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Austin's going zero waste: Prepare for the plastic bag ban with these tips

Austin's going zero waste: Prepare for the plastic bag ban with these tips

Austin Photo Set: News_Ryan_plastic bags_Dec 2011_reusable bags
Austin Photo Set: News_Ryan_plastic bags_Dec 2011_plastic bags

Starting March 1, 2013, Austin businesses can no longer hand out single-use shopping bags. Instead, they must provide reusable bags, either plastic at least 4 mil thick with handles, paper made of 40 percent recycled content with handles, or bags made of cloth or another type of durable material. Another option, of course, is for shoppers to bring their own reusable shopping bags.

If you start changing your habits now, March 1 will barely be a speed bump in your shopping road. The ban is part of Austin’s zero waste efforts (previously covered on CultureMap) and also benefits our environment (we covered that, too).

So think of the "bag ban" as a positive change, and use the following tips to prepare for greener shopping in 2013.

  • Chances are you have reusable bags around the house already; many businesses and events hand them out for free. Gather yours up in one convenient place.
  • If you don’t have enough, purchase a reusable bag once a week to spread out the cost, until you have about a dozen.
  • Put five bags of various sizes into a larger bag. Keep one of these in your car, and hang another by the door (or on the doorknob). When you leave the house for a shopping trip, grab the bag o’ bags along with your wallet and keys.
  • After shopping trips, empty the bags, stuff them inside one bag, and put it back by the door or in the car.
  • Buy a small, foldable or stuffable bag to keep in your purse or pocket. That way you’ll have one if you make a last-minute or unexpected purchase.
  • Wash the bags you use for groceries occasionally, but there's no need to panic. A study funded by the American Chemistry Council (makers of single-use plastic bags), found “large numbers of bacteria” on tested bags. Of course it did, since bacteria are in "large numbers" everywhere, including all over our bodies (and we couldn’t survive without them).
  • The same study found E. coli, a potentially harmful bacteria, on only 12 percent of the bags, but when researchers added meat juices and left bags in a car trunk for two hours, the bacteria increased tenfold. The study found that washing bags reduced the bacteria by more than 99.9 percent. Easy solution: Don’t use bags that aren’t washable for meat or unpackaged foods.
  • If you’re worried about carrying heavy bags, use only reusable bags the same size as single-use plastic bags.

Fewer plastic bags will reduce the amount of trash in our landfills and plastic in the environment. It’s a win-win for all of us.