An estimated one percent of thrown-away plastic bags never make it to the landfill. Instead, in New York City, too many of them become street litter which first gets washed into the City’s storm drains and then, when a heavy rain comes and the system overflows, gets dumped through one of the 450 “outfalls” into the New York harbor estuary. From there, it washes into that part of the Atlantic Ocean known as the New York Bight where it becomes accidental food for the 7 species of sea turtle, 300 species of fish, 350 species of bird, 10 species of whales and several species of seals and porpoises who live there (case in point in the picture on the right).
For leatherback turtles, it turns out, New York’s “urban
tumbleweed”—the 30 to 90 million estimated plastic bags that end up littering
the streets each year—is a particular hazard. In 1988, alarmed marine
biologists, trying to figure out why 15 dead leatherback turtles had washed up
on the beaches of
According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences,
between one third and one half of sea turtles swimming in American waters
already has at least some kind of plastic impacted in their stomachs. A recent
And here’s what we did. We began bringing our own bags to the farmers’ market (pretty much the only shopping we do on this project). We saved all the various shopping bags—like the great ones from the clothing store Scoop—that had come our way and bought some large organic cotton net bags like the French use. We also got some light, organic cotton cloth bags for use when buying produce, instead of the plastic bags you find at the grocery store.
Want to get some yourself? You can find them at Reusable Bags or Ecobags (anyone have other suggestions?). For the many other reasons plastic bags are the devil, read what the Worldwatch Institute has to say here and some fast facts from Reusable Bags here.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.