Look Out for the Bag Monster!

| September 6, 2010 | 1 Comment

So, you need to get some groceries and head to the nearest supermarket. When standing in the checkout line, you see their display selling ugly, reuseable bags marked with the store logo and think to yourself, “Ugh, I forgot my bags…again.” But oh well, you just check out and toss the bags into the garbage after unpacking the food. They hardly take up any space in the trash anyway, so how bad can they really be?

Sound familiar? Hopefully it won’t be your story anymore after reading this! Did you know that a single-use plastic bag, thin and temporary as they seem, last 500-1000 years in a landfill?! And even at that point, they never really biodegrade. They just break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. Yuck. Something that only carries your groceries for a few minutes from here to there should never last 1000 years! Single use plastic bags also leach chemicals into our water supply, clog our waterways, kill our wildlife and contribute to the Great American Garbage Patch.

To bring light (and humor) to this startling issue is Andy Keller, AKA the Bag Monster. The Bag Monster is made up of 500 single-use plastic bags, the number the average American uses in a year. He’s traveling from coast to coast and hit Chicago last week making a statement in Daley Plaza. He exhibited a pile of 45,000 bags to help people see how many bags they would likely throw “away” in their lifetime, basically creating a new bag monster each year.

Keller got started down this road while he was doing some yardwork one day and had to take a trip to his local landfill. He was shocked by the scale of the mountain of trash and felt compelled to do something about this “growing” problem. Almost right away, Keller started ChicoBag Co. making it easy to remember your reuseable bags. If the story at the start of this article sounds like you all too often, check out these bags! They fold up super small and even have a tiny carabiner so you can set yourself up to remember them.

At some point, Keller wanted to go further to draw attention and awareness to the problems plastic bags are causing and to encourage us all to break the addiction. He says that as the cross-country Bag Monster tour has moved from state to state, there has been a lot of growing support. When people see the Bag Monster, Keller told me, “I usually get two responses. People always say, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of bags.’ and then they either say, ‘I should use less.’ or else they say, ‘I think I use more!’ At least they’re being honest.” Check out the Bag Monster blog post on his visit to Chicago and learn about how our city officials almost didn’t let him set up shop, even though he had a permit. Also on the site you can find out more about when and where to find the Bag Monster next! And if you’d like to follow the Bag Monster on Facebook, Twitter, you can connect to him along the right side of his blog page.

When it comes to breaking the addiction to single-use plastic bags, using reuseable bags for shopping is an obvious step in the right direction. But like my husband’s co-worker said when they saw the Bag Monster downtown, “I need those for picking up after my dog!”. So I posed that question to the Bag Monster himself. He said if you’ve got a yard, you can just dig a hole and teach your dog to go there or put it there yourself when you go out to pick up after Fido. Cover it when not in use, and when that hole starts to fill up, bury it and dig another. Your dog becomes your composter! “But what about the many many Chicagoans with dogs and without yards?”, I asked. His reply was a good one. How about saving and reusing all the plastic bags that come in other forms and also usually end up in the trash? Like bread bags, pita bags, chip bags, you get the idea. “And, if you don’t have enough of those kids of bags, make friends with a neighbor who doesn’t have a dog!” That’s a great idea, I think!

As an aside, California was poised to pass a ban on plastic bags, but the American Chemical Council spent $$$ on ads against the bill, and the legislation failed. If any plastic bag legislation ever comes up in IL, which hopefully it will, please remember how long it will take for the thousands of bags we’ve all used to breakdown and decide whether you want to leave more of that behind for the generations to come. The Bag Monster would thank you.

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Category: Featured, Living Green

About the Author ()

Kristen Holub, mother of 2 and creator of EcoActivista.com, is an artist and business owner turned stay-at-home mom. She makes conscious and mindful decisions to keep the household eco-friendly and shares tip and tricks for others to do the same. She can always be found running around town with her kids, as she jots down and shares their great finds in the city.

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  1. angel oakley says:

    Totally agree – I am so guilty of forgetting to bring my bags in the store with me. I use paper when I can so and then use those as my recycling collection bags.

    What do you think about Bio Bags? From initial readings, I think it would be great if poly bags were changed to biodegradable corn starch. http://www.buygreen.com/biobagshoppers.aspx

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