More reasons to purge disposable plastic bags and try reusable bags

Whole Foods has announced it will stop using disposable plastic bags by Earth Day. This decision came on the heals of China banning production of these bags in an effort to curb litter for the 2008 Summer Olympics and to (allegedly) benefit the environment. Ikea made a switch away from disposable plastic bags in March of last year, and Costco has never used them.

The city of San Francisco also has banned the use of these bags, and, according to the Los Angeles Times, Bakersfield, Boston, and Phoenix are considering similar bans.

We’ve talked in the past about how plastic bags from grocery stores shouldn’t become clutter in your home in our post Reusable shopping bags. Now seems like an appropriate time to bring up the topic again since more stores and municipalities are requiring patrons to use their own bags.

We recommend bags that fold up into small totes so that you don’t create more clutter for yourself storing the reusable bags. Based on comments to our previous post and our internal research, here is an expanded list of suggestions:

67 Comments for “More reasons to purge disposable plastic bags and try reusable bags”

  1. posted by supersocco on

    “pick plastic when available because they are a better choice for the environment than paper.”

    Do you not have paper recycling in your city?

  2. posted by Sarah on

    I’ve lived in Europe for 2 years now, and it just makes me laugh to see the US up in arms about something that has been going on over here forever. We have to purchase bags from the supermarket if we want to use them. I truly truly wish the USA would do that too. I’d say better than 75% of people bring their own bags or baskets, and many stores have promotions where they give away doo-dads that fit over the carts that you put your groceries straight into. We knew about this before we moved, and bought the largest canvas bags that Trader Joe’s sells (I think $20?), and they have been amazing. We use them week in and week out and haven’t had an issue with the quality of construction. (Plus, if you use them at Trader Joe’s in the US, you get a discount on your groceries). I definitely think they have made up for their cost in the amount we use them!

    Anyway, we have a cat and we use doggie poop bags that the city provides to clean up his poop. Yep, free plastic bags from a little dispenser in the park. They do this in the US too. I suppose we would buy them at the pet store if they weren’t available. I certainly wouldn’t complain about having to buy poop bags if I had to — nobody made me own a cat, so it’s my job to figure out how to responsibly take care of its waste.

    We recycle about 85% of what we take in (and I’m phasing out companies that don’t make recyclable products), and the stores are required to accept packing from the products they sell (ie – styrofoam, cardboard, etc – for example Ikea takes back everything including batteries and lightbulbs) It makes for a bit more work on my end, including more legwork to take things to the recycling drop-off points, but to complain is just about LAZINESS. We have to be responsible consumers, so if I’m not willing to be responsible then I shouldn’t consume.

    Buy bags, stash them everywhere, and use them. Not really all that difficult.

  3. posted by lee on

    am all for reusable bags, have a couple of envirosax and more of the local grocers’ bags. i know there must be an option out there for small trash liners – but i haven’t gotten around to seeking them out and converting. So every once in a while i take the free bags from the grocery. but we’re pretty good at keeping them at bay – i even sometimes run out.

  4. posted by The Chatty Housewife on

    Ikea still uses plastic bags in WA, they just charge you 5 cents and donate it to a forest saving charity if you choose to use them. I am sure it helps. They also sell various types and sizes of reusable bags.

  5. posted by Christine on

    I bring canvas bags (that I got free from various promotional things throughout my life…) mainly because they’re easier for me to carry. What fits into one canvas bag takes, oh, anywhere from 3-5 plastic ones, and that’s my small canvas bag. So, essentially I can carry one over each arm and up into my apartment. I’m not perfect by any means, but anyone who thinks that using plastic is somehow better is lying to themself. I understand the pet poo concerns…that’s something that we’ve got to come up with a better idea about (like the bags made from corn or whatever…)

  6. posted by Andreas - in Denmark on

    Here the shops, as stated above, do charge for simple polyeth. bags, but the thing is that they’re THICK – really thick, often with good handles, and they’re really good for reuse. In fact, most of mine (I have a stash in the cupboard) have had dozens of trips the the supermarket.

    with regard to the above statements about reusing the plastic bags for garbage disposal, well, here a regular garbage bag is really thin, you know, since it’s disposable, and hence the environmental footprint of sending one of those off to the garbage burner isn’t nearly as high as chucking out a big hefty shopping bag.

    For larger stuff, like carrying my laundry to the ‘mat, I use the fabbo blue IKEA shopping bags. We have at least ten here, and they’re in frequent use. Also good for taking my newspapers to the recycling pod.

    As for above posters claiming that paper and cardboard is “more recyclable” than canvas bags or plastic, well… nah, don’t even want to go there ;)

  7. posted by Boston Charlie on

    Kind of like Ikea not listing max wattage on lamp info tags, but suggesting some low wattage fluorescent replacement as “suitable for use”. Or like Ikea actually still supplying plastic bags public despite claims to the contrary.

    So – I say “Sweet! Yet another reason to skip the whole Whole Foods guilt trip shopping experience.” Trader Joe’s for me. Paper bags without a side of Guilt. But only for a few goodies at TJ. Give me my plastic at Kroger’s!

  8. posted by Reuse This Bag on

    Wow, excellent suggestions in the comments about finding biodegradable bags at the pet store — I was wondering about that myself in regards to my poor cat. That’s really about the only thing plastic bags have going for them, so it’s great to know there are other options even there…

  9. posted by Bucky M on

    1. Whether bioplastic or paper, biodegradable bags are still disposable and are contaminants in the recycling of regular shopping bags. Biodegradable bags are a feel-good knee-jerk response, but they are NOT a real solution.
    2. San Francisco’s much-touted bag plastic bag ban is a public relations sham. It only applies to grocery stores and pharmacies, and only ones of a certain minimum size, and then only if the bag has a logo printed on it. The vast majority of retailers are not affected.

  10. posted by Bucky M on

    … and let’s not forget that life cycle studies have shown that manufacturing a disposable paper or biodegradable plastic bag takes more energy and generates more air and water pollution than manufacturing a regular plastic bag.

  11. posted by Peregrin on

    I don’t know if anyone will see this comment, but here’s what we do.

    1. Use canvas bags for hauling groceries.
    2. Use mesh lingerie bags for bagging produce.
    3. Put cat waste into a diaper pail lined with a plastic trash bag (keeps the odor contained, plus you don’t have to empty it as often).

    Now, if I could only remember to take the canvas bags into the store with me when I shop….

  12. posted by ailaG on

    I have a big backpack in my car, and when shopping I use 1-2 bags – for things that might open under pressure. The rest goes straight back to the cart after check out – which saves some time on bagging it, too. (we usually have to do the bagging ourselves and I’m slow at that)

    This is both environmental and more comfortable than carrying bags or scheduling delivery.

    (and in my case, lets me get all the groceries up the 74 stairs in one trip)

  13. posted by Katie on

    I love my reusable shopping bags because I can use them as luggage when I take the bus across the city to see my parents and join in with their laundry. I couldn’t do the same thing with plastic bags for fear of looking like a tramp, but the good canvas ones are getting really fashionable around the university campus!! Also I only really shop at Tesco and Lidl. Tesco have a loyalty card and you get 1 point (worth 1 penny) for every bag you reuse. My flat mates don’t get the reusing of bags so we have bales of them cluttering up the kitchen, hanging of the door handle.
    I <3 my reusable bags

  14. posted by catmom on

    Just like Christine, I too have gotten free totes over the years. Glad that I can put them to use for grocery shopping! They definitely hold more than the plastic bags.

    For you plastic bag lovers, I’m not against them, matter of fact I use mine as litter bags for my car. I keep half a dozen on hand, the rest I take to the grocery store for recycling.

  15. posted by FekketCantenel on

    More than a year later, I finally make it back to this page to rejoin the conversation.

    “FekketCantenel – you still shop at Wal-Mart?! No wonder you think plastic bags are ok.”

    I haven’t been confronted with such stuck-up superiority since someone called me a “poor, white trash b****” a few weeks ago (the ‘white trash’ part isn’t true). I work for near minimum wage to support two adults; I shop at Walmart and I like it. (Aldi’s is another option, but that place gives me the creeps.)

    “Do you really only use plastic bags once a week? I doubt your family makes only one [large] purchase a week.”

    Believe it. My parents (and I, when I was living with them) lived thirty miles from the nearest grocery store, and would therefore make one big trip a week.

    After reading quite a bit of literature about how frequent grocery trips can cause you to overspend, I’ve taken a page from my parents’ book and only go grocery shopping on Saturday nights (when the store isn’t crowded). I buy much less than my parents (my family is two, now, not four), but still relish the simplicity of it.

    “With so many being available for as little as a dollar each, I don’t think the argument of them being too expensive can be used.”

    To clarify, I made my input after research on Amazon, which yielded bags as cheap as $7. This was before Walmart started selling canvas bags of comparable quality for 50¢. When they did, I bought four, which can hold my entire weekly grocery trip. I’ve since forgotten them _every time we’ve gone grocery-shopping_, because they’re unessential unitaskers. What a waste of two dollars!

    “Instead of finding reasons why NOT to do it, why not figure out a way to do something positive.”

    Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t give a nickel for the environment. I’ve got cheaper and more urgent things to worry about. Reusing items is fun and can save money, and so I do that. But I can’t afford to go along for the ride with you Planeteers. Good for you guys, dedicating your valuable time and abundant budgets to what you consider a worthy cause, but understand that not everyone _can_ or _cares_.

  16. posted by Elaine on

    Over the last 2-3 years I’ve acquired the nickname of “The Crazy Bag Lady” at my neighborhood grocery. I own nearly a dozen cloth shopping bags and have been very diligent about using them. Because plastic bags aren’t accepted at our recycling center (though you can return them at the store, but whoever remembers to do that?), they annoy me.

    We had gotten ourselves pared down to just a few bags per week, which we used in our wastebaskets. And then guess what came into our lives? A kitty! An indoor kitty, whose box needs to be scooped out daily. Soon, we discovered that it was necessary to leave the cloth bags in the car and hope for plastic. Plastic bags are the only thing that works for feline sanitation. So (sigh) we’re back to plastic while we attempt to train Precious to use the toilet. Just kidding…

  17. posted by Alice on

    I’m not sure if it works for cat poop, but for those of you with dogs, google “dog poop digester”.

    We don’t throw dog poop in the trash anymore- our can smells much better, and the digester works great.

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