50 Reasons to Go Green with Reusable Shopping Bags

It’s time to sack plastic bags. There are numerous reasons for passing on plastic. I pondered the plastic problem just recently whilst queued in a quaint grocery store line. While stacking my stuff onto the checkout conveyor I couldn’t help but notice the woman ahead of me double bagging her groceries into 20 plastic disposable bags.

My brain was boggled by this bag woman for so many reasons. My first thought was cash related. At 5 cents a sack, she spent a buck on bags! My second thought was of shock. If this bag lady shops 4 times a month, that’s 80 additional plastic bags filling our landfills every 30 days. My third thought was of horrendous horror when I figured this single bag lady is probably responsible for disposing of at least 960 plastic bags a year, just grocery shopping!

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Now I’m no plastic-free angel. I’ve done my bad bag bit over the years while shopping for food. I once thought paper would be preferable over plastic, but have recently learned that pulp isn’t preferable to reusable. Now that I know better I’m determined to be better. I’ve discovered that going green by using reusable shopping bags, food bins, and baskets is simple and fun. I’ve also discovered numerous additional benefits to switching to reusable bins and bags.

Here are 50 reasons to go green and switch to reusable shopping bags and bins:

The Problem:

  1. Consumer Cost. At 5 cents a bag in many North American shops, the bucks add up! Ireland pays a hefty 15 cents per bag Plastax tax. Buying a bin or reusable bag can save you hundreds over the years. While keeping costs down is a concern for many, there are more pressing plastic matters at stake!
  2. Production Cost. The production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas, both non-renewable resources that can cost big production bucks over time.
  3. City Cost. Both paper and plastic bags costs our cities millions. From recycling costs to processing in landfills (source).
  4. Disposal and Litter Cost. In a landfill, plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photo-degrade, breaking down into smaller toxic pieces. Continuous management of the disposal and growth of the waste is an expensive business.
  5. Ubiquitous. Everyone. Everywhere. Plastic and paper bags are everywhere. Nearly all of us use them, all the time. They are pervasive. Out of control. Disposable bags are a powerful symbol of consumerism gone mad. The over consumption of plastic and paper bags is ubiquitous.
  6. Global Warming. Manufactured plastic and paper bags contribute to global warming. Paper bag production delivers a global warming double-whammy since forests (major absorbers of greenhouse gases) have to be cut down, and then the subsequent manufacturing of bags produces greenhouse gases.
  7. Petroleum Depletion. It takes 0.48 MJ (megajoules) of energy to produce a plastic bag. An average car consumes 4.18 MJ in driving 1 km, or the equivalent of 7 plastic bags. We’re bagging the oil (source and source).
  8. Loaded Landfills. One bag doesn’t take up much space, but millions do. Many cities are already having problems finding space for all their garbage. Reducing the volume of waste we produce means less new garbage dumps. I do indeed prefer parks over mounds of plastic.
  9. Wildlife. Plastic bags are light, and can blow in the wind. They fly into trees and into wildlife habitat. Animals can consume these plastics, and perish. Plastic bags are a deadly killer to wildlife.
  10. Marine Life. Over 100,000 marine animals are killed each year from plastic bags (source). Sea turtles, water birds, and other creatures mistake them for food or become entangled in them (source). In some parts of the ocean, there are six pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton.
  11. Litter. We may think we’ve thrown out a plastic bag. Albeit, many blow out of trash cans and become litter. Some are carelessly tossed. They are an eyesore and scar the landscape.
  12. Recycling not financially feasible. Apparently, only 1 to 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled. It costs a whopping $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold for a meager $32 (source). This business model is a financial failure.
  13. Recycling contamination. Of those bags that do reach recycling depots, the risk of plastic contamination is high. Melting the wrong plastics together can render the batch contaminated and unusable.
  14. Flooding. Plastic bags littering our cities can end up blocking storm sewers. This contributed to recent flooding in Bangladesh and western India (source).
  15. Dependence on foreign oil. Plastic bags are made from oil, much of which is imported from overseas. Not depending on something coming from thousands of miles away is better way.
  16. Carbon footprint. Producing plastic bags requires energy. Transporting bags to the store burns through more energy. Much of this energy is obtained by burning hydrocarbons, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
  17. Plastic is forever. Almost every plastic bag you have touched in your lifetime still exists in some shape or form. With few exceptions, plastic bags will take thousands of years to break down. The bag my first pair of shoes came in a couple decades ago is out there, somewhere.
  18. Bag production releases pollution. In addition to petroleum, the manufacture of bags uses dyes, plasticizers, and other toxic chemicals. Many of the byproducts of their manufacture ends up in the environment as pollution.
  19. Chemical leaching. Dyes and other chemicals found in plastic bags contain lead, cadmium, and other toxins that leach out into the environment (source).
  20. Suffocation Hazzard. Ever read the warning on plastic bags? “This bag is not a toy and can cause suffocation of small children.” I’ve never seen this warning on a canvas reusable bag.
  21. Paper bags consume more energy than plastic. It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag (source).
  22. Paper bags consume forests. Most paper comes from tree pulp, so the impact of paper bag production on forests is enormous. In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone (source).
  23. Paper bags do not degrade any faster than plastic. Paper in today’s landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In modern landfills nothing completely degrades due to lack of water, light, oxygen and other necessary degradation elements (source).
  24. Paper bags require more landfill space. A paper bags takes up more space than a plastic bag in a landfill, but because paper is recycled at a higher rate, saving space in landfills is less of an issue.
  25. It just keeps piling up. Every minute, every hour, every day. The the consumer baggage keeps adding up. Going with reusable bags can help stop the needless plastic and paper bag pileup.

The Solution:

  1. Cost. Buy a few reusable bags or bins once. Reusable bags are inexpensive and last for many years, saving you money over the long haul.
  2. Durability. Bins and reusable bags are strong, and can endure many shopping trips over the years.
  3. Less landfills. Bins and reusable bags are not quickly consumed and disposed of in landfills.
  4. Shopper incentives. Many stores offer shoppers discounts and program points for bagging with reusables. Small cents add up to big dollars over time.
  5. Faster bagging at checkout. Stuffing groceries into sturdy reusable bags and bins is faster than bagging with plastic. Reusables keep their shape, can stand up, and don’t require fumbling and picking apart, like plastic.
  6. Efficient transport. It’s quicker to load your car with a few bins than with numerous plastic floppy sloppy bags. It’s also more efficient to carry a few sturdy canvas bags home. Just throw then over your shoulder!
  7. Comfortable to carry. Carrying a canvas bag or bin home or to your car is easier on your hands. No more plastic bag handle welts!
  8. No more split or ripped bags. Plastic bags can split open, leaving a mess in the car or on the sidewalk.
  9. Less food damage. Bins prevent food from rattling around in the car. Canvas bags hold their shape and keep food nestled safe, better preventing squished salad and broken eggs.
  10. Hygienic. Expose yourself to less germs by using your own bins and bags.
  11. Easy to clean. Reusable bags and bins can be washed and wiped clean.
  12. Avoid spilled milk. Got leaky milk or defrosting ice cream? Bins keep the mess contained, and keep your car clean.
  13. Keep frozen food cold. Place all refrigerated and frozen foods in one bin, stacked tightly. This keeps perishables from perishing or defrosting on longer trips home.
  14. Easier sorting. At checkout, place cold items in one bin, vegetables in another. This makes unpacking foods at home quick and easy.
  15. Perfect fit. Some grocery items are too big for plastic bags. Use bins or bigger canvas bags for milk, laundry detergent, and other larger bulkier items.
  16. Laundry. Use bins to move the weekly laundry to the washer, and then back to the bedroom.
  17. Recycling. When not grocery shopping, use bins and recyclable bags to cart cans and containers to the local recycling depot.
  18. Kids stuff. Use bins to carry kid’s sports gear or toys easier in the car. Bins keep kid’s gear more stable in the car.
  19. Multipurpose. Bins and reusable bags can be used for tasks beyond grocery shopping. Cart gardening gear, sort clothing, move to a new apartment – the options are endless.
  20. Visually send a message. Bringing reusable bins and bags to the shops educates other consumers on better ways to carry stuff.
  21. Save 25 cents per shopping cart. Pass on sticking a quarter into the grocery shopping cart and carry your wares in a bin with handles. Super easy to cart around the store, and saves you more money along the way.
  22. Stackable. Bins can be easily stacked and stored in the car or in the home. Keep them out of the way until your next shopping trip.
  23. Easy to stuff. Canvas bags are easy to stuff into a purse or pocket. They are easy to carry to a store or on person for quick grocery trips.
  24. One less bag. By using recyclable bags and bins, you actively contribute to solving the problem by using less plastic bags. One less bag, people.
  25. List your own reason. This last point is for you to decide. What have I missed? What are your reasons for saying “NO” to plastic and paper bags at the grocery store?

