Plastic Grocery Bags On the Way Out

Going green — By Stephanie on November 17, 2008 at 10:30 am
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Reusable canvas shopping bags will soon be required

As the mom of 4 (hungry) kids, trips to the grocery store have often resulted in a cart filled to the brim and then, I cringe when the store clerk starts filling numerous plastic grocery bags so I can haul the purchases home.  Oh sure, sometimes the cashier will ask me, “Paper or plastic, ma’am?” but I know that neither alternative is environmentally friendly.  Paper bags require – well, paper to make them.  And that means trees are getting cut down for the simple convenience of one-time use.  On the other hand, plastic grocery bags are made of petroleum.  While they are lighter and cost less to transport than paper bags, they are much less often recycled.  Instead, I see them floating through parking lots and snagged in brush along highways.  Worse, plastic grocery bags harm and kill thousands of animals each year when a percentage of the 300 billion plastic bags produced annually end up in our waterways and forests.

I am now the proud owner of 10 canvas shopping bags.  I unload them at home and then walk them straight back to the trunk of my car where they await our next trip to the store.  Each bag holds the equivalent of at least 3 plastic grocery bags.  I have never used all 10 in a single shopping trip!

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What is wrong with this picture?

Before long, you may not have a choice between paper or plastic as a consumer.  City after city, as well as some countries are banning plastic grocery bags.  For example, the City of Los Angeles will be plastic shopping bag-free by July 2010.  If you do not bring your own canvas shopping bag, you will have to pay a 25-cent fee for each paper bag issued to you.  Plastic grocery bags are already outlawed in San FranciscoMaui County in Hawaii will ban the bags in 2011.  Similar banning or taxing measures have been considered and/or adopted in Seattle, Fairfax, and Madison, among other places.

Go abroad to China, and you won’t find any plastic grocery bags there either.  China enacted a ban this year.  You also won’t find plastic bags in Rwanda, Eritrea, or South Africa.  Ireland, Australia and a number of countries in Africa are also weighing whether to ban plastic grocery bags.

What do you think?  Should government be making our choice for us?  If not, are we responsible enough to seriously recycle all the plastic grocery bags we use to stop endangering animals and urban blight?  Is it time to say “enough” and get rid of them all together?

After watching this video, “Ivana recycle” too!  But seriously…. next time you go grocery shopping, consider picking up a few canvas bags for your trip.  Leave the plastic grocery bags behind, even if you don’t HAVE to.  Not only will you have a cleaner conscience, but you’ll be helping a greener Earth.

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3 Comments

  1. Katherine says:

    In Germany, you need to pay .50 Euro for each plastic bag you use. A reusable bag is 1 Euro. Most people bring their own cotton bags, baskets, even boxes. I used to live in Germany and the would have their produce boxes in the front of the store and I’d grab them to houses my groceries. They were going to get thrown out anyway! So I may as well recycle them when I go home. It’s all about mindset. I think it’s great that you put the bags back in the car right away. I need to try that.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Katherine, Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in Germany! It makes total sense just to invest in the canvas bags rather than get charged for every plastic shopping bag! I also agree that it is about changing mindsets. It CAN be done. Cheers, Stephanie

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