2007 the year against the plastic bag
January 16, 2008 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Each year the world makes about 5 trillion plastic bags(art exhibit) using about 20 billion barrels of oil, each bag able to last thousands of years. In 2007 cities began legislating against plastic bags from outright bans to mandatory surcharges, starting in San Francisco, then Hong Kong, Melbourne and now some countries in Africa, Israel and even the entire country of China are taking similar strides to cut down on the worlds bag obsession. Who's next in 2008?
posted by stbalbach (78 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
20 billion barrels to make 5 trillion bags? My calculations might be flawed (they usually are), but does that mean it takes 0.64 litres of oil to make one plastic bag? That seems high.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:44 AM on January 16, 2008


I know it's a small thing, but the replacement of brown paper bags with these ultra-thin, insta-tear plastic bags in my view marked the beginning of the decline of western civilization. We reused those brown bags all the time, even before we heard the term "recycle". We covered our school books with them, stored toys and clothes in them, used them as picnic Baskets, etc. In a pinch they made effective albeit low-budget wrapping paper. We made all kinds of crafts out them too, like masks, hats, and boats.

I hope they ban these stupid plastic bags in the US. They are quite literally mass produced trash. They should ship them directly from the factory to the landfill and cut out the middleman. Awful, awful things.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:44 AM on January 16, 2008 [7 favorites]


Seriously. Enough already with the plastic bags!

I really think this is the kind of change that has to be made from the ground up. Far-flung campaigns and attempts at legislation will only discourage, annoy, and bog down. Individual businesses have to decide to do this, one or two or three at a time.

Which in a way means the pressure really is on us. As consumers, we aren't presented with many fights we can actually win anymore, but I do think this is one of them.
posted by hermitosis at 7:46 AM on January 16, 2008


Last night, I was picking up a (plastic) 2 liter of Diet Coke at CVS. The clerk bagged it. When I said I didn't need a bag, I was just carrying it around the corner, she pulled the bottle out of the bag and then just threw the bag away. If there hadn't been a huge-ass line behind me, I would have started The Lecture.

The Lecture is a bad thing.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 7:49 AM on January 16, 2008 [8 favorites]


Also: 20 billion? According to WorldOil daily production in 2006 was about 85 million bbl/day. That's 31 billion barrels/year.
posted by psyche7 at 7:53 AM on January 16, 2008


Without plastic grocery bags, I'd shovel catshit into what, exactly?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:59 AM on January 16, 2008 [9 favorites]


Bag hutch is especially designed for bags, and holds up to 12 bags!
posted by MNDZ at 8:00 AM on January 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


beaucoupkevin, I've also seen this happen when I say I don't want a bag. I've started prefacing my conversations with tellers by saying, "I don't want a bag, please," before I even put my items down, which is fine for some people but annoys others for some reason. I have to say it though, because they are so fast on throwing my items in one. Even if they are tiny little purchases.
posted by agregoli at 8:01 AM on January 16, 2008


I remember working at Kroger in high school when stores started pushing hard for use of plastic. Cost wise, I think it was something like 3 cents for paper bags and less than a cent for a plastic bag. I remember, oddly enough, when the managers got word from on high that baggers should stop asking "paper or plastic?" and instead just use plastic unless specifically asked otherwise. Saving pennies in the short term to skullfuck the environment in the long term. I can't wait till they open the first store on Pacific Trash Island.

Additionally, I remember back then all of the Krogers would give you a 3cent credit if you brought your own bags to reuse. Needless to say, this program is no longer offered.
posted by absalom at 8:10 AM on January 16, 2008


Being an old hippy, I've always used canvas bags although not very consistently. But I said enough the day I got 8 items at the grocery store, and the clerk used 9 bags for them. I complained to management (sorry, I did give The Lecture, just can't help myself) and I don't think I've brought more than 2 plastic bags into the house in the last 6 months.

Faint of Butt, why are you putting catshit in bags? Aren't you just flushing it?
posted by nax at 8:14 AM on January 16, 2008


I don't think the 20 billion barrel number is right.