Do you shop using reusable bins and bags? Any challenges? Any advice? Are you more of a plastic person? Would you consider making the switch? Share your littered thoughts in the comments below!

Your two cents:

  1. Miss Thrifty July 17th, 2008

    FIFTY reasons? That’s brilliant!

  2. Marci July 17th, 2008

    Impressive list. And yes, this is something I need to work harder on. Thanks for the reminder :)

    Where are you that it costs a nickel for a bag?
    And you have to pay 25 cents for the cart?
    Maybe these things haven’t hit here yet.

    Or maybe they are afraid to implement them as we are already at the edge of the world and get charged so much more than inland for everything anyway :( (Edge of the Ocean in NW Oregon)

  3. Ken July 17th, 2008

    The problem is one of convenience and planning.
    If you are planning on going shopping, you bring your own bags / boxes.
    If you don’t plan your shopping you don’t bring bags / boxes.
    It’s convenient to use plastic bags because you don’t plan ahead.

    You can’t legislate social responsibility.
    You can, however, tax the bejesus out of it.

  4. lauren July 17th, 2008

    I recently bought some shopping bags from http://www.flipandtumble.com. These take care of the eco-friendly bring-your-own-bag issue, but since they fold up into the size of a tennis ball, they’re virtually impossible to forget. I just keep one at the bottom of my purse and another one in my car. Fun colors, too! (p.s. i do not work for this company…)

  5. bluntmoney July 17th, 2008

    @ Ken — if you drive, just keep the bags in your trunk. If you walk/use public transportation, there are reusable bags that roll up small enough to fit in your pocket.

  6. SunkistMom July 17th, 2008

    I have several canvas bags that I bought from various stores around town. Now I just have to remember to bring them with me. :) My memory for those kinds of things is notoriously bad, but I’m getting there.

    I like how large the bags are too. The kids have one to store all their beach toys.

  7. Jules July 17th, 2008

    We use and reuse plastic bags, because they’re at least 0.20 euros a pop, which is expensive enough to be annoying. Or else they’re sold in vending machines, where you have to buy them before you enter the store, or else hold up a line while you scurry to buy it. Most bags, though, are pretty tough. They double as trash bags if we run out.

    I also carry a small nylon bag with me at all times. I mostly use it to carry meat when I buy it–I don’t like the idea of stuffing juicy meat in my backpack (which is how I carry almost everything).

    Once you get into the habit, it’s not that hard to remember. Plus, by forcing you to plan your shopping trips, you’re far less likely to impulse-buy.

  8. Beth July 17th, 2008

    When I give someone a gift now, I package it in a President’s Choice reusable bag instead of those paper gift bags — people seem to love it and they’re only 99 cents.
    Also, Superstore gives you extra PC points for bringing your own bags!
    (I’m a superstore fan, in case it weren’t totally evident, and for those who don’t live in an area with the superstore, you are missing out!!)

  9. Laura July 18th, 2008

    Thanks for putting together this post–I found it very interesting as someone trying to go reusable more often.

    An advantage: no huge pile of plastic bags at home waiting to go back to the store for “recycling” (and thanks for the info on how inefficient that recycling is!)

    Tip: I actually had a lot of shopping-worthy reusable bags around the house from conferences, give-aways, etc. so that I only bought one bag that was small enough to fit in my purse.

    Tip: I keep most of the bags in the car since I drive to the grocery store. After putting up groceries, take the bags back to the car the next time you leave the house.

    One disadvantage: Where I live, cashiers still give funny looks when I whip out my pile of bags and say “I have my own bags”. They also often refuse to put anything in those bags because they aren’t the “right” size, so I (or my husband) bag everything ourselves, which sometimes holds up the line. We hope this trend catches on so we aren’t the only ones!

  10. Al Pal July 18th, 2008

    Simply put – it’s the right thing to do. Three cheers for the green bins, and reusable bags.

    “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” (Ancient Indian Proverb)

  11. Lisa July 18th, 2008

    I do use paper bags, not everytime, but I do get enough to use them as weed barriers in my flower gardens around the place. Much better than the black stuff that costs and arm and a leg and I would suspect doesn’t do much for the soil conditions either. I also recycle anything that comes to me in a cardboard box that I don’t want to keep as a box. I flatten it and use it in the garden and cover it with wood chips that I get by the pickup load from our local landfill. It breaks down into nice, deep loamy soil, filled with earthworms and great for plants.

  12. albert barbieri July 18th, 2008

    Been using reusables for over a year. Everyone who sees them comments favorably, but rarely do they turn to the rack right beside them at the checkout counter and actually buy them. There needs to be a way to more easily distribute them. I acknowledge that if they are “given away”, they too will become disposable. Any ideas?

  13. willie July 18th, 2008

    In Japan, the law changed recently and now folks are charged for plastic bags. This has greatly helped social acceptance and spurred change to using canvas tote bags and such, in a society where “no one wants to be different.” What it has underscored for me, a barbarian who bought canvas tote bags years ago but couldn’t persuade my spouse to use them, is how easy it is for an entire society to change rapidly, if we simply want to, and to carry your own canvas bags with you into a store. There is no excuse not to do so any longer. As this article pointed out, we are discovering that it is really more convenient on an individual, personal level, in addition to helping the planet. Try it, and you’ll find out this, too. We remember our car keys, shoes, overcoats, purses, wallets or whatever when we go outdoors, and a canvas tote bag will become another such item for everyone. It’s really easy–we just all aren’t accustomed to it–yet.

  14. Sunshine July 18th, 2008

    I find it so difficult to keep the cashiers from giving me bags.

    Now that it’s warm out, I ride my bike to the grocery store. I don’t bring bother bringing bags into the store at all. I just put the food back in the shopping cart naked, and load it straight into the saddle bags on my bike.

    I when I’m not on my bike, I use public transportation so I have all sorts of carts and totes to take with me when I go grocery shopping, but the cashiers STILL try to give me bags. Why IS that?

  15. Green Guy July 18th, 2008

    I have these reusable satchels made of baby mink which I keep in my H2 so that I dont have to use paper and plastic bags. I find the satchels keep my feet warm on cold winter nights, so they have dual use, and they are warmer than my snow bunny slippers.

  16. Kimberly July 19th, 2008

    I use plastic bags and plan to continue doing so. I’m all about saving the environment, but there are some great things about plastic bags that cannot be replicated with canvas bags or bins. First of all, with those bins, if I’ve got my milk, laundry detergent, frozen foods, etc. inside, how in the world am I supposed to lift it? Some things, like milk and laundry detergent, are best without a bag at all.

