Wednesday, April 23, 2008

happy belated Earth Day

Since we're all supposed to be doing our part saving the earth I'd like to talk about those ugly cloth bags that every grocery store is selling nowadays. About the same size as a brown paper grocery bag, they cost around a dollar and are most likely made in China. You buy a bunch, stuff them full of your groceries, hope they don't fall apart as you're crossing the parking lot to your car, and most importantly, you're supposed to bring them back to the store to reuse them. The theory is that it cuts down on the use of paper or plastic bags and therefore cuts down on waste. Not to mention that 1.) the stores no longer have to provide as many free bags for their customers but get to charge for bags instead and 2.) you can look like a very stylish, greener-than-thou soccermom as you put the bags into the back of your gigantic SUV.

Sounds good. Makes sense. Right?

Maybe not. These reusable, "eco-friendly" bags probably create more waste. Think about it: some company has to manufacture the cloth bags, package them, pack them in boxes, ship them to the stores...and then, if you buy them, you still have to buy regular garbage bags anyway (more manufacturing, packaging, shipping, etc). Instead of reusing the free plastic bags already provided by the store, you are paying for plastic bags that you are just going to throw away. Talk about wasteful.


Anonymous said...

I have a zillion free canvas bags from various schools, conventions, etc. etc. and I just use those.

I had some inexpensive string bags, oh, how French! how fashionable! How inconvenient to use! Eventually they fell back into their natural state, mere string, and were used as such.

raven_albion said...

I think that stores should just charge for ALL bags, regardless of the material that the bags are made of. I don't give a hoot, frankly, that my local greeny co-op store gives me a 5-cent credit on my bill for each cloth bag I use in their checkout. It's such a small incentive that it's not an incentive at all. If they added 50 cents for each paper bag I used? I'd pay more attention to whether or not I'd remembered to stuff a couple cloth bags in the backseat before I left the house.

Anonymous said...

To Raven: In some parts of Europe, stores are required to charge for bags. You can bring in nifty canvas ones or you can just bring in your plastic ones.

To Breda: Thank you. I've been using this logic for quite a while. I do not throw out ANY plastic bags unless they're part of being something useful. That is, they are filled with trash. I use my head when I pack the bags at the store - which is a large part of why I've been insistent on using the "Self checkout" lanes lately because *I* bag them. When I let the cashier do it, I end up with 2 items per bag very often. I tell this logic to others and everybody insists to me that they throw out "significantly more" plastic bags than they'll ever use. I've really never had a problem. *shrug*

Breda said...

ankhorite - I wish I got free swag too!

raven - I'm sure the stores are charging you for "free" bags by working the cost into their prices anyway.

tyskkvinna - I've had people say to me, "But those small bags wouldn't fit in my big trash can."...well, buy a smaller can! I'd rather take out the trash more often and not have it in my house anyway.

Faith said...

I reuse the plastic bags for trash, just makes sense to me. I have 1 store cloth bag which I never remember to bring. We do have a recycle box at the local wal mart and Weiss, and I try to take my over supply of plastic bags there. But the best use....picking up the dog pooh from the yard, side walk, etc. why buy special bags for this?

Brenda, I do like your reasoning!

Earl said...

Book Bags from sponsors of whatever at Library worker conventions are all over my home, but then I have many army green laundry bags with rope ties - not a problem, paper plastic or other - it goes in the trash full of stuff that isn't found worthy. I expect others to recycle my trash, if it were a treasure I would be hanging on to it.

Mulliga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
raven_albion said...

Breda, you're right--the store has to pay for that paper/plastic bag somehow. The difference is that if they specifically charge me for it, the cost to me is clear, and I can choose to avoid it (or not).

I read an article online recently about China planning to ban free plastic shopping, yeah, here:

(Now we'll see if they actually DO IT. ha!)

Breda said...

Bah, China. Don't get me started.

Funder said...

I've got a couple of reusable Kroger bags. I have ended up using them to carry my schoolbooks instead of my groceries, but at least they're getting used. The story of when I purchased them is, I think, a masterpiece of irony.

I was in the ghetto Kroger buying a lot of groceries one day. On my way to the checkout, I noticed reusable bags for sale! What a wonderful idea! I can Save the Environment with them! I picked up two or three and proceeded to check out. I made sure the reusable bags got rung up first, so they'd get filled up with the later groceries.

The bagboy carefully folded up my reusable bags and stuffed them in a plastic bag. To steal a line from Tam - Dude, you're doing it wrong. Sigh.

DirtCrashr said...

I ask for paper every time, the plant fast-growing trees just for that purpose. The little plastic bags aren't big enough for what we take down to the dumpster, the beer bottles and smelly stuff - no recycling. "Earth Day" is a Hallmark holiday for ecoweenies.

Anonymous said...

I hate plastic bags for groceries.I get 16 bags and all the items spill in the car. I always asked for paper.One parer bag can be the equivalant on 4 plastic and they have to pack them better. Paper bags are used for trash and they stand up and do not flop. They can be used for book covers and do not get thrown out, unless full of trash. They hold up with used kitty litter and never seem to drip out through the seams.

One trip to the grocery ato get a weeks worth of grcoersied and the plastic bags fill up half a 30 gallon trash can. What a total waste are these cheap plastic bags.