When is a plastic bag not a plastic bag?

We’ve all accumulated what we’ve accumulated, dare I say before we knew enough to make choices. I try to reuse my plastic bags as often as possible, and limit how many more I end up with. For a fascinating and informative read about all things plastic in relation to our environment, check out the book Garbology by Humes.

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I have to admit that I am torn on the fee for plastic bags idea. On the one hand, I hate the litter aspect of plastic bags. They end up everywhere.
But on the other hand, they use such a tiny amount of matter and they do their job rather well. Reusable bags are a great idea but if they are not cleaned properly they can occasionally lead to sickness due to the presence of e. coli and other bacterial issues.

My state banned single use plastic bags and then the pandemic happened.
Here in the Rogue Valley, we’ve pretty much gotten back to normal and stores follow the law.
Grocery Outlet is the only place that bitches about reusable bags.
They make you leave them in the