    So why do I use plastic bags? One reason is for the “juicy meat” example that someone else mentioned, but mostly it’s for the many ways I can re-use them. I use my bags as trash bags (I live alone and don’t make enough trash to fill a regular garbage bag for at least a month, and why buy more plastic? It’s better just to throw out my one plastic bag a week full of garbage), I re-use them as grocery bags, I put wet clothes in them after swimming, I pack toiletries in them when going on trips (you never know when your shampoo will spill, and it’s better to have a ruined plastic bag than a suitcase full of ruined laundry), I keep one in my backpack to put vulnerable things in when it rains since my backpack is not waterproof, I pack dirty shoes in them when necessary when traveling, I use it as padding when wrapping gifts or mailing things (it works as well as bubble wrap, and can be re-used as a bag by the recipient), some bags can be used as gift wrap or a gift bag themselves, I’ve used plastic bags in the past to cover broken windows, and as a teacher I use them often in my classroom: for crafts (remember those little parachute men you used to get as party favors? So easy to make! And kites, windsocks, and many other things), to keep children’s belongings separate and give them a way to take them home if they don’t have a real bag, to send soiled clothing home in, to make cheap dry erase boards for individual students (Target bags and old cereal boxes work great for this!), as jerseys for sports or costumes for plays (cut out the bottom of the bag, use the handles as armholes and you’ve got a super-cheap costume), for use in play as flags or any other imaginative use children come up with, taped together as a cheap and waterproof tablecloth, and so on. In fact, I have so many uses for plastic bags that sometimes I go shopping just to get more of them. All of these things I do with plastic bags cannot be done as well with “reusable” bags. Some of these things can be done with other materials, but not nearly as cheaply, which is one of the main benefits of plastic bags. Even if they cost 5, 15, or 20 cents each, it’s still a lot cheaper than a dry erase board or waterproof backpack.

    That all said, I don’t think everyone needs to use plastic bags. If all you do is use it once and throw it away, or even use it only as a bag, then by all means switch to reusable because that makes much more sense. But for me, it’s much more practical to use the plastic bags.

  17. Karen July 19th, 2008

    Thank for reminding me to use my bags I have a few and have not used them My husband took them out of the car because he hates anything stored in the car I think I will but them back in today

  18. Debbie July 19th, 2008

    I’ve been using canvas bags for almost 9 months now. I keep them in my car so that even when I decide spur of the moment to shop somewhere, I have my own bags with me. I’ve also found that if you donate $10-20 to some humane associations they’ll give you “free” gifts that range from t-shirts to – you guessed it – canvas bags! So not only can you spread the message of using canvas bags, you can spread the message of helping animals and you’ve given money to a worthy cause. I would think there are other organizations that also have similar programs.

  19. Suejaggs July 19th, 2008

    When my family moved to Germany from the UK in 1988 we had to pay for grocery store plastic bags, so we always took our own. When we moved to the US in 1997 I was very surprised at the poor (or non-existant)recylcing policy here. Why has it taken the US so long to start to get its act together? Most states here are 20 years behind a lot of the European countries.

  20. Richard July 19th, 2008

    I am surprised that you would believe that wildlife would be so stupid not to know what to eat. There is no wild animals that would eat a plastic bag nor any plastic what so ever. Predator animals eat what they kill and non-predator animals eat vegetation. I am a naturalist and I think this is stupid to say what you said. Also, our sun is what is causing the earth to seem to be warmer, but is it really? In 100 years the temperature has risen 1 degree Fahrenheit. Watch your local weather and you will see that record high temperatures were set at various dates years ago. Volcano eruptions spew more CO2 into the atmosphere than man can do in scores of years. Remember this: God/Yahweh made this earth as well as you, and He is still in charge of this earth and will not let man destroy it.

  21. Sonny Neu July 19th, 2008

    nice article really makes you think, even got me to thinking and taking it further. It seems that this only really relates to the shopping bag, then i got to thinking beyond that what about garbage bags? are they not made the same or similar way? seems everyone uses them not to mention businesses such as restaurants which i happen to work in one myself. I come to think about that and wonder how i can change that at least at home. Do i just through garbage straight into the the can? I recycle as much as i can or is allowed here. Anyways it wa just another thought to add…

  22. Sohail July 19th, 2008

    Excellent work. The writers has very close and keen eye on the economic and environmental issues of the modern life style. If member of general public pay attention and spare sometime for research work, the issues can be advertised and focused quickly. As quickly people will be informed as they will try decreasing consumption.

  23. Sebring July 19th, 2008

    First, thanks for the article. It is both informative and provides sources for claims made. However I am not sold on the canvas and other alternatives.

    I suppose situations vary a good deal according to geography, availability, lifestyle, etc. Here, we do NOT pay for plastic bags. Typically the stores use plastic and you have to ask specially for paper. This usually results in rolled eyes and dirty looks from the cashier and bagger. With plastic they don’t have to bag carefully as with paper. They routinely have a rack with an open plastic bag which pulls open a new one when the first is removed. Since we don’t pay for these, the bagger indiscriminately uses many plastic bags, sometimes doubled.

    They tend to place only one or two items in each plastic bag resulting in far more numerous, slippery bags to manage from store to car to home. BUT with paper, all of the same items can fit in one paper bag (a week’s worth of groceries).

    In my community plastic bags cannot be recycled with home collection. You’d have to remember to take the plastic bags on your next trip to the store and put them in a special bin there. Though the bins exist, I’ve never seen this done by anyone over years of shopping.

    I use the paper bags at home to separate recyclables from non-recyclables. We have city provided trash cans, a bin for paper bags, newspapers, magazines, etc. and another for glass, plastic containers, and tin cans. When its time to take out the garbage, I carry the full paper bags out and dump the non-recyclables in the trash can; the glass, metal, and plastic items in their recycling bin; and fold up the paper bags I used and put them in their recycling bin.

    I was surprised to see the problems recycling paper bags in the article, but remember fewer paper bags are needed than plastic.

    Here though, in a month 4 paper bags equals 90+ plastic ones. So even if it takes four times more resources to make paper bags, far, far less of them are needed. Also as another poster mentioned about many uses for plastic bags the same can be said for paper bags. For non-liquids they can be re-used for carrying things, padding packages, and I even use them as brown paper to wrap packages to be mailed.

    While paper may not degrade faster because of current conditions, if those in charge of landfills were required to handle them properly, they would degrade easily compared to the plastic ones that never do.

    Once again, this is an important issue, but the circumstances can differ enough from place to place and the conduct of the consumers, it’s hard to recommend one solution for everyone.

  24. Sohail July 19th, 2008

    Public should also convince shop keepers to remind customers that shopping bags are dilemma to earth and bring your reusable bag from home. Pray God for more suitable solutions.

  25. svanstem July 19th, 2008

    I switched over to reusable cloth bags a few months ago. Most of the time when I go grocery shopping I walk to the store myself and the reusable bags are a lot easier to carry home than a plastic bag with uncomfortable handles that will rip.

  26. Charlie July 19th, 2008

    The article was fine but when governments start taxing the consumer for convinces and necessities like plastic bags, gas, electricity, carbon foot print it gets me PO’d. We have to stop this AL Gore stupid mentality of taxing the consumer…. If a plant produces X Amount of carbon emission then tax the freak in plant, company, oil producing manufacture after all there the ones exploiting other countries and making record profits. Point the responsibility where it needs to go in the governments that don’t make this a priority. But please let stop this following the lead of this freaking idiot Gore which is going to have us all screaming poverty in a few years with this carbon foot print BS…not intended to offend but to blow some steam…

  27. hank July 19th, 2008

    Don’t know if anyone hits up IKEA, but they now charge 5cents a bag for plastic if you’re not bringing your own. That’s a good #50, eh? ;)

  28. Dave July 19th, 2008

    I reuse plastic bags from the grocery as garbage bags. I have never bought garbage bags. Doesn’t anyone else do this?

