Sure I’ve thought about how it would affect my behavior if I have to contain and cart everything I buy out of the store. If the filmy, sometimes useful annoyances are no longer free, at some point I will have to purchase some just like them from the aisle that sells baggies and tin foil, just so that I have enough to line the little trash bins around my house. Few of the bags I come home with are purposed just once; they get a second life holding trash, or to cover a food bowl in the fridge, or to cart watermelon rinds and cornhusks down to the horses. I don’t toss them out unless they develop holes or get sticky from their contents. But perhaps that isn’t the norm for most users. Rarely, when I have excess bags, I take them to the recycle bin at the store. I sometimes use someone else’s used bags from the bin just so that I won’t have to use new sacks. But it still doesn’t negate the fact that the bags will never biodegrade.
As for an option to use paper, those types of sacks aren’t as useful to me. I also don’t like the thought of using trees for them to be made. Fossil fuels aren’t as “alive” in the sense of the word that a tree is, yet their use is damaging our environment all over the globe.
I’ve collected a number of large utility bags over the years in my effort to use fewer plastic sacks. Some are made of canvas while others are reinforced plastic or polyester lined with thick thermal layers that help to keep ice cream frozen when home is 25 miles from the store. When I do remember to bring them, my challenge at the market is beating the baggers from using the store’s bags. “Look,” I often tell the clerks and assistants, “I’ve brought these other sacks, so you don’t need to use yours.” Then I try to get at the end of the conveyor belt to show them that I like to pack my large bags really full so that I have fewer containers to cart into the house. Quite often I’ll tell them to please not put one large item in just one bag, when I can easily carry the toilet paper or tissues or milk jug or cereal box just fine without it being put in a bag that is going to tear from weight or sharp corners. “Oh,” they often respond to me, “I’ll double-bag it so it won’t break,” which makes me a little more crazy because I’ll then get two bags instead of the preferred none.
It’s not the baggers’ fault: store employees are trained to provide good service to their customers, which in my lifetime has always meant putting the groceries in bags. When I was a kid we had paper bags. Decades later plastic bags were developed. Hence the question, “Paper or plastic?”
It’s trendy right now for governmental bodies to ban plastic bags. Municipal leaders generally want what’s best for their communities, and they want to leave a legacy. I remember a few years ago when the city was recognized for its sustainable energy efforts. Businesses and individuals around town partnered with the power company to pay a little extra on their bills for energy that was generated by non-coal means. I bought into the program. And every month for years I wondered whether my donation was worth it. That is, until last spring when we put solar panels on our house and quit paying the huge power bills and donating to that program. Our solar investment was donation enough.
Our exhausted world has been described on many fronts as environmentally doomed. Many statistics show that we are losing the war in terms of global progress on climate change, which means we are losing the war on our own survival. I suppose banning plastic grocery bags is one small step toward slowing that negative trend. On that note I’ll redouble my efforts to re-use plastic cups, straws and utensils, and to use my own utility totes at the grocery store instead of relying on the maligned plastic ones that are currently under consideration by our city council.