Approximately 2 million barrels of oil per day is used to make plastic. That comes to about 730 million bbls per year for all the plastic. A better way to put it is that to make all the plastic we use requires 730 million barrels of oil a year.

However note that oil is a raw material. When cracked and refined it produces all kinds of fun chemicals which are used just about everywhere. So there are likely to be chemicals from those 730 million barrels that are not used in plastic, but are instead used elsewhere.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:15 AM on January 16, 2008


Hurrah for San Francisco, pioneeringly following in the footsteps of Ireland only five years later.
posted by Hogshead at 8:17 AM on January 16, 2008


At my local grocery store, they insist on plastic, and they do so insidiously. They'll ask you "paper or plastic?" but if you're not watching them, when you say "paper" (I reuse paper bags) they'll stick a paper bag inside of a plastic bag. What exactly does this accomplish, except to completely disregard the customer's request and make the corners of the paper bag rip through the plastic one? It's like at the coffee shop where I get my morning bagel: I say "I don't need a bag, and I don't need any napkins," but they ignore me, put the freaking thing inside a styrofoam container, shove that into a plastic bag, and stuff it full of eight or nine napkins. Who needs eight napkins for one bagel? It's like they're insisting on being as wasteful as possible.
posted by goatdog at 8:23 AM on January 16, 2008


The number should be 20 million barrels of oil per year to make plastic bags, not 20 billion. The US uses 12 million barrels annually in the plastic bag production - it seems not unreasonable to double that figure for the rest of the world.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:25 AM on January 16, 2008


My wife and I started using canvas bags. It's amazing how baffling this can be to some grocery store clerks -- it's quite an uncommon thing where we live, despite all the stores selling branded bags for that very reason. We use self-checkout whenever possible, but of course they throw off the scales and don't hang well on the racks meant for plastic bags.

Trader Joe's OTOH lets you enter a drawing if you bring your own bags.
posted by Foosnark at 8:27 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Take your canvas bags take your canvas bags take your canvas bags to the super market.
posted by demagnetized at 8:34 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I buy my barrels of oil, I put them in plastic bags.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:37 AM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Couple of things:
They've a plastic bag ban up the road from where I live. I went shopping there a week or so ago for party foods. It was pretty depressing to open up my biodegradable cornstarch bag to realise that pretty much every item of food I'd purchased seemed individually encased in plastic.
I think the bag, had it been plastic, would only have contributed a small percentage of the total plastic I'd purchased.

This is going to sound flippant and caustic, but I really am confused by this. Given that the main aim of modern green politics seems to be to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide pushed into the atmosphere, isn't carbon which is pulled out of the ground, used and then pushed back into the ground more environmentally friendly than carbon which is burnt and pushed up into the atmosphere. Every tonne of plastic bags left to rot in landfills for the next million years seems to me to be equivalant to oil which has been hidden away and stopped from being used as fuel. Why isn't plastic bag use seen as being more green than non-green?
posted by seanyboy at 8:39 AM on January 16, 2008


Nobody needs cats so lets ban those too.

Facetious, but feral cats are another environmental catastrophe in some places.
posted by erikharmon at 8:44 AM on January 16, 2008


I use plastic bags as bicycle seat covers to keep my ass dry.
posted by sourwookie at 8:50 AM on January 16, 2008


seanyboy: There is more to it than that. First off, much of the plastic gets dumped in the ocean, not in landfills. Secondly is how it decomposes. It's not just that it takes lifetimes for plastic to break town, it's the method of that breakdown itself that is difficult. Plastic photodegrades, so it is broken down by exposure to light. And, unlike paper, which degrades into base components that then reenter the ecosystem pretty much naturally, when plastic breaks down, it just breaks down into smaller chunks of the same plastic and so enters the ecosystem as very small particles of plastic that get eaten by critters that get eaten by us. It's not simply an issue of waste, but of long term environmental health.

Also: I've never found "So, why only fix one part of the problem when there will still be so many other problems left when you are finished" a very compelling argument.
posted by absalom at 8:50 AM on January 16, 2008


I hope they ban these stupid plastic bags in the US.