  29. Kerry Crumbliss July 19th, 2008

    Facts about Plastic Bags:

    Plastic bags are a hydrocarbon which means they are a derivative of oil or natural gas. The manufacture of plastic bags does not affect the amount of oil or natural gas that is consumed. We do not drill for oil or natural gas to produce
    plastic bags. Plastic bags are a derivative which means that in the refining process to produce gasoline or other fuels, a small percentage (1.5%) of the oil or gas is used to create all plastic products. Plastic bags actually account for less than 0.5% of a barrel of oil or unit of natural gas.

    In North America, plastic bags are made from natural gas, not oil. Plastic bags are very recyclable. For example, a variety of products like plastic lumber and plastic bags are made with recycled plastic bags. Plastic bags will degrade but require heat or ultraviolet light (UV). Because of the stability of the plastic molecules, plastic bags do not degrade easily. Estimates of 1000 years are random and inexact. Depending on the climate, a plastic bag will decompose into a powdery substance within a few years. The absence of heat, light, and moisture in landfills means that nothing biodegrades quickly in a landfill. Plastic bags are non-toxic and are comprised exclusively of a stable molecular structure of Carbon and Hydrogen. Research data shows that a significant amount of plastic bags are re-used
    for many secondary purposes before disposal. Plastic bag recycling rates in the United States are estimated to be between
    1-5%.

    One more thought what happens to the earth once we no longer have trees? newspaper books, mag, paperwork. i see this on the coast. could some explain. i have making plastic bags fo 30 years

  30. Marci July 19th, 2008

    I have to agree with Dave and the teacher… I reuse every plastic bag that comes home with me, except the drippy ones. Most are used as waste can liners. I twist and roll the bags up into a donut shape and tuck the end into the middle, throw a bunch of them into the bottom of the trashcan, and have a spare waiting there ready to go in when I remove the full bag of trash.

    I double bag them and use as my garbage bags in a wire contraption that hangs inside the door of the sink cabinet. Other uses are for wet shoes/boots in the car, wet anything as I live in rainy NW ORegon, carrying garden produce to the kids, wrapping an extra layer on something going into the freezer, as peanuts in shipping boxes, in suitcases for stuff that might spill, taking clothes to charity, etc etc etc. There are a thousand uses for the the bags – some of mine are reused several times. I also use them in my recycling… and once the recycling is emptied out at the transfer station, they have a recycle bin there for the plastic bags. They also come in handing in keeping sewing projects separate, and scrapbook projects also. And around the paint rollers that I store in the freezer until I need to use them again.

  31. Silverin July 19th, 2008

    I don’t use paper bags because my town doesn’t recycle them. I’ve made several reusable canvas bags, but I still get enough plastic bags at the grocery to keep me in doggy-scooper bags!

  32. Pat July 19th, 2008

    RICHARD- Have you not heard of animals becoming entangled in plastic while searching for the source of a food odor within the bag? Although not “bags”, animals also become trapped in loops from six pack type beverage containers. The animals ARE smart enough not to seek out plastic as a food source but enroute to finding food, the plastic can encircle their head causing all sorts of problems. And as an observant naturalist, have you not noticed plastic bags blown into trees and staying there…for a really long time?
    CHARLIE – Get a grip. Forget your grudge against Al Gore already and just think about the other issues with plastic.
    As for taxing the consumer..it would work. How many people would speed if it were not for the penalty of the ticket? Money talks and people listen, especially if thier money is saying, “Goodbye.”

    AND BOTH OF YOU..Think about this one..it is a Native American (preplastic) saying, “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

    FINALLY- I am struggling to remember my canvas bags and have even gone back to the car to get mine, leaving the cart full in an unobtrusive spot and loosing my place in line. If I am really pressed (for time), I do accept the paper for school book covers and holding my newspaper recycling and also use the plastic for all the good ideas already mentioned.

    And KERRY CRUMBLISS, MANUFACTURER of plactic bags for 30 years..be glad you must be close to retirement. There will always be some plastic bags, buddy, but we all should be slowing down the demand and be thoughtful with what we use.

    Good article..it certainly made me think, reinforcing the REDUCE,REUSE and RECYLE theme in new ways.

  33. Lluvy July 19th, 2008

    This message was an alraming awakening to me. I feel that this should be taken seriously, and should be prevented. Does anyone know of a petition i can sign and possibly bring to people’s attention?

  34. j michael July 19th, 2008

    I wonder why plastic bags are targeted. Yes Ireland charges for plastic bags. Any quarter carts i have seen you get the quarter back when you return the cart to the cart corral. Which is a good idea because it cuts down on damage to cars from rolling carts. I don’t see any mention on all the plastic water bottles and sport drink bottles that liter the highways because there is no deposit. Pop bottles are targeted even thought the water bottles are the same as a lot of the soda bottles. Has anyone priced plastic lumber? Not to mention all the other products that are made of plastic in a throw away society. Companies continuously make things that won’t last so they can sell more. The cycle will not end soon. Greed is a great motivator. I think people wouldn’t mind spending more for something that would last a lot longer. I have seen corporations say we will recycle bags and plastics but throw away other products that can be recycled. I.E. metals and glass. Maybe someday technology will make it more profitable to recycle. Until then recycling will be minimal at best. This is just my opinion on the perceptions i see in day to day living.

  35. anon this time only July 19th, 2008

    I am just very fortunate to be working for a garbage dump and a recyling station. I think, with people’s wastefulness, that I will have a job for a very very long time!

    And the things, as an employee, I can take advantage of! Free firewood, free lumber (some used, some not), trim boards, tables, chairs, dressers, free landscaping timbers, flower boxes, veggie boxes, tools, sawhorses, doors, windows, free plants and pots for plants, and lots of furnishings, fencing, and garden hoses. Good clothes, even past pull date foods straight from the groceries with no garbage mixed in. Because it’s a small town, and we know the haulers and they know us, they’ll tell us when there’s ‘something special’ (good and clean but maybe past pull date but not past use by date… or just that the label didn’t apply right) in a load for us to share in! There is a strict rule tho that items are for personal use only, and any attempts to resell anything at all would result in immediate dismissal. Sure helps stretch my budget!

  36. Larry July 19th, 2008

    This is a great article which makes just too much sense. I believe the reference to paying a quarter for a cart is aimed at Aldi stores. The shopping carts at Aldi are linked by chains. To release a cart, the shopper inserts a quarter into a slot on the cart which pops out the lock, and the shopper can pull the cart out and go into the store. When the shopper is done with the cart, he/she simply pushes the cart back behind the last cart, inserts the lock into the cart and out pops the quarter. So it doesn’t actually cost anything to use the cart…it is just an incentive to return the cart to the store. Also, if you ever go to Aldi, you’ll rarely see a cart just hanging out in the parking lot where it could potentially run into another car or be stolen. This helps keeps prices lower there. I think it’s a great idea. I don’t mind it a bit. I’d like to see more of it in the other stores.

