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Whenever I go to the grocery store without my reusable bags I feel an incredible guilt. Not only will I be penalized with the 5-cent bag tax, but I’ll also be forced to either carry my groceries in my hand or accept paper bags I don’t need or want. Luckily I can use big paper bags as trash receptacles in my house, but I have absolutely no use for plastic bags and they just gather dust in my coat closet.

Speaking of plastic bags, the District of Columbia has implemented a great incentive to bring reusable bags shopping trips. Residents or anyone shopping in DC is charged a 5-cent bag tax when they choose to use a plastic/paper bag at checkout. If they remember to bring their own bags, some stores and restaurants will offer a 5-cent credit. Some countries have taken this initiative a step further and have completely banned plastic bags, such as Rwanda. This has led to a much cleaner environment and now Rwanda has the reputation of being one of the cleanest countries in the world.

In Denver, a few stores donate money to a charity if you skip on their bags. And many stores have also switched to only offering paper bags, which are better for the environment. However, this is not enough to stop the massive amount of plastic waste caused by failing to bring reusable bags. I strongly believe the bag tax should be implemented everywhere or at least other incentives to bring reusable bags while shopping.

One plastic bag takes 450 years to biodegrade, which contributes substantially to pollution and waste. According to Health Guidance, “Thousands of sea animals die every year as they end up eating these toxic bags mistaking them for sea food.” Through the food chain we end up eating the plastic bag waste in our own meat.

Also the process of recycling plastic bags emits tons of pollution, and thus the plastic bag should just be banned all together. Bag production produces very little emissions in comparison to bag recycling. Since they are so hard to convert into useful material, 90% of plastic bags aren’t recycled. They’re just dumped into rivers, oceans, streams and lakes.

Plastic bags also drain our natural resources, while reusable bags could save millions of tons of petroleum. Throwing away our plastic bags is equivalent to dumping 12 million barrels of oil into the ocean. Yikes! Similarly a recent study has shown that bags are made with harmful toxins that are hazardous to the health of humans and animals.

So next time you go to the store, think twice about your health, as well as the health of animals and the environment; don’t forget your reusable bags. There shouldn’t have to be a money incentive for you to want to make the earth livable for future generations. Don’t just use them at the super market, take them to the mall, a restaurant or when doing shopping of any kind! You are helping your wallet in many cases, and the overall health of the planet.

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