Yeah, but have you ever seen one floating about on the wind? It reminds us that even the smallest, crummiest, most insignificant things in this world can be capable of great beauty... that life can be beautiful.

*throws contents of waste basket out window*

WHEEE! Look at 'em go!
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:51 AM on January 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


Hogshead - I was about to post something similar. Ireland has done a great job on this front. Galway in particular is positively NUTS about recycling. They use three different bins, are very strictly monitored, weighed, etc. The only plastic bags in sight are the heavy-duty, multiple-use ones that people like me buy at Dunnes Stores because I'm only a bloody tourist and forget that I need to bring my bags with me.

And it's all they ever talk about nowadays.
posted by Sk4n at 8:52 AM on January 16, 2008


If tax must be, it must be very high, making the most convenient shopping inconvenient. Like , $2 per plastic bag sounds about it, guess the masses would start using them again and again or substitute with reusable bags. With the very same $2 I would finance cheaper reusables made of , for instance, hemp ? Or some other vegetable, cotton mixed with other fibers maybe ?

Yet growing that hemp/cotton would require some kind of fertilization, most likely petroleum based. So multiple use it should be, whatever it is made of.
posted by elpapacito at 8:56 AM on January 16, 2008


What Faint of Butt said about where to shovel shit from the litterbox. I use grocery store bags and the plastic bags that our newspaper comes in.

And canvas bags for grocery shopping? Well, we do use them when we go to the farmers market, but I use the paper grocery store ones to hold all our recycling, so I don't use reusable bags when I go to the store - I always need more paper bags. I don't understand what the canvas bag-users use for their newspapers and bottles and cans, at least here in SF.
posted by rtha at 8:57 AM on January 16, 2008


Here in Switzerland, we can't get plastic bags (except for tiny, flimsy ones that hold maybe one pack of cheese) at all at supermarkets, and we have to pay 30 Rappen (about 25 cents) each for the store's paper shopping bags. (They also sell reusable plastic/canvas bags for more.) Even that small price is an incentive for people to use their own bags. You see students cramming food into their backpacks and bankers putting butter and milk in their briefcases. I always carry a big backpack with me that holds my laptop in one compartment, and space for groceries in the other, plus a canvas bag for the veg and bread.

Nothing is banned by legislation though, the stores just instituted such policies on their own, following customer demand.

When I pull out my backpack at American supermarkets, they always look at me funny.
posted by derMax at 8:58 AM on January 16, 2008


But but but some stores will collect used bags and recycle them, where "recycle" means that magical pixie gnomes will make the bags go ever so far away and not bother anyone ever again, and not "throw into a big landfill to maybe be re-used at a future date, if we remember to think about it."
posted by Legomancer at 8:59 AM on January 16, 2008


We use canvas bags most of the time but have to get plastic bags sometimes because they are the only thing that our city allows you to put recycling into.
posted by octothorpe at 9:02 AM on January 16, 2008


Related - Ban The Bag
posted by chuckdarwin at 9:03 AM on January 16, 2008


Bags may get bagged in Austin. Someday.

Since the bag the bags people started making noise about it I've noticed the HEB supermarkets stepping up efforts to sell the reusable bags.

Plastic bags can sometimes be unavoidable, but I put them in the bins in front of the grocery stores when I can so that we can have more decks.
posted by birdherder at 9:05 AM on January 16, 2008


Bag hutch is especially designed for bags, and holds up to 12 bags!

No shit!
posted by ORthey at 9:14 AM on January 16, 2008


Related, in Canada, reusable/recycled plastic bags are being promoted hard at some grocery stores at the checkout (@$1/per).
posted by acro at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2008


We use mostly plastic for our shopping but dad uses some paper, he says it keeps him working. That said, I would be happy to bring bags to the store, but I'm definitely not going to make them myself!
posted by webgurl at 9:16 AM on January 16, 2008


Tote Bags, Tote Bags, Tote Bags!!!!!!
posted by kylefreund at 9:16 AM on January 16, 2008


Nobody needs cats so lets ban those too.

