Have you ever wondered about the amount of plastic that has accumulated in Clearwater’s landfill sites since its inception in 1967? Every piece of plastic deposited in these sites are still there, virtually unchanged. Plastics take about 450 years to start breaking down, and even then, they don’t biodegrade. They do what is called “photo-degrade,” meaning that they break up into tiny pieces that get smaller until they eventually become plastic dust. But plastic is still plastic. And it doesn’t go away.
After watching a documentary called the “Clean Bin Project,” we were inspired to take action to try to reduce the amount of garbage that we deposit in the landfill. We came up with the idea of trying to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of single use plastic bags in Clearwater, as they are a major contributor of landfill plastics. Plastic bags use up natural resources and consume energy when they are manufactured. After they are used they are often found in landfills and elsewhere, where they create litter, and choke marine life. As well, the chemicals that they are made from have additives which are proven to be harmful to people and animals.
It takes about 430,000 gallons of oil to make 100 million non-degradable bags, which is pretty bad considering we use about 4 to 5 trillion plastic bags annually worldwide. We are using up our oil sources without recycling them. It is not very economical to recycle plastic bags as it takes 250 bags to make 1 kg of plastic, as well as the process is quite expensive. Plastic bags are also made of recycled material that makes them difficult to be recycled further. Burning plastic in not a good idea because it results in air pollution and toxic gas.
We encourage you to begin limiting and eventually stopping the use of plastic bags by using alternatives such as reusable bags and bins or baskets made from all natural fibers such as jute, hemp, woven cotton, and canvas, or by investing in a personal shopping cart or caddie. (They are used widely in Europe and are good for you because it makes it more practical for you to walk and get some exercise without straining your back and shoulders.)
Another good way to reduce the amount of plastic bags you use is to REFUSE to use them at all. We have heard of the three R’s but “refuse” has, so far, been unfortunately left out. Simply say “No thank you,” when the cashier asks if you’d like a bag.
It may sound hard but other small Canadian communities such as Maple Leaf Rapids, Manitoba and Dryden, Ontario, have succeeded in eliminating the use of single use plastic bags. We think that with just a little effort, we can do it too, which will also help us to become a “greener town.”
We have two landfill sites that have significant numbers of bags. We are soon going to be using a new site. Think about whether it’s worth it to use a plastic bag when there are so many alternatives.