M. Giant's
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Friday, December 05, 2008  

Bag It

Tonight at the grocery store, I only had three small items, but I did something I try to avoid in such cases: I asked for a bag.

I remember an old Sally Forth strip years ago when the supermarket bag boy asked the protagonist, "Do you want to kill trees or clog landfills?" The punch line was that she and Hilary ended up bringing everything in from the car by the armload. I don't go that far, but I've been trying to cut down on plastic bag use ever since I learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I'm not exactly clear on how my Walgreens bags find their way into the North Pacific, but since we're talking about a plastic bath toy twice the size of Texas, they must be pretty determined.

Our bags live in two places. The paper grocery bags are stuffed into the narrow nook between the fridge and the pantry. We use them for recycling and occasionally wrapping a package. We keep running out of them, especially since we started recycling every scrap of cardboard and plastic that goes through here. At the supermarket, we try to remember to snag a few extra, but then forget, because we feel guilty about the bags we're already using, and a couple of weeks later the bottles go to the curb in a lunch sack. Or I end up getting a paper bag on a minor errand so I can carry home three things that would have fit in my coat pockets.

The plastic shopping bags, on the other hand, are balled up and hanging from the side door in, you guessed it, another plastic shopping bag. We use the plastic shopping bags as small trash can liners (as specified by Stuff White People Like #64). The trash that accumulates in these bags goes out every week, sometimes more than once. That means six to eight plastic bags leaving the premises, because while we don't want to throw them in the trash, it's somehow better to use them to hold trash. What I don't get is how that big rustling bolus of polymers in our house never gets any smaller.

Okay, that's not entirely true. When my PS2 broke a few months ago and I needed to ship it to Texas for repairs, guess what I used for packing material? It beat going out and buying bubble wrap, and it also took our plastic bag collection from two bagfuls to one. But since then, the level has stagnated. I can only assume that six to eight bags are coming in every week. Seemingly under their own power, possibly using whatever means of locomotion will later help them reach the ocean. At this point, I think the only way to get them down to zero is to throw them all away, and that's not about to happen. What would I throw them away in?

And yes, I know all about reusable bags. We even own a couple from Trader Joe's. Trash keeps them in her trunk and uses them to shop there. Since Trader Joe's used to be a major source of paper grocery bags for us, it's not exactly a complete solution.

So I'd like to offer a modest proposal. Let us use the plastic bags for recycling. Yes, I know they gum up the sorting rollers or whatever. I don't care. Get new rollers.

Just carry them from the store in paper bags, okay? I'm worried about the environment.

posted by M. Giant 6:58 PM 6 comments


Why don't you use canvas grocery bags? Then you don't have to worry about either bag making into the landfill. Every one in awhile I get a paper bag from Whole Foods just to put out the recycling. Plus, I don't know if this has reached you yet, but they are charging a 10 cent deposit (at least) on every non-canvas bag you use at grocery stores in the NYC area. That's got to be making its way to other areas..

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 6, 2008 at 7:07 AM  

At the grocery stores around me, they have bins for those bags near the bottle return machines, and they allegedly get recycled. As for how they are getting into your home, I would check into how dirty clothes, tons of kiddie-art, and muddy boots get home from M. Edium's preschool or whatever. Your best clue comes from the side of the bag, which should say "Thank you for shopping at (X)." If X is a store that you or Trash shop at, it's your fault. If X is "North Pacific Mart," you'll know it's the result of the Garbage Cycle, and those bags need to be put in the bin with the non-recyclables so they can go back out into the ocean to feed, or breed, or whatever.

By Blogger livingjetlag, at December 6, 2008 at 7:38 AM  

The first time I walked into a grocery store in Germany, I was not hip to the no-plastic-bags-for-you deal happening there. We had a cart absolutely full of groceries, and there was no bag to be found. I am told that you can buy them, but at the time I didn't even see any that I could ask for. So, yeah, we dumped everything back into our cart, wheeled it out to the car, and had to haul everything inside in our arms. Saving the earth with our total lack of clues.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 6, 2008 at 10:13 AM  

Kohl's and Walmart both have a bin near the door for recycling plastic shopping bags. I have three bags of bags in my car waiting for me to remember to drop them off.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 6, 2008 at 3:49 PM  

And what about those bags that cover the newspaper? I stuff mine inside a regular plastic bag and then hand them back to the newspaper lady once that bag is full (and since I found out that the little shopper paper publisher actually charges their carriers for those bags, I feel even better about the solution).

By Blogger funtime42, at December 6, 2008 at 5:15 PM  

A reusable bag that actually lasts would give you the lowest carbob footprint. I have been using one called The Best Bag and while being made of plastic, I have used it for over 2 years! That's a low carbon footprint!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 9, 2008 at 8:42 AM  

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