Facetious, but feral cats are another environmental catastrophe in some places.


Feral cats no problem if ban is enforced with Banhammer! Mathowie saves the planet!
posted by biffa at 9:19 AM on January 16, 2008


I always (well 99% of the time) bring my canvas bags to the supermarket. And whenever I tell the checkout person, "I have bags", I get a blank stare. Sometimes, when they're too quick, I have to get them to take things out of a plastic bag, and tell them to re-use the bag for the next person. And if I'm getting only one item in a store, I always say, "No bag, please".

Funny thing, at one supermarket (King Kullen), they used to give a credit (5 cents, I believe) for every bag you brought in. They've since discountinued that policy. But I hope other supermarkets bring it back in some form.

derMax - Thank you for that data point! Whenever I get weird looks for bringing my own bags, I tell people that in Europe, bags are not common, and people have to pay for them. Now I can mention a specific country. Thanks!

beaucoupkevin- I hear you, man! Grrr...

Foosnark- Yet another reason why I should do more shopping at Trader Joe's.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:19 AM on January 16, 2008


I also experience irritated store clerks when I hand them my canvas bags. They also sneered when I tried to tell them how to price my magnificent portobello mushrooms, but I digress.
posted by wowbobwow at 9:26 AM on January 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


At the Tokyu grocery stores in Japan they give you what amounts to a two yen credit [1] if you use your own bag. Not much of a financial incentive. However, most of the people I saw there used their own bags, whether this represents yen pinching or simply ecological awareness I don't know.

But even here in Amarillo TX one of the local stores is selling canvas bags and offering five cents per bag if you use yours. Not that I've seen many people doing that, but it is an option.

I don't know, but it seems to me that from a total oil use standpoint plastic might wind up being superior to paper. Paper bags are vastly bulkier and heavier than plastic, so it takes that much more oil to transport them. Mind, that's just oil use, ultimate disposal is of course a different thing. Either way, I'll take canvas over paper or plastic.

[1] For the pedantic: what they really give you is two points on your Tokyu Point Card, but in the end it works out to two yen for every bag you bring.
posted by sotonohito at 9:28 AM on January 16, 2008


WRAP - a Government funded waste-reduction group in the UK - carried out some research for the Scottish Parliament that suggested taxing carrier bags increases plastic use because people buy more bin liners (and generally don't bother to take canvas bags to supermarkets).

Carrier Bag Lobby (yes) press release here.

I think this is one of those environmental pressures that won't make much difference but gets a lot of enthusiasm. The well-known (in the UK) campaign to make Modbury in Devon a carrier bag free town was started by a woman who didn't like seeing them in the local river.
posted by athenian at 9:32 AM on January 16, 2008


I'm confused, perhaps because of the way we run our household. The plastic shopping bags that come in are balanced by the bags going out. Our kitchen trashcan is perfectly sized to accept plastic shopping bags as liners, we seem to keep in stasis pretty much. All banning plastic bags will do is ensure that I have to add "plastic bags for kitchen trash" to the grocery list. Net savings zero environmentally and financially will be a loss, except to the bottom line of The Man from Glad.

Reuse, it's one of the three R's they teach kids in first grade.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:34 AM on January 16, 2008


starting in San Francisco, then Hong Kong, Melbourne and now some countries in Africa, Israel and even the entire country of China

No love for Leaf Rapids, Manitoba? They went bagless April 2, 2007 - the first North American municipality to do so - before HK, Melbourne, and all those other provincial backwaters.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:35 AM on January 16, 2008


Yeah, it's actually an insane trend here in Canada now. To my knowledge it started with Loblaws carrying a branded black polyester bag, with their "Something Must Can Be Done" eco-promotion campaign. Some of the other grocery stores starting creating their own bags, although none have matched the Loblaws bag for size/quality/durability/look and feel. Now almost any store is carrying one, Home Depot, Chapters, even the LCBO has one.

