Green Spot: The Death of the Plastic Bag?

So is it just me or did people finally wake up to throwing away a few billion plastic bags each year can’t possible be good for the environment?  I mean the Walmart by me now is accepting their bags back for recycling.  Then I’m seeing just about every store has some kind of reusable shopping bag for sale.  Heck some places have banned them while others have fees on them.

So the question is with all this critical mass on getting rid of them can I live a life without them?  I decided for the last week to give it a try.  Previously I had not used plastic bags for most of my groceries but I still got the occasional one during a shopping trip.  So far so good I have yet to use a bag for a week now, but I have learned a few important lessons.

  • You must tell the clerk you don’t want a bag. I mean just about everyone I see puts stuff in a bag before you can speak, so you have to make sure to say it right away to avoid a plastic bag.
  • You must make sure using reusable bags are easy for you. I personally got a second set of bags so I can leave one by the front door of my house, one in the car and one in my bag I take to work.  I notice I used to tend to get plastic bags when I kept forgetting to take my reusable bags with me.
  • Make sure you have some washable bags. I used to keep thinking I needed some plastic shopping bags when I get the odd thing that is potentially going to make a mess when I transport it.  Then I realized if you have a bag or two you can wash you really don’t need a plastic bag for potentially messy jobs.  If a mess happens just toss it in the wash.
  • You have to make the change of habit. More than anything else I just have to get in the habit of not using plastic bags.  I know that half the battle is in my own head.

Now some people like to say “Oh, but I NEED a plastic bag for X.”  Really?  So what did people do before we invented plastic bags?  My point is saying you “need” something is just avoiding getting creative on finding another way to deal with the problem.  I’m not saying it is going to be easy, I’m just saying you likely have another way to avoid that bag.

So how about you?  Do you still use them all the time, do you try to use reusable bags or are you a full blown plastic bag free existence?

8 thoughts on “Green Spot: The Death of the Plastic Bag?”

  1. What are we going to replace our plastic garbage bags with? It sounds great to stop using plastic shapping bags, but I just reused them as garbage bags. If I don’t have the shopping bags, I guess I’ll just have to buy more garbage bags….

  2. What Chris said.

    My condo doesn’t have a green bin program, so my organic waste still hits the general garbage. Recycling is seperated, but a paper garbage bag won’t work for the rest because of the amount of wet organic waste that goes in. I’d love to see this changed, but older buildings have a hard time adapting their garbage collection methods to meet this.

    That said, there’s less of an excuse from those with a green bin program. Biodegradable organic waste bags exist for that use, and after you take out recyclables and compostables, there isn’t much left in the wet garbage department.

  3. We now carry foldable cloth bags in the car and my wife is in the habit of using them. It took a while to form the new habit and remember to take them into the grocery store.We bought the bags at the grocery store. We still like to get some plastic bags. We use them for some garbage etc.

    Newspapers and flyers…now that is a big waste. Imagine how many trees have to be cut down each year just to make all the newspapers across the entire earth over 365 days. Anyone have any idea how big a pile that would be? How many trees? What percentage of forestry?

    What to do about that one? Pass a law that newspaper companies must also provided free “collection and recycle” of all the newspapers and the flyers that they deliver? That might help the environment a smidge.

    “Make the user pay”


  4. We are dog-sitting for a friend this weekend. We took her out on a walk yesterday and I remembered the one thing those plastic bags are very handy for. (It’s a one-time usage, though, for sure!)

  5. We are pretty good about not using plastic shoppings bags and are now at stage two of learning how to cope at home without the plastic shopping bags. So far we have started using the used milk bags and cereal box bags for one-time uses such as garabage, doggie poop etc. Next it’s getting used to using stainless garbage containers and dumping them in to the outside garbage and recycling bins instead of using a bag to put the garbage in yet another larger bag. Slowly we’re finding our way one step at a time.

    As far as flyers we put up a no flyer sign and while we really miss the Canadian Tire flyer, not having them does keep us from wanting to buy things and when we want to look at them we look at them online.

  6. Oh dear, I wrote this post specifically with the idea of plastic shopping bags. I didn’t mean to leave that out in the post. So sorry to everyone who thought I meant ALL plastic bags. That is fairly difficult to avoid as Mel points out.


    Actually if you want to avoid your portion of fliers you can typically ask the paper to not deliver them. I know I had it done while I was on vacation and then my wife actually asked to get them back (she uses some coupons from a couple that you can’t get online).


  7. I have cloth bags that I keep in the car for grocery shopping, ect. The really great thing about them is that they can hold so much more weight without tearing – anytime I do get plastic bags, more than half go straight to recycling because they’re ripped.

    For those who “need” plastic bags – yes they’re convenient, but do you really need *that* many bags? I know that we were collecting an insane amount of bags before we switched to cloth, about 5 per week to use as trash liners. Try using just one or two cloth bags and cutting back on plastic. Every little bit helps!

  8. i have about a half dozen canvas tote bags i use for groceries. I have collected them over the years as giveaways in various promotional campaigns and haven’t paid for any of them.

    I do still occasionally opt for plastic becus i need something to dump used kitty litter in when i bring it to the landfill. i don’t think the guys there would appreciate me dumping it in the dumpster loose.

    i want to start trying to bring the other plastic baggies used for fresh produce back to the store for reuse. Either that, or dedicating one of my cleanest canvas bags just for veggies.

    the problem with washing the canvas bags is they shrink dramatically. it’s not like cotton clothing that is shrink-resistant.

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