Just Bag It

Paper or plastic?  After developing my grocery list for the week, scanning ads for best prices, clipping coupons, and strolling down multiple aisles of the store, really, I don’t care.  Just bag my damn groceries!

Why is it that I must deal with this environmental question while standing in the checkout line?  My days are filled with endless decisions.  The last thing I need when I’m exhausted and eager to get home is a question of controversy and at the market no less.  Not long ago shopping meant one choice and one choice only—paper.  Nice, sturdy bags that held their shape and could endure use after use.  In fact, some stores offered a five-cent credit for each bag you brought to reuse, which the budget minded appreciated.

Then, the little white plastic bag was invented from the environmentally conscious heart.  Along with plastic bags came metal stands to hang them from to load groceries.  The metal stands often had a useful partner—the pink or yellow moistened sponge which fingers would brush to separate the clingy bag in search for the opening.  Plastic bags inundated stores and homes.  They found their way into every nook and cranny.

There was actually a time when plastic was the dominant choice—according to prominent signs posted, “Groceries are bagged in plastic, paper upon request.”  Somehow, going with plastic showed that the shopper was taking the environmental high road, since they were saving trees.  Interestingly enough, a debate has ensued—come to find out plastic bags are harmful to wildlife and aren’t biodegradable.  Oops! Environmentalists were wrong.  Now, some stores have flip-flopped and gone to paper only.

As a result, yet another choice has hit the scene—the canvas-ish reusable bag (probably made out of paper or plastic fibers), which the shopper may purchase for about a buck.  They come in a variety of colors and conveniently provide free advertisement for the store of choice.  Yet another decision and question for the consumer in line! There are now three products being produced, shipped, and stored..  All for the sake of having something to place our groceries, so that they can make the journey home.  

Where does it stop? As a nation, aren’t there other issues to pursue rather than the appropriate receptacle for our groceries?  How much time and effort has been wasted?  Seems like we would have such an everyday occurrence figured out by now—just bag it! ~07/2015

*Now in California, if we don’t provide our own bag, we’ll be charged (Of course there’s three choices!).  A few bags have made it to the trunk, but there they sit.  Last run to the store an additional fifty cents was tacked on.  I’ll conform.  Eventually.   12/2016

**Now straws?! Good grief. 8/26/18

***Who knew?  Full circle is a thing!  Due to COVID-19, some stores are now forbidding reusable bags brought in from home.  Just when I got in the habit carrying in my own; switch-a-roo button is pressed.  Items are now bagged in plastic…for free.  Some stores require you to bag your own; I don’t mind.  Paper bags are still available, upon request. Stay tuned.  05/12/2020

~Daniela Thompson

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