Plastic Shopping Bags?

So I’m not always the most environmentally friendly person in the world. Carolyn does a much better job of it than I do. But, I’ve always been confused about how plastic shopping bags suddenly appeared at some point in my youth and became the standard for buying things. I know there’s always some study out there claiming paper bags are worse for the environment overall, but that seems a little suspicious. Anyway, lately, I’ve noticed people have slowly been picking up on a newish trend which is going towards reusable cloth bags. This seems like a nice idea.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, aside from my more environmentally conscious friends, I hadn’t noticed a whole lot of increased use of these bags in the US. In the UK, there’s definitely a nation-wide trend towards cloth bags. The government is sabre-rattling about getting stores to charge for people using plastic bags. I’ve got a cloth bag I try to bring with me all the time so I can use it for shopping. If I don’t always have it, I never seem to have it when I need to go shopping.

Today, I had an interesting experience. I went to a bakery to get something tasty baked goods (there are seemingly tons of them around me) and, instead of just handing me my roll and baguette, the woman behind the counter put them in a free cloth bag. I looked on the bag and the local borough council seems to be sponsoring this giveaway.  That’s a really nice idea. And all the major grocery stores either sell reusable bags or give them away.
On a related note, back in 2002 (yes, 6 years ago) Ireland imposed a €0.15 (later increased to €0.22) tax on any plastic bags which decreased its usage by 90%. That’s impressive. Seems like a smart idea. People aren’t necessarily going to do this on their own initiative and if you leave it to the grocery stores, people bitch to them and they give in. Countries like China and Taiwan and Singapore are apparently putting bans on them outright.
So, my question to my US friends and family: Is this something that is becoming more of an issue in the US? Or is it confined to the damn dirty hippies in the cities and university towns? 🙂

13 Responses to “Plastic Shopping Bags?”

  1. melissa k. Says:

    IKEA has started a $0.05 price for plastic bags at their place. I know i’m in one of those hippie, university, big cities (boston), but alot of the grocery stores offer a nickel to a quarter discount if you BYOB.

    I try to BYOB, but sometimes i do need those plastic baggies. Maya sure does poop alot.

  2. Melissa T Says:

    They sell the cloth bags at Jewel for $1.00 now. And they are prominently placed right by the carts when you walk in.

  3. dina Says:

    the last time i was in chicago (2 years ago?), i lusted after carolyn’s trader joe’s cloth bag, so i got one myself. it seems almost too big, but once you put some stuff in it, it carries everything beautifully. i use it for grocery shopping and other general schlepping all the time. in conclusion, i can highly recommend the trader joe’s bag. (sorry, i know i’m not supposed to respond to this post but i’m bored at work).

  4. Ben Says:

    As of April 22, Whole Foods will no longer use plastic bags:

    “In place of the fly-away plastic bags scorned by many environmentalists, Whole Foods will offer several options: free paper bags in four sizes made from 100% recycled paper, reusable bags 80% made from recycled plastic bottles for 99 cents and canvas bags selling for $6.99 to $35. It encourages consumers to bring their own bags by taking 5 cents to 10 cents off the bill for each.” USA Today, Jan 21, 2008.

  5. Mom and Dad Badanes Says:

    Matt and Carolyn,

    I just bought you a set of five reusable bags that roll up into little balls for you to carry in your pocket/purse so that you can, on the spur of the moment, schlepp food to your apartment. When they arrive, I will send them across the pond!

    I’m getting a set for myself.

    Oh, and all of you Chicago folks…we’re going to see the Cubs versus the Socks in Spring Training in Tucson on Saturday, 03/15. Eat your heart out, Matty!!!

  6. anne Says:

    I’ve been singing the praises of Envirosax. Dan and I take them to the store. They roll up really nicely and are pretty darn strong. Woot!

  7. anne Says:

    What I meant to say, is I bet those are the ones your folks bought!

  8. Mom and Dad Badanes Says:

    Anne, you’re right!!!

  9. Dave Says:

    Wow, walk away from this blog for a few days and it’s overrun by tree-huggers!

  10. Melissa T Says:

    Watch it- one of them is your wife!

  11. melissa k. Says:

    anne gave me an envirosax and i carry mine everywhere!! it brings home clean scrubs and takes back new ones. it carries my clogs to work when there’s so much snow i have to wear my boots. oh yeah, and it’s good for groceries too. teehee

  12. anne Says:

    The Envirosax are so cute. I think they have some new colors and patterns now too. Ooh!

  13. dina Says:

    oh wow, now i realise what you’re all talking about; i heard about these a while back and wanted one because they are so lovely but you can’t get them here. i’m gonna load up when i get home!