I've bought three bags so far and love using them. They hold way more groceries than regular plastic bags, and I can load them much more strategically with the extra space and rigidity. And they make busing home with $75 worth of groceries NOT an absolute pain.
posted by Meagan at 9:37 AM on January 16, 2008


First Canadian municipality, rather.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:38 AM on January 16, 2008


Oh, Loblaws also gives loyalty points for using their bags. It amounts to half a cent per bag, 50 points.
posted by Meagan at 9:39 AM on January 16, 2008


I like the aldi reusable plastic bags. They take up much less space/weight than canvas ones, so I can just stuff them in an extra pocket in my backpack for when I make an unexpected trip. I also, sadly, sometimes shop at target for their more robust plastic bags, which make excellent garbage bags (ie, they do not tear and hence contain liquid waste well). I've not thrown bags away in the past year or two; they all pretty much end up as garbage bags. I suppose that I could instead wash out the trashcan each time, but that would be a PITA.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:42 AM on January 16, 2008


I think this is one of those environmental pressures that won't make much difference but gets a lot of enthusiasm.

Especially because it doesn't require any personal sacrifice, like having a hotter or colder house, or sacrificing a holiday, or not having a car. If paper bags replace plastic bag there will be a negative environmental impact in terms of energy use and waste quantities (Scottish report cited by athenian above.)

However, plastic bags are an enormous litter problem, so I'd be glad to see the back of them. See for example the vast sea of plastic in the Pacific. The energy cost and global warming impact might be higher if we switch to using paper bags, but we're not going to reduce our carbon footprint anyway.
posted by alasdair at 9:55 AM on January 16, 2008


This looks like it should have been in the Onion: Designer "I am not a plastic bag" ethical bags not actually that ethical.
posted by seanyboy at 10:04 AM on January 16, 2008


San Francisco, Austin, sure -- but they might ban them in Shoreline. (Cue: astonished laughter by Seattleites)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:44 AM on January 16, 2008


Nthing poop pickup. A typical trip to the supermarket in the condour household nets about 10 bags, which are then used to pick up after the dog on neighborhood trips. We also use them for bedside, bathroom, and office trashcans.

Weren't there attempts to produce biodegradable plastic bags in the nineties? What ever happened to that?
posted by condour75 at 10:46 AM on January 16, 2008


Faint of Butt, why are you putting catshit in bags? Aren't you just flushing it?

Flushing cat shit kills otters!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:51 AM on January 16, 2008


Faint Of Butt: Without plastic grocery bags, I'd shovel catshit into what, exactly?

C'mon now, that's an easy one. Even if all the other solutions don't work, if you're as lazy as me, you can easily do what I do: they sell these at the coffee shop near my house.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 AM on January 16, 2008


Weren't there attempts to produce biodegradable plastic bags in the nineties? What ever happened to that?

They exist and are in increasingly widespread use at the usual-suspect retailers here in Calgary. The Community Natural Foods grocery store uses biodegradable plastic bags, for example. Here's Mountain Equipment Co-op's info page (because it's more informatinve than CNF's).
posted by gompa at 10:54 AM on January 16, 2008


Biodegradable plastic bags are worse than the regular sort, at least from some perspectives. Colleagues of mine (I work for a city council in the UK, but none of my statements here, etc etc) who deal with waste matters say that biodegradable bags end up in landfill and biodegrade there - releasing more CO2 than the non-biodegradable sort.

The bit of my home town where there are lots of independent traders has launched its own branded cotton bag.

It's been a success, but there are problems for traders with the use of bags not branded to their shop. First, they lose out on free advertising, a particular problem for small independents, and second, putting purchased items in shop-branded bags makes shoplifting easier to identify.
posted by athenian at 10:54 AM on January 16, 2008


The problem with "biodegradable" plastic is that it really isn't. It just removes it from sight; the plastic is still there, as very small particles, which still enter the environment.