    In St. Louis, most of the grocery stores are selling canvas or plastic reusable bags. Trader Joes sells a very nice, tall plastic bag that can hold a ton of stuff, including heavy glass milk bottles. Two or three of them handle a week’s worth of groceries nicely. Most of the cashiers and baggers here are getting used to the idea of shoppers bringing in their own bags. Sometimes they instinctively reach for the plastic bag until I announce I have my own. I don’t think they object to filling more rigid bags made from canvas, sturdy paper or tall plastic (like TJ’s). They seem to have more issue of refilling a used flimsy plastic bag since often they don’t stand up like the new ones. If your store has self-serve checkouts, you don’t have to face cashier objection to using your own bag. And, if you are just picking up a couple of items, just say “no bag please.” I really try to bring in my own reusable bags where I can. Yes, it’s a “feel good” thing knowing I am not contributing paper or plastic into the environment when I reuse bags, but it is also something that makes a huge difference to the environment and, frankly, in the costs incurred by your friendly grocery store or any other store that spends money on bags. Don’t forget that even if the bags are given to you free, you still pay for them in higher costs of goods. Some stores such as Whole Foods is phasing out bags altogether. I believe they have already phased out plastic bags (they are depleting existing stock) and will soon charge for the paper bags, thus encouraging the use of reusable bags.

    Let me get on my soapbox for a moment. It is high time we all realize the day of blatant waste and crass hyper-consumerism here in the U.S. and around the world has to come to an end. Our economies cannot continue to grow or even be sustained by wasteful consumption of resources as evidenced by our current economic situation in terms of oil and food. The opportunities for strengthening the economy through developing renewables and reuse of resources is boundless if we just let ourselves do it. Both oil and natural gas are limited, non-renewable resources. (Sorry, Kerry…even if bags are supposedly from ‘derivatives’ of oil and natural gas, oil and natural gas must be used to create the derivatives, right? How can it be otherwise?) And even cutting down trees in managed forests for paper bags still adds to greenhouse gases and land damage. While plastic bags can, indeed, be recycled into usable products or be re-purposed such as for lining the trash bin, it does not justify the level of use of plastic bags that litter, use oil and natural gas and continue to pile up in already burgeoning landfills. (btw-Have you considered how much resources are consumed managing a landfill? I used to work for a waste management company. The dollars/fuel spent on transportation to/from the landfill, the fuel cost to run tractors that constantly compact the waste (not to mention the pollutants from said tractors), and the cost of continuous monitoring/treatment of methane gas and leachate is staggering…just in case you think there is little cost to tossing something in the trash.)

    As Americans, we don’t have to think much anymore to survive. Our economy and our mindsets are so focused on convenience, quick gratification (get what we want, when we want it), technology remembering stuff for us, not making any self-sacrifices, no real accountability for our actions, and not considering the consequences of what we do on a daily basis such as driving gas guzzlers or what happens when we throw stuff away. Recycling, driving less and bringing our own bags to the store requires some thought and planning. And we aren’t used to that. That is where the whole resistence to recycling, conserving and anything that might help protect the environment comes from. We used to be the ‘big kids on the block’ who got all of the resources we needed relatively cheaply with little regard to the environment and even less regard to what happens around the world because of our own actions. (Who cares what happens in Bangledesh or even Canada when we continue to burn fossil fuels like there is no end, right? We’re the mighty United States. Get Bent, ye rest of the world!) We didn’t have to compete for resources such as oil with other emerging nations like we do now. We had the political clout, military strength and wealth to do whatever we wanted. Well, that is no longer the case. The days of cheap gasoline, cheap food, cheap anything are gone as demand for these goods increases globally and our own economy faulters on the brink of disaster. If we want to accomplish anything to help our economy and our resources, we need to demand and use LESS resources, not MORE. That requires SACRIFICE which may not be as painful as you think if you just think about it for a moment. It takes just a second to determine if something can go in the recycling bin versus the trash or the thought to bring in your own bags to the store. Now before someone screams at me for saying Americans don’t sacrifice, let me be clear. Yes, we sacrifice when it comes to our military and fighting for what we believe is right. But what I’m talking about is PERSONAL sacrifice that may actually require a change (even if it’s small) in our habits. We spend more time trying to FIGHT against doing what is right than actually DOING what is right. There is so much mis-information, including some in the previous postings, that tries to justify doing nothing. Let’s face it… the mere talk of global warming implies we have to make changes, and change does not come easily to us as Americans. We may not like to admit that, but it is so true. Even if you don’t like Al Gore or don’t believe in global warming (which is NOT just a change in the weather, Richard), it does not change the fact that we have limited resources, many of which are non-renewable, and that these resources are being consumed faster globally than ever before, and the global impacts of such consumption are huge. Food riots, high gas and food prices and even increasing air pollution in our cities is blindingly clear evidence there is a problem. We need to get over ourselves as consumers and realize this and make changes. If we have to do it for selfish reasons, such as saving money, that is a great start. The fact is that cutting the use of plastic bags, driving more fuel-efficient cars, lowering thermostats in the winter/raising them in the summer just a little, recycling and other actions touted to help reduce environmental impacts also ultimately reduces costs to ourselves (lower oil/gas prices via reduced demand by driving hybrids and smaller cars, using public transportation and using less plastics, lower electric bills using CFLs, lower grocery costs by using less grocery bags, lower goods prices through recycling that saves energy and natural resources). If even that selfish reason of cutting costs to ourselves (which may mean a better life overall) is not an incentive for us all to take action, then perhaps we deserve to have it legislated to us…for our own good and the good of the global community to which we are invariably linked. Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox now…and recycling it.

  37. wendee July 19th, 2008

    to Marci,
    I live in NW Oregon too and Fred Meyer will take 5 cents off your total for every reusable bag you bring in and use.
    I DO like to have some plastic bags on hand, as I find them very re-usable as well. I cut them in strips and use them to tie staked up plants in the garden. I never have to buy plastic trash bags. There are lots of ways to re-use them. I find by using the canvas bags for my groceries and then getting plastic bags at the drugstore or clothing store, I can have it both ways.

  38. Kerry July 19th, 2008

    Wow. I’m overwhelmed with everyone’s response. Many of you have found me through MSN Smart Spending where this article is an Editor’s Pick!

    The plastic bag conversation over at Smart Spending has reached 265 comments (and counting). Sacking plastic bags is most certainly a passionate topic. Please do take a peek over at Smart Spending for other viewpoints on plastic, paper, and reusable shopping bags.

    I’m jumping in just to let you know I’m reading each and every comment (and email) for this article. Don’t be shy, keep the comments going…

  39. anon this time only July 20th, 2008

    @ Wendee – THANKS! There is no posted policy at our local Freddies, but I just called, and you are right! 5 cents off every bag that is not theirs! Now why don’t they tell us that??
    Thanks for the tip. I learned something good today :)

    Your other solutions won’t work for me tho as I rarely buy $200 worth of clothes carried out in a bag in a year :) and the pharmacy bags are teensy tinesy paper envelope sized.

  40. half-baked July 20th, 2008

    Also, if you have a sewing machine and a piece of fabric, you can make your own bags. You can download a pattern for free on the web. I’ve made bags out of old sheets, old items of clothing, old curtains, etc!

    Great article!

  41. Julie July 20th, 2008

    I always get a kick out of the cashiers’ face when I hand them the stack of paper bags I’ve brought from home from my last trip to put my current purchases in. All we can do is become educated (which is sometimes difficult, depending on where the information coming from), and our best. I am an observant individual who believes we live on an ever evolving planet. Having said that, we could all be far more responsible consumers, across the board.

  42. Kelly July 20th, 2008

    I have been using canvas shopping bags for about 6 months and I love them. They have a store logo on them, but I take them wherever I shop – Home Depot, Target, etc. I also shop at Aldi a grocery store in Charlotte that charges for bags and requires a 25 cent deposit for a grocery cart. I love the idea – it teaches my son to put the cart back where we found it and the parking lot is CLEAN – no carts seems to equate into no trash.

