By Finn Clark
Today is my birthday and I’m turning 10. I decided to do a good deed on my birthday, since I’ve been around for 10 years now. It’s a tradition in my family: On each of our birthdays we choose how we give back to our Earth in thanks for the nurturing planet where we live or to help someone in need.
We were driving down the road on our way home from school and we saw a ton of plastic bags littering both sides of the road.
It wasn’t just one bag. There were many. They looked like out-of-place white polka dots on an early spring green grass landscape. Somehow, someone had collected them and meant to take them to the store for recycling. But these bags got away and were now all over our road. We wondered if anyone would pick them up. We continued on home. A few hours later, I wanted to go back and check on them. They were still there, but now they were wedged even further in the ditches, up in the trees, and hidden in tall grass. Cars kept whizzing by. My mom and I got out of our car and collected them all while my sister stayed with the dog — there were 114 polyethylene bags in total. Probably someone’s 1-year collection.
Most were never even used, pulled from the rolls you find in the produce section of the store and stashed for some reason.
It makes me feel thankful that our island has banned plastic bags, but they aren’t banning those produce bags. This person was stockpiling unused produce bags, or maybe they had decided to go bag-free and were taking them to the recycle bin for good.
We reuse our produce bags, bring cloth ones to the store or simply use no produce bags at all. I mean, apples don’t have to go in a plastic bag do they? When I see 114 produce bags flying in the wind on the side of the road, it becomes clear to me that we just need to stop using these bags in the first place. Some scientists say it takes 500 years for a plastic bag to biodegrade and I’ve seen what that looks like. The bag doesn’t actually go away, it gets broken into bits that are so small they blow away in the wind and you can breathe in the filaments. Yes, it’s good to recycle them, but look what might have happened if it wasn’t my birthday and we hadn’t picked the bags up?
Puget Sound is only a few hundred yards away.
One man slowed down in his car and yelled out the window, “Thank You!”
And for me, that made our effort worth while.