Article by Rob Cuddi, live blue(tm) Service Leader
I am standing in my basement with two more plastic bags to add to this growing mountain and scratching my head, questioning how this could happen. I must be looking at ONE HUNDRED crumpled bags stuffed into a large cloth shopping bag…it’s slapping me in the head with the slogan, “Save the Planet One Plastic Bag at a Time!”
I’m no stranger to the negative impacts of plastic bags, and I make every effort to avoid using them. Cloth Bags became part of my shopping experience almost 20 years ago. I always have one in my backpack for those unscheduled purchases we all make. No matter how hard I try, somehow plastic bags keep creeping into my life. The practice of shoving smaller, single purchase items into my pockets is a constant for me, all in an effort to keep plastics out of the ocean. I have even been laughed at for chasing plastic bags across Revere Beach that were ﬂying about with the wind.
Plastic bags that do end up in the ocean can cause no shortage of problems. They ﬂoat gracefully in the ocean just like a moon jelly, which sea turtles may mistakenly ingest, often to their ultimate demise. This is a point I am constantly reminding people (interested or not) when I carry a tube of jellies through the aquarium on one of my weekly Visitor Education shifts.
As plastics break down (after anywhere from 400-1000 years!) the resulting plastic bits contaminate soil, wetlands, marine communities and the entire food web when ingested by animals unknowingly. Nearly 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals die each year from either ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic bags according to Natural Environment (June 13, 2017 issue).
Frustrating as all this is, I am still faced with that mountain of plastic trash bags in my basement, as I’m sure are many of you, so now some creative problem solving on my part: What can we do with plastic bags that “magically” and unintentionally accumulate in our lives? After an eye-opening Google Search, reading one of my dad’s old medical journals, and some reﬂections into my own ‘bag’ of skills, I came up with a possible solution: we can make jump ropes out of USED plastic bags! Now I am not suggesting we start purposely collecting plastic shopping bags to make jump ropes, but if faced with an inordinate number of bags and no way to recycle them, this may be a good solution! Making and using jump ropes out of plastic bags will not only serve the environment but jumping rope is touted by the American Heart Association as a great cardiovascular, fun activity for people of all ages.
When I was ten, I could run like the wind and steal a base quicker than anyone on the team (if I could ever get on base…). The one thing I could really do well (which I know is why I could run like the wind) is jump rope! One might say I was the jump rope champ of my neighborhood, hey probably the entire town! I could jump that rope nonstop longer than anyone who challenged me. My uncle was a trainer, a trainer of boxers. Back in the day, his name was wired to Rocky Marciano, as his trainer. My uncle had an eye for recognizing talent and he sure tried hard to ﬁnd mine. Boxers skipped rope for strength and cardio endurance but my uncle Allie got me skipping rope for the fun of it (but secretly I skipped rope to be the best at something).
We were poor by the day’s standards, so no fancy jump ropes for me. My dad, frugal Luigi, gave me a section of my parent’s recycled clothesline.(nothing went to waste in our house). Fast forward to 2017 and in place of those old, recycled clotheslines, braided plastic bags will accomplish the same goal and make a stronger, more durable product. Why jump rope, you might ask, when I can ride a bike at the gym or put on my running sneakers and run around the block? Well, jump rope has many advantages:
- It costs nothing
- It is great cardio exercise
- It is easy on the joints, easier than running!
- You can set your own pace
- It is good for all ages
- It helps improve heart health and blood pressure
- It is good for ﬂexibility, coordination, balance and muscular tone
Plus it is fun, fun, fun!
So, with all this in mind, check out the following video on just how to upcycle USED plastic shopping bags into sturdy jump ropes.
And don’t forget to check out Randolph’s article on what you can do to reduce plastic bag use in your own community!