What we really need is a microbe that LOVES plastic.
posted by maxwelton at 10:55 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, maybe now every time I go to the deli for a pack of gum or a soda they won't try to give me a damn plastic bag. Seriously, WTF? Where are all of these two-fingered, pocketless people who apparently need a plastic bag for their pack of gum?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:55 AM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Especially for Atom Eyes. Enjoy!
posted by zoinks at 10:58 AM on January 16, 2008


how about this? instead of making biodegradable bags, develop a technology to make non-biodegradable plastic bags from sequestered atmospheric CO2. That way, as you fill up the landfills, you're basically replacing the oil we've pulled out of the earth over the last 100 years.
posted by condour75 at 11:00 AM on January 16, 2008


Condour75: they are becoming more popular all the time! My (SF) chain grocery store just started carrying these.
posted by paddingtonb at 11:03 AM on January 16, 2008


maxwelton: that's not true. The biodegradable plastic is corn based, so it decomposes completely.
posted by paddingtonb at 11:07 AM on January 16, 2008


athenian: Biodegradable plastic bags are worse than the regular sort, at least from some perspectives. Colleagues of mine (I work for a city council in the UK, but none of my statements here, etc etc) who deal with waste matters say that biodegradable bags end up in landfill and biodegrade there - releasing more CO2 than the non-biodegradable sort.

maxwelton: The problem with "biodegradable" plastic is that it really isn't. It just removes it from sight; the plastic is still there, as very small particles, which still enter the environment. What we really need is a microbe that LOVES plastic.


I gave a bad link earlier-- the brand I actually use is BioBag. I started using them because I was very excited by how they sounded: they claim to be 100% compostable, and appear to imply (the word plastic always appears in quote marks on the package) that they aren't plastic at all, not even biodegradable plastic, but something organic involving starch. This is a good thing if true. I'm not a master in the arts of CHEMICAL SCIENCE, so this more technical statement I found is a little beyond me; at the very least, though, it's clear from it that:

This is a biodegradable thermoplastic material made of natural components (corn starch and vegetable oil derivatives) and of biodegradable synthetic polyesters. The material is certified as biodegradable and compostable in accordance with European norm EN 13432 and with the national regulations UNI 10785 and DIN 54900.

Polyester and corn starch. Hmm.
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 AM on January 16, 2008


paddingtonb, I suspect that between us is the truth. I believe early "biodegrable" pastic merely allowed UV light or heat to break the bonds between small particles of olde skool plastic, so it would disappear from sight but still largely be in the environment.
posted by maxwelton at 11:25 AM on January 16, 2008


The distinction I've usually seen is degradable vs biodegradable. The former breaks into small pieces, the latter biodegrades completely (although even then you need pretty ideal conditions for this - see this entry for belu compostable water bottles).
Of course most companies hope you'll confuse the former for the latter.
posted by chrispy at 11:53 AM on January 16, 2008


So let me summarize:

If I use my own canvas bags at the grocery store, I have to buy bags for my kitchen trash. The cotton in my canvas bags is grown using environmentally disastrous agricultural practices. My cat litter is poisoning the god damned otters. If I continue to use plastic bags, I'm filling the Pacific Ocean with garbage. Europeans are way classier than Americans, and they sound cute when they speak English (wait, did I make that last part up or did I read it here somewhere?) Canadians are just like Americans only smart and the force of their virtue makes all problems moot.

Did I miss anything?

Can I just say that common sense is needed here? It make sense to use less stuff-- fewer bags, less garbage, shorter car trips, all that. These masturbatory arguments about what to do are so fucking pointless I am sitting here screaming.

HEY. USE FEWER BAGS. done.

I'm going to go see whether I'm awake or asleep now. Jeebus.
posted by nax at 12:07 PM on January 16, 2008


nax writes "These masturbatory arguments about what to do are so fucking pointless I am sitting here screaming."

Try masturbation, it relieves !
posted by elpapacito at 12:31 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


If these things last 1000 years, why don't we turn that curse into a blessing? Use them to wrap up the Declaration of Independence, or cover your couch or your car with them. Make them into weapons for the Army somehow to replace that evil depleted uranium ammo they use.
posted by marxchivist at 12:38 PM on January 16, 2008


Spiked has an alternative viewpoint, also here.
posted by sien at 12:58 PM on January 16, 2008


That's true, Marxchivist. In addition to using fewer, is anybody trying to figure out what to do with these apparently useless plastic bags? Seems like they could be rendered into something.
posted by koeselitz at 1:09 PM on January 16, 2008


...each bag able to last thousands of years.

Well, at least we're getting something durable
posted by mmrtnt at 1:15 PM on January 16, 2008


...each bag able to last thousands of years.

Well, at least we're getting something durable


No kidding. I saved about a dozen plastic bags from No Frills last year, and I've been re-using them ever since for my weekly grocery shopping. A few holes and stretches here and there, but they're still useable. Not bad for 3ยข a bag.
posted by spoobnooble at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2008


Holy fuck, the otters? They are adorable. Going to have to euthanize the cat. Girlfriend is going to be pissed.
posted by absalom at 4:53 PM on January 16, 2008


I'll tell ya how to recycle a plastic bag:

1. Grab opposite ends of the bag and twist several times.
2. Tie 3 or 4 overhand knots along the length to secure.
3. Light one end on fire while holding the other end.
4. Watch and listen in rapt amazement as burning plastic streamers emit strange zipping sounds.
5. (Optional) Inundate burning plastic over anthills with concomitant Vietnam-era Napalm fantasies or Bush-era "Shake and Bake" ideation.
posted by Tube at 5:03 PM on January 16, 2008



I try to get the store clerks not to give me *two* bags for every purchase (they do this very fast, clearly having been yelled at by people in the past for having them break) no matter how light. I try to get them to give me none sometimes.

But this battle wears on me because I don't want to make life harder for people who already have a sucky job so if I can't get them to not do it, I just take the bag.

Now having read that spiked thing, maybe it doesn't make sense to bother...
posted by Maias at 6:00 PM on January 16, 2008


you know, i'm really getting tired of new bans...err, i mean laws.
posted by brandz at 6:55 PM on January 16, 2008


We use bright blue woven reusable bags we got from Ikea for our groceries and the farmers market. We've had the same ones for about a year. But I don't think I could "handle" the poop from our two Great Danes without plastic grocery bags. One over each hand, and then a quick grab followed by a swift pull-over motion makes cleanup a snap, using a double overhand knot seals the deal and then they all get tossed into a larger ForceFlex bag and we are good to go. No muss no fuss!
posted by HappyHippo at 8:15 PM on January 16, 2008


I've been out of the States for 10 years. I'm totally amazed when ever I see an actual, old-fashioned paper grocery bag.

I am amazed also at anyone, like pastabagel, that seems to think paper is superior. Obviously, he never walks home with groceries, and especially not in the rain. I can carry huge amounts of groceries in one hand, thanks to plastic bags. Paper won't do that.

Some say their bags rip too easily. Really? I haven't had that problem in quite some years. Maybe you get low-quality bags. My biggest complaint with plastic is it won't stand up, and groceries spill out in the trunk. Solution: Put them on the floor of the back seat.

The bags I get here are all recycled by my housekeeper, who takes them home for her garbage. Here, I have to shop by car or scooter. On the scooter, I use a backpack. In the car, we buy bags. In Germany, I always carried my own, and that worked fine. I'm blown away that the folks doing checking/bagging in American stores don't cope with people bringing bags. Moving now to Switzerland, so I'll cope with that just fine, shopping via foot and public transportation.
posted by Goofyy at 3:15 AM on January 17, 2008


The bags I get here are all recycled by my housekeeper, who takes them home for her garbage.

I use plastic bags for garbage too, but I can't really call using plastic store bags for garbage "recycling."

The only bags I can't see how to eliminate in my life are the kitchen garbage bags. I know that if I lived in a different situation, that there would be less garbage, as I'd have better recycling for everything non-edible and compost the rest. But even so, you can't put food stuffs that will rot in a plastic box inside your home - you'd have to clean out the can constantly to keep the smell and oogies out. So what's the solution there?
posted by agregoli at 6:45 AM on January 17, 2008


you can't put food stuffs that will rot in a plastic box inside your home - you'd have to clean out the can constantly to keep the smell and oogies out. So what's the solution there

There actually is a solution, which is more frequent garbage pick up, so you can just put your wet garbage directly into the dumpster, but only if they pick it up every single day. Of course, this would be extremely expensive and I'm sure someone will point out that it would also mean more use of trucks, which would cause polution blah blah blah.

If you don't have a yard and therefore can't compost, you might try contacting the closest elementary school, which probably does have composting as part of their science curriculum, and see if they accept "donations." A bit labor intensive for you, but it's a solution.

Part of the problem is that people really and sincerely want to do something about these issues, but only if the solution is exactly as convenient as our ecologically-unsustainable lifestyles. No question that plastic bags make life easier-- more convenient, less goopy, inexpensive. There is nothing comparable that will replace them. Or door to door transportation via personal cars. Or mowing the lawn in 10 minutes with a power mower. Or cool houses in summer. Or cheap quality manufactured goods at a big box store. And on and on. This stuff is all GREAT, but if we really want to change it we're going to have to spend more money on locally made- and grown goods, do more walking, pay higher taxes, and get a little dirtier.

As I said above, you start with common sense. You move on to personal sacrifice (walk instead of drive, find a place to compost, don't turn on the air-- I mean really these are small sacrifices) and then you vote and get involved in ways that stop allowing our elected officials to ignore these concerns.
posted by nax at 7:43 AM on January 17, 2008


brandz: you know, i'm really getting tired of new bans...err, i mean laws.

Don't worry, you big baby. It won't kill you. It might save you. But, boo-hoo, how painful will it be to lug paper bags? Does government regulation designed to promote safety conflict with your freedom to be stupid? I'm very sorry. Seriously, people who manufacture bags are already regulated, and have been for many decades; they have to make sure their bags meet dozens of rules about fitness for contact with food and chemical stability, as well they should. Banning plastic bags is not a big step.

Goofyy: I've been out of the States for 10 years. I'm totally amazed when ever I see an actual, old-fashioned paper grocery bag.

I am amazed also at anyone, like pastabagel, that seems to think paper is superior. Obviously, he never walks home with groceries, and especially not in the rain. I can carry huge amounts of groceries in one hand, thanks to plastic bags. Paper won't do that.

Some say their bags rip too easily. Really? I haven't had that problem in quite some years. Maybe you get low-quality bags. My biggest complaint with plastic is it won't stand up, and groceries spill out in the trunk. Solution: Put them on the floor of the back seat.

The bags I get here are all recycled by my housekeeper, who takes them home for her garbage. Here, I have to shop by car or scooter. On the scooter, I use a backpack. In the car, we buy bags. In Germany, I always carried my own, and that worked fine. I'm blown away that the folks doing checking/bagging in American stores don't cope with people bringing bags. Moving now to Switzerland, so I'll cope with that just fine, shopping via foot and public transportation.


First of all, generally, they do cope well with it, at least according to my experience. Second of all, the big problem is probably compounded by the fact that you don't have to pay for bags at the supermarket in the US; they give them to you for free. I regularly see people asking for five or six more, or asking that things be triple-bagged, since it doesn't cost any more. But yes, it's only a tiny cost even in Europe, so I don't know if it's a huge difference.

But I have to say: I don't know if you've met any of the modern variety of paper bags. I certainly didn't when I was on the continent. The kind I saw there were the kind I remember from my youth: thin, almost as thin as newspaper, and happy to tear at any moment. They don't really make bags like that any more over here. Every grocery store I know of, even the discount places, bags their groceries in thick, almost cardboard-like paper bags with handles that are doubled, tripled, or quadrupled for durability. When you have them double these bags, they seem a lot stronger to me than plastic, and we reuse ours as trash bags when we get home; we don't even have to put them in a trash can, they stand up nicely on the floor all by themselves, and make a good recycleable trash can.

Also: using something twice isn't really recycling. Sorry. Taking them home and then using them for trash bags isn't helping any; it's just waiting a week more before they hit the landfill.
posted by koeselitz at 7:45 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


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