    My complaint right now is excessive packaging. I REFUSE to buy anything that has more than one layer of packaging. Not that I buy them or would without the excessive packaging – but the Keebler cookies that come 10 to a plastic cup covered in plastic. This is used to keep the cookies from breaking in a lunch box. I am from the generation of my cookies wrapped in my napkin and placed beside my sandwich and apple in the bottom of a paper sack. My cookies were always fine – tasted the same broken or whole. I’m sick of seeing toys packaged like they were Faberge Eggs. Do we need plastic padding over plastic over the plastic toy and then placed inside a cardboard box covered in plastic shrink wrap?

    How can I start a protest of these products?

  43. KPl. July 20th, 2008

    Some Thoughts:

    I find it insulting to be told that ‘My shopping habits are the source of consumerism.’ First, consumerism is the fault of an economy that seeks to sell ever more goods to an ever larger _consumer base_, for profit motive which can only be short term.

    As a simplistic illustration: It _could not_ cost more to deliver every grocery to every front door with ONE truck after an online order than it does now to make 1,001 trips. Let Grocery Boy take care of the silly bins after I unload them at home and we’ll all save.

    Next, if you want my loyalty, stop blaming the living for something the dead started and put in some kind of population controls for ‘the next generation’ so that the 25 tons of carbon footprint belongs to a smaller population. I guarantee you if that had happened in the 1950s, on a realistic green earth vs. ‘economics’ basis, we could have as many plastic bags as we desired today (i.e. Going Green on shopping bags is a pittance).

    Second, It’s a royal pain shopping now with everyone’s cart and kids and boxes of new stuff being shelved in the aisles. Add the 5-7 bags that would litter the floors as everyone set them down to pick something off the shelf and it would become a nightmare. Certainly a lot of women would choose to come several times a week for a handful of groceries because they couldn’t carry more. There’s more petroleum down the drain.

    Third, it seems that what you want is to suggest that we haul our bags or bins in, put the bags or bins in the cart (good luck on the fit). Put the goods in the b-or-b, holding them up until full enough to stand on their own. Dump the bags at the checkout and then put the stuff back in the bags _while the bags stay in the cart_. Even if I do this only once at the car by hauling my goods ‘naked’, I am stuck with twice as much time and effort /somewhere/. Since the cart won’t be emptied enough to refill until the checker is done, I would suggest that this means two carts.

    Now multiply this by 10 behind the open checker lanes as every other person is doing the same thing. Even for microshopping thru the self-check lanes, you will be in trouble because you _HAVE TO_ put ‘your item back in the bag please’ or the damn computer will lock up and there just isn’t much space that isn’t weight sensored like you were some kind of ex-con working in a Federal Mint.

    Canvas sacks simply wouldn’t work here unless the guy handling the central monitoring station was constantly resetting the shoplifter alert. Bins wouldn’t work at all.

    Outdoors, try finding a parking spot at my King Soopers between 3 and 7pm as all the soccer moms and working parents ‘drop in for a quick shop’. Now add another 2-3 minutes transfering stuff from cart to bag as the only way to alleviate the checkout lane problem.

    My mother smokes. I hate the smell of it, it gets all over things like the bakery boxes and milk jugs but at least the stuff in the plastic bags stays fairly odor free. If I leave canvas sacks in the back, everything will come home smelling like an ashtray. Do I have to pay a monetary penalty for leaving them on the kitchen counter?

    Some Solutions:

    RFID. While I am nominally against this crap, I fully realize that my precious discount card already records more of my shopping habits than anybody but me deserves to know. So why not at least make it -useful-. So that either upon setting it into the bin, bag or cart. Or with a variation of those ‘waveable hand scanner’ gadgets that some checkouts now have, you could interrogate the RFID chip with a radio beam anywhere in the bag and get it all done at once without extracting the lot. I tell you that you have no idea how much time is wasted doing repetitive ‘out of the cart, down the conveyor, into the bag, back into another cart’ nonsense, even today. Especially when you have to bag your own because the sullen clerks resent opening a register at the only time of night it’s decent to shop.
    If you have to wait for a bag that the checker is emptying on her scanner grid to become ‘available’ the amount of time you spend in these stores will become abhorrent.

    Discounts. I already pay upwards of 10-15 bucks more per visit if I don’t have my card with me. Why then not have either directly through King Soopers/Safeway or via your Credit Card company, receive a ‘going green’ discount for every visit where you remember to bring your own bags? It should be easy for a checker to hit a key that tells your credit company what a good little socialist you are.

    You may detect that I am somewhat sarcastically sceptical of social engineering as group environmental think. I get images of a thousand little Dolores Umbrages running around my head and the first thing I want to do is tell Martha to get ma gun, it’s open season on hypocrites that actually think it will stop as soon as we allow our minds to be sucked out by succumbing to ‘just one peer pressure activity’.

    But if you want to be serious, be serious.

    Don’t use ’4,000 dollar’ arguments next to ‘we’re all such terrible consumerists!’ when what is being ‘consumed’ is no different than the boxes, jugs and yes, /plastic sacks/ that your frozen dinner, milk or fresh fruit cames in.

    As those who ‘are in charge’ benefit from that _necessary_ 750,000 calories you must eat each year.

    Green shopping means nothing next to 1 kid per family until we are back below 1.5 billion living souls on this earth. Suggesting that we stand ready to radically change our personal habits while continuing to push for 10 billion population instead is just inane.

  44. Patty July 20th, 2008

    I live in Germany on any Army post…it is the norm for all Germans to have their own woven shopping baskets or some other reusable container. They bag their own purchases also, as a rule. If there are plastics bags available at the store, you do pay for them. This is looked down upon, and even if you do buy them, you still have to bag your own stuff. I like it and I try to adapt.

  45. fathersez July 21st, 2008

    Plastic bags are going to be a major problem for all of us oneday.

    I hope the world just gives a 3 or 5 year time table and just get this product completely banned. Our kids and grandkids will thank us for this.

  46. God created all July 21st, 2008

    Just recently I became aware of the plastic bag craze and have begun to use reusables. I have always been annoyed by how many bags the stores want to give you, usually 2 or 3 times as many as you really need. I received a slide show that really hit home for me about where and what plastic bags really do to our beautifully God created world. If anyone is interested in seeing it, I would be more than happy to email it to you!!

  47. Shirley July 21st, 2008

    I am able to purchase “compostible” dog poop bags…..so why cannot stores use compostible plastic grocery bags? I carry canvas bags, but there will always be people who don’t.

    I haven’t found any solution to bagging up my household garbage (i live in a condo) except for plastic bags. Any information or ideas would be appreciated.

    I also bought some bio-life “plastic” glasses for a party this summer – totally made of plant fibres….if it can be done for glassware, could it not be used for bags? Maybe it is but I don’t know where to find it.

    Also regarding the naturalist guy’s statement – I have personally seen bear scat that was more plastic than poop!!

  48. Jacki July 21st, 2008

    The only problem I seem to have is that I currently use plastic bags for cleaning out my cats’ litter box. I need to find a biodegradeable option for this so that I can kill the addiction to plastic bags! I already bought reusable bags, I just tend not to use them because I have yet to figure out what I will use for the cats once I run out of my plastic bag stash.

  49. wendee July 21st, 2008

    I used plastic bags to clean the litter box too… but now I use bread bags.

  50. Bob La Quey July 22nd, 2008

    Still better is to reuse the bags. They make a great material for braiding, crocheting, weaving etc. Here is the ultimate Grocery Bag by RecycleCindy http://community.plasticofantastico.org

  51. Laura A. July 22nd, 2008

    I’m a 20 yr old girl who recently switched from using plastic bags to paper bags. I didn’t realize until after reading this article that they can also be bad for the environment. Of course I was aware of the fact that trees were cut down to make them, but I thought it was a heck of a lot better than having millions of plastic bags that would eventually suffocate the wildlife in some way. Of course, where I live paper bags still make more sense than plastic because I live in a very small town out in the country. We burn all of our trash that we don’t recycle. I tried to help my parents recycle everything, but they didn’t take hold. So if I get groceries for them, I get paper, because they will burn it and it takes a long time for that burn barrel to fill up with ash. And once it is filled, we dump it it in a pasture in the same spot and it becomes a part of the earth. I’m sure I will get replies about this type of lifestyle. But for me it is a little smarter than using a plastic bag once and then just throwing it away.

  52. karla (threadbndr) July 22nd, 2008

    In addition to canvas bags, I also bought a heavy, insulated, lined with wipeable fabric bag for frozen/refrigerated goods. I got mine at Sam’s Club, but I’ve seen them other places.

    Good for those ‘sloppy’ items that you don’t want to put in your canvas bags, since you can easily wipe the interior clean. And keeps frozen goods frozen on the trip home.

  53. K July 24th, 2008

    Does anyone know of a reusable grocery bag available for purchase that is a sturdier type than what you see at the grocery stores with their logo on it? I saw a blog post talking about one that the clerks never got an attitude with because it’s form was such that it pretty much stood on it’s own without flopping over even with nothing in it. I can’t for the life of me remember where I saw it or who sold such a thing. Many thanks.

  54. K July 24th, 2008
  55. Frugal Wench July 25th, 2008

    You know, I was going to donate some clothes the other day, and started looking at how I could make shopping bags out of some of them. I think I will!

  56. Marci July 26th, 2008

    @frugalwench – Thanks for the great idea :) Really old blue
    jeans cut in a one piece per side that includes the handle, with
    a flannel lining over the top part where the hand hole would
    be would be faily easy and cute :)
    I think I can do it with just two pieces – both would include
    the side, the handle area, and a wrap around side. One only would
    be longer and include the bottom piece also.
    Thanks for the great idea!

  57. Mamaw August 1st, 2008

    I have been lucky about recying bags. I was given two and won two.

  58. tami August 2nd, 2008

    http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.3a0656639de62ad593598e10d373a0a0/?vgnextoid=37b1b744dd165110VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&xsc=eml_crd_2008_04_16

    i made 4 or 5 of these, they fold up tiny and we use them for all sorts of things, it’s a great way to recycle an old shirt or to use those shirts that you just can’t seem to throw away. and they wash super easy of course. they don’t stand up well by themselves but i don’t mind that part

  59. Marci August 2nd, 2008

    @tami: Thanks for that link to the T-shirt bags! While I don’t have spare T-shirts, there are a LOT of sweatshirts taking up space here that would work almost as well!

    Just so you know this column DID make a difference in at least one person’s shopping habits: At garage saling today – I found a great 25 cent double sized canvas bag with square bottom and handles that will now be my grocery shopping bag…. if I ever go grocery shopping again! Week four of staying away from the stores :) And the freezer is getting a good cleaning out while the garden is producing so well!

  60. Sean August 4th, 2008

    Fox, you got a person who has been putting this off for too long (too small, too rigid, too whatever) to finally find the bags I should have found months ago. Thanks.

  61. HIB August 7th, 2008

    @ people forgetting to bring reusable bags

    We just leave them in the trunk of both of our cars so we’re more likely to use them.

    @ cashiers that try to give us plastic or paper bags bags

    When we put our grocery items on the counter to be scanned and purchased, we put our reusable bags in front of our items to be purchased.

    @ good reusable bags
    We bought 10-15 reusable bags at Half Price books for $1/bag. The bags are a lot bigger than bags at most stores. I think the maximum number of bags we’ve used on a large grocery trip( for 2 people) has been 3.

  62. Lauren August 21st, 2008

    Great list :)

    For the forgetting issue, I got a few Chicco Bags and Baggu Bags, which fold up teeny-tiny and are made of nylon and super strong and nice and big, and keep at least two in my purse, couple in the car and one in the diaper bag. Even if I make a run in unscheduled, I have a couple big bags in my purse!

  63. polythenepam August 21st, 2008

    you might want to give up some other plastic stuff. For the last 18 months I have been boycotting plastic and sourcing alternatives – http://www.plasticisrubbish.wordpress.com

  64. Bevs August 31st, 2008

    Great article! I neatly keep all the plastic bags that we have and use it again. There is one store in our place that does not give free plastic bag for your shopping. If you bought a lot, you will be forced to buy. Most of the shoppers would not spend for a plastic bag so when they go and shop there, they already bring with them plastic bags. This helps in the reduction of plastic wastes.

  65. Paper nor plastic bags October 6th, 2008

    Wow, 50 reasons. Plastic bags are still completely free where I live, but I’m down for stores to start charging for them. I can’t think of any more reasons to add to your gimungous list, I think you covered all the reasons.

  66. cathy October 20th, 2008

    Wow – 50 reasons. Impressive! We use canvas bags – when we remember them. Must invest in some bags (like the Baggu ones) that I can keep in my purse so that I’ll never be without them.

  67. Tangerine Meg December 2nd, 2008

    Great list Squawkfox, and congratulations on starting such a massive passionate conversation!
    Here in Adelaide, South Australia, there is a new law coming into play in January banning shops from supplying the “disposable” plastic bags. We are currently in a kind of 3-month practise mode. Further motivation for me to get more organised about bringing the big strong bags from home! (Need to devise a system for carrying more backpacks on my bike too.)
    Also for a long time here there’s been a 5c refund on drink cans, plastic bottles, etc. The Scouts collect them and make money, as do some other groups, households and individuals.
    I guess we have to do the little things and the big, co-operate, and keep trying, cos this is a really nice planet to live on.

  68. Dan M April 22nd, 2009

    I love using reusable bags #1 because I don’t have 50 flimsy plastic bags flying around when all I needed for my weekly groceries were four or five of the reusable ones. At the very least it sure helps MY environment. The 99 cent “Greenbags” brand are what my store chain uses.

  69. Corie July 13th, 2009

    There is no question that reusable bags are now an essential household item. Although, there has been an inundation of oil-based imported bags that are promotional give-aways or sold cheaply at stores. I get so many comments from customers that these non-woven bags don’t last long and they have to throw it away – so it still ends up in our landfill. Based on recent reports, apparently people aren’t washing their bags and it has some unhealthy consequences. But customers are complaining that after washing canvas bags, they shrink and looks like rags. Our Clean Conscience reusable bags are a much better choice. They are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and made in USA. It’s our trash and our factories. They don’t shrink and they hold up very well, and it still looks good after washing. Our products help keep America’s jobs and reduce trash that goes into the waste stream.

  70. Debbie October 2nd, 2009

    I use my own bags whenever I shop but I have met quite a bit of resistence from store employees. Walmart cashiers actually refuse to use my bags. I was told I would have to bag my own stuff if I used my own bags. The bagger at Kroger actually said “I hate when people bring their own bags!”. And at Publix if I don’t watch the bagger like a hawk he/she always feels the need to use at least 1 or 2 plastic bags on an item before putting it into my bag! Whole Foods is the only place I feel like my bags are welcome.

  71. Ken October 2nd, 2009

    Not all bad,

    So I suppose we are supposed to nix the grocery bag then turn around and buy plastic garbage bags. Duh!

    Plastic bags can harm wildlife and paper making has it’s environmental consequences. But some forest habitats actually need to be cut regularily to maintain the “edge” habitat that many of our favorite creatures (like white-tailed deer) need.

  72. Meta October 2nd, 2009

    Go to any thrift store and pick up beach bags or other totes and you have an inexpensive re-usable grocery bag.

  73. Janine October 2nd, 2009

    I like the plastic shopping bags. The ones without holes make great liners for my garbage cans, and they make great kitchen garbage bags. With holes in them, they make great liners on the bottom of flower pots, etc. They are extremely handy and extremely useful.

    They do break down–try reading something other than environmentalist websites. In fact, one problem is that they break down in oceans and the oil products get in the water. That is not a good thing, but my trash doesn’t go into the ocean.

    The woman who was double-bagging probably uses these things–perhaps for her store (many craft stores don’t buy their own but reuse them), and perhaps for her crafts. Thinking that one has just two options–toss or recycle–is brain dead as are most “green” articles. This is yet another.

    There’s nothing wrong with using bins and recyclable bags. The problem is with ditzes assuming that they have to FORCE everyone else to do the same. Go ahead and do things your way–if enough people do it, then the bags will be unnecessary. But, if you ditch the shopping bags, then I have to start buying plastic bags rather than reusing something (we don’t have to pay for them here–and I doubt that you are paying for them where you are–and I doubt that they are 5 cents each even if you do).

    Do what you like–but stop pretending that you have the right to sit in judgment on other people you see in grocery store lines, okay? “Sanctimonious” doesn’t start.

  74. marci357 October 2nd, 2009

    It costs 5 cents to get plastic bags from the store in Oregon. While it is not added on to your bill, 5 cents is deducted from your bill for each bag of your own that you use. So it is costing 5 cents by not getting the 5 cents per bag deducted. At least that’s how it is in Oregon at Fred Meyers.

  75. Debbie Bliss October 2nd, 2009

    I just read your 50 reasons and would like to post it in all our local grocery stores and wanted to see if you would have any objections to that, please let me know. thanks

  76. Clare October 2nd, 2009

    The best re-usable bags that I’ve found are from IKEA. I think they are a couple dollars to purchase however they are made out of heavy duty tarp material and are very large. They probably hold enough groceries to fill five or six plastic grocery bags . They are great of other items beyond groceries. They also have two sets of handles; one to carry in your hand, and other to carry over your shoulder. I find these incrediably helpful since I live in a second story condo and have to walk a moderate distance from my car to the entrance so I don’t have to make as many trips outside. They also fold up easily and store flat. Love them!!!!

  77. JAY October 2nd, 2009

    I am a guy who needs a man’s bag. I used to have the nylon roll up and those things are so impractical for grocery shopping.
    I found these Suburban Shopping bag from Clean Conscience goods.com – they are from recycled plastic bottles, heavy duty woven fabric-they’re like heavy canvas, can load a lot without squashing the bread,and I like the fact that they are made in usa. Those polyproyl whtever things that are cheap don’t last very long (i got those from Tjoes and they just rip after a few uses – so guess where ended up – trash)!Since I don’t like prints or any feminine looking bag, this is perfect. i give these as gifts to my buddies – since their wives also send them to the grocery store :)

  78. Kevin October 2nd, 2009

    Get a life.

  79. Patty October 2nd, 2009

    I got my start using reusable bags while living in NY but people in Texas don’t get it yet. I have a little one in my purse at all times and a mixed set for the store. Sadly they are all different sizes and don’t fit the packing areas at checkout very well-but that sure won’t stop me, often I have to bag myself to get it done. We don’t get a credit at checkout and I still somehow end up with bags. Last time they filled my reusable bags half full then stuck my loaf of bread, that could have easily gone on top, in a plastic bag and handed it to me…did you not get the hint? I’ve also begun taking anything like a sack of potatoes, oranges or a jug of milk or other bottle with a handle and just put them back in the cart next to my re-usable bags so there is more space in the bags for other items and they don’t get as heavy. It has a handle…it doesn’t need to be double bagged.

    If I’m at another type of store and only buy one or two items I’ll just carry it with my reciept out to the car, or toss it into my purse. The “no bag thank you” habit (and ignoring the ‘you sure?’ and funny looks) takes a bit to get used to but I feel much better doing it this way(still working on my husband and friends). Its a pair of socks, they really don’t need a bag. I’ve noticed though that the returns counter sometimes doesn’t believe you got the item at the store unless you have a store bag.

    I would like to get an insulated grocery bag soon. I don’t live far from the store but in Texas summer it doesn’t take long for the milk to get warm and the ice cream to melt.

    Keep it up people! Ever one less bag taken or one more bag re-used is ONE LESS and eventually stores will order less, realize that saves them money and stop providing so many disposable resources! REDUCE, then Reuse, then recycle. (Don’t forget about other disposable plastic items in your life too…I keep a plate, cup and silverware at work…one less plastic fork used-ONE LESS.)

  80. Bobby October 9th, 2009

    Comprehensive article. Much of the same points could be made regarding plastic water bottles, with the added potential health risks. Plastic bags are accumulating at a fantastic rate in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, endangering sea life. I switched over to canvas shopping bags awhile back for these very reasons.

  81. best registry cleaner October 31st, 2009

    Yes, the cost does not really dissuade people does it?

    I must admit, where I live, I still buy plastic even though it is closer to 20/30 cents a bag.

    Because I can reuse these bags for many other things. Although they do eventually get thrown away.

    I do have a rucksack I use for most shopping though.

  82. shopper March 24th, 2011

    This is a bunch of bull!
    There is nothing wrong with plastic bags!!!
    You people are crazy!!
    It’s just a way for the stores and the people who make those shopping bags to get your money!
    Those canvas bags get dirty, nasty, sitting in your trunk, backseat or garage..probably filled with germs. Food from previous shopping trips dripping all over them. ~yuck~
    Give me a fresh plastic bag every time.
    I reuse them over and over again for garbage, cat boxes, etc.

  83. modesto lawyer September 13th, 2011

    Reusable bags are spreading the eco-friendly message with style! You should carry the message of re-use to a world ready for a brighter ecological future.
    I found my first bags in a small seaside shop in the summer and have love how convenient they are.

  84. Nathalie June 6th, 2012

    So, at the risk of being a Negative Nancy, what on earth are all of you using for household garbage bags? It’s all fine and dandy to suggest that grocery bags are consumerist-evil-good-for-nothings, and I agree if they’re being wasted and trashed after one use. But this seems silly if you’re then purchasing a bulk box of dedicated garage liners.

    We purchase garbage bags at our local grocery store for 5 cents a piece. Without a membership to Costco (or Sam’s club, neither of which makes sense for our particular family), the next least-expensive cost for purchasing garbage bin liners is 8 cents a piece even at the highest quantity per box (we’ve done the research).

    I don’t see the difference between grocery bags and dedicated bin liners. So if you can illustrate that you don’t use either, it doesn’t make sense to eschew the one in favour of the (more expensive) other.

    Finally, am I the only one with a dog in an urban environment? What in the hell is the difference between a grocery bag and those ridiculous designer doggy-poop bags? Or don’t those count?!

  85. Nick @ BayCrazy April 14th, 2013

    I will admit – what most intrigued me to click this post was to see how you managed to come up with FIFTY reasons for this… I’m impressed.

    On topic; good topic!

    I’m guilty of laziness and disregard in this and many areas of environmental consideration, but this is definitely the right thing to do; a bag is a meaningless necessity for carrying items, we should absolutely be using reusables…

    Quite surprising we didn’t realize sooner actually.

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