I have a personal vendetta against plastic bags. Mainly because of their overuse. I am flabbergasted when I go…say…to a convenience store and I buy…something like…a pack of gum, and the sales clerk automatically offers me a bag. “For a pack of gum?” I will say, all incredulous-like. And sometimes they laugh and say “oh, I just ask everyone that,” but sometimes they are dead tired of jerky people, and they just look past me to the next person in line. This isn’t super-common in Austin, TX, but it is still possible.
I am even more flabbergasted when I go to a grocery store and buy approximately 50 items. I will get home with anywhere from 8 to 20 (yes! 20! I have counted!) plastic grocery bags. That’s anywhere from 2.5 – 6.25 items per bag. I have tried to give instructions to the baggers like, “Please fill the bags up as full as they will go” in an effort to up the number of items per bag…I’m thinking it should be more like 12 to 15. Then guess what they do when I’m not looking? DOUBLE BAG THE BAGS! WHAAAAAT?! And then I have to stomp over to the recyling bin out front and un-double bag my groceries and place the superfluous bags directly into the recycling bin. Okay, maybe I’m not really that dramatic about it, but I do get pretty miffed.
But what probably makes me more angry than double bagging the bags is when they put my milk jugs or laudry detergent into a plastic bag. All by itself. “IT HAS A HANDLE! IT DOESN’T NEED A BAG!” I want to scream.
But I don’t. I DO sometimes try to bag my own groceries to prevent all this mess, so that works out pretty well.
And, yes, I know what you are thinking. OF COURSE I should have been using reusable bags all along. I mean, here I am purporting to be the Southern Girl who has Gone Green, right? Well, I am no queen of green yet. I am often harried like a lot of other people, leaving the reusable bags I have purchased en masse either at home or in the car. I have thought about sprinting back to the car to get the bags, but I just don’t think that’s right when there are people waiting in line behind me. I have bought new reusables when paper was not available, or opted for paper when the reusable display is too far from the cashier. I have also, taken my groceries to the car without any bags and loaded them into the trunk all loose and naked. What? There’s nothing wrong with naked groceries!
BUT. I am getting better because my dear city, Austin, TX, has declared that stores must no longer offer single-use plastic bags. This local ruling of plastic bag limitation has caused a vast number of people to now bring bags with them. Paper bags are largely available, as well, which were the ONLY grocery bags available when I was a kid. Of course there is something of a learning curve for the baggers to achieve the paper bag packing method that will get the most groceries in the bag, yet stacked in such a way that the bag can be easily carried in your arms.
The fact is though, that there are still plastic bags, they are just supposed to be for “multiple” uses. Also, restaurants may still offer them for take out, ice is still sold in plastic, and I’ve noticed that certain non-grocery retail stores are still offering them (I’m looking at you, Michaels).
I will confess that I am still using plastic bags myself. I had a mountain of a recycling stash when the ban went into effect. I had every intention of just stuffing them all in one of those store-front recycling bins, but I thought it would be a better conservation practice to use these bags as many times as I could before ridding myself of them. So, I now permanently store portions of the stash in my trunk. I grab about 10 on the way into the store, I try to make sure what I buy will fit in 10 bags, and I certainly make sure they are stuffed to the gills before they are considered “full” by the bagger.
Austin is not alone in this bag ban trend–several cities across the country–nay! across the world!–have banned the blight of plastic bags. Several cities have tried to pass the ban, but they have been voted down, for whatever reason–mainly because businesses claim it is “bad for business.” But this just cannot be true. Get paper. Sell re-usables. How hard is that? And how is that detrimental to business? The only business it might be bad for is the plastic-bag makers. They could easily transition to making something more durable and reusable, but honestly–the amount of petroleum that goes into something meant to be disposable is just criminal.
So, whether you live in a city with a ban or not, make the change in your shopping habits by adding reusables to your routine. Or ask for paper. Or hell, let your groceries run wild and free and naked in your trunk! Do it.