reusable bags.  Most grocery stores are already using the carrot, by offering a .10 per-bag discount off your grocery bill for each reusable bag.  There is literally no reason not to be using reusable totes, so it's high time we get in the habit!