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War on Plastic

Single use plastic bags are on their way out of Andalucia, thanks to the latest National Waste Plan (Plan Nacional de Residuos), which aims to cut the use of these handy helpers by the end of next year. According to a report in this weekend's Diario Sur newspaper, Spain is Europe's number one producer of plastic bags and takes third place when it comes to consumption. In fact, it's estimated that each person goes through nearly 250 plastic shopping bags every year - and the UN calculates there are about 18,000 of them floating free per square kilometre of salt water on our lovely planet. This is not only an ugly sight, but a danger to fish and birds. And remember, these bags will be here for our great, great, great grandchildren and far beyond. Locals in Málaga province who were interviewed for the weekend report in Diario Sur were highly in favour of ditching single use bags and switching back to an old favourite: shopping carts with wheels. For a reasonable cost - usually not more than 15 or 20 euros - you can get one of these sturdy carts at hiper markets or even your local "euro store" (which the Sur reports are stocking up on all sizes as demand increases). Another interesting alternative to conventional plastic bags are the new recyclable version made out of potato starch (fécula de patata). Surprisingly this product is just as durable as the bags we're used to, it has a soft, matted finish and no - it doesn't smell like potatoes! On November 15 Carrefour stores will stop dishing out plastic bags and, along with other large hiper markets, will offer clients the chance to purchase sturdy re-usable bags. Personally, I've already made the switch to re-usable bags. The hardest part was remembering to bring them into the supermarket with me! Once I got the hang of it, I found it's actually much easier to work with these bags. They're better designed and easier to pick up. The trick is to get medium sized bags as you can't really take advantage of all the room available in the larger versions (without squashing your food or creating a load that breaks your back). Another interesting result of using my re-usable bags is the stir it creates in the shopping queue as, inevitably, everyone starts talking about what a good idea it is to make this switch. For me, that makes for double satisfaction: first for saving on plastic bags and second for giving the cause a bit of publicity!
Blog published on 19 October 2009