Recycling has become a way of life in many countries of the world. We recycle bottles – both plastic as well as glass – paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, by taking them to established recycling centers. We even recycle clothing, furniture, books and other useful items, by donating them to charities such as Good Will or the Salvation Army or, in the case of clothing, passing them down through siblings.
Unfortunately, not everything that could be recycled is, for various reasons. Sometimes it’s a case of lack of thought or caring, laziness, or perhaps even not having an accessible recycling plant. In this case, many times, non-biodegradable products are left wherever they fall. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the local shopping mall; there is a wooded area just before the area that, I was appalled to note, had become a depository for vacant flying bags, that hung – waving in the wind, from the branches.
Unfortunately, the practice isn’t limited just to woody areas. For years the news has referred to accumulations of plastic refuse found in rivers, lakes, oceans and seas, but in the last few years, news of a gigantic “garbage patch” or “plastic soup” floating in the Pacific Ocean has come to light. Although references to a solid island of plastic that could be walked on is an exaggeration, the fact remains that the patch truly exists. The problem of the patch is not just esthetic, but is also a danger to human, animal and plant life. Thousands of sea animals and birds die each year as a result of ocean pollution and ingestion of plastic. Clumps of plastic garbage block waterways, sea turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish (which are a large part of their diet), animals become entwined in floating debris. Another problem is that there are a large number of invasive creatures are able to “hitch-hike” on the plastic floating on the ocean’s surface, creating an imbalance in the ecosystem.
Part of the garbage patch problem is caused by the unavailability of plastic bag recycling centers. It’s true that we can avoid bringing new bags into circulation by reusing the same bags over and over until they wear out and then use them as trash bags. However, this still puts those bags into the environment. And some of those bags are so thin that stores use two bags to give them more strength, which actually doubles the amount of bags in circulation. What, then, can be done to eliminate the problem of plastic bags?
Several states have tried putting into act a law prohibiting the use of plastic bags. The latest in the list is the Big Island of Hawaii. With a large part of its income deriving from its beautiful coastline, Hawaii can ill-afford with plastic-locked beaches. One response to not using plastic bags is to use paper bags. However, as the site save the plastic bag mentions, there are at least two very good reasons for using plastic bags rather than paper bags. The first is that plastic bags are much stronger; paper bags are easily split, especially if they should become wet. The other would be in distinct conflict with plastic bag pollution: saving trees.
My mother spoke of a solution that she had heard of, and which I agree is a rather fun way of recycling plastic bags: cutting the plastic bags into strips and then using the strips to crochet different reusable, water-proof items. Cutting the strips is time consuming, especially when you have a LOT of bags , like I do. I’m presently working on making strips, but I have also started crocheting a rug for the bathroom floor, but have plans to make a large, extra-strong shopping bag, and maybe even a laundry bag for carrying to the Laundromat. One group of people created a beautiful “mosaic” out of bags fished from the ocean, to remind people to care for the environment.
Plastic and glass bottles can usually be recycled, but those quart and gallon milk bottles can also be used for storing dry legumes or rice. Glass bottles with interesting shapes could also be implemented in making interesting vases or artwork. Use your imagination, and you’d be surprised just how fun recycling can be. And just think, we can save the oceans and the trees, with a tiny bit of inventiveness, good sense and good will.