By Lorne Holden
On March 1 of this year, the wonderful town of Great Barrington, MA made a bold move and banned the use of retail plastic bags in all stores . This splendid act made the town the first community in Western Massachusetts to implement such a ban. Great Barrington joins three other towns in Massachusetts who have done the same thing: Nantucket, Brookline and Manchester-by-the-Sea.
I do most of my shopping in Great Barrington and in the weeks following the ban, I was overcome with joy each time I saw no plastic bags being used at the grocery store. I was accustomed to seeing piles of plastic bags in peoples carts as they left the store. I was even used to hearing the snap and whoosh of the bags bas they were pulled off their stands, opened and filled. But there was new space and quiet in the stores now. Things were tidier. Less junky.
This got me thinking...
Just how many bags were NOT being used now that the ban was in effect?
I began taking an informal survey. I asked the manager at one of the large chain grocery stores. What was the count of bags now not being used? She looked at me with glassy eyes. I tried again. Could she give me an estimate of how many bags were used before the ban took effect? (She was amazed I was interested. I was stunned she was amazed.) “Fifteen thousand in general,” was her answer. “A month?” I asked. “A week,” she answered. “More during the holidays.”
My brain scrambled to do some quick math. Fifteen thousand bags a week added up to 60 thousand bags a months or 720,000 bags a year. One store. One small town in New England. Nearly three quarters of a million plastic bags a year. Except the number is actually higher if you count the extra bags used during the holidays.
I continued my quest for the numbers. The high end fresh food market used 250,000 a year and the national chain office supply store used 110,000.
So, doing my best guesstimating math, I added up the numbers from the two large grocery stores, one high end market, the office supply store and a national budget store and got a whopping 2.6 million bags that WILL NOT BE USED AND DISCARDED. It is a staggering number from one small town.
There are 296 towns and 55 cities in Massachusetts. Can you imagine the impact if a ban was implemented state wide? I just multiplied the town/city number times 2.6 million bags and my calculator blew a gasket, started to smoke and couldn't even display the answer because the number was so high. Whew!
Recently, there was great and inspiring news. California implemented such a ban statewide at the end of August 2014. Prior to this, the state was spending 25 million dollars sending plastic bags to landfills and another 8.5 million dollars to remove littered bags from the streets. It is also estimated the Californians were using and disposing ten billion plastic bags a year. Ten billion.
So now we have four towns in Massachusetts. One big state out west. Let's keep going. Get involved where you live and make it happen in your town. We can do it. Let's de-bag the planet!
Lorne Holden is an artist and the author of the Amazon Bestseller “Make It Happen in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done.” Learn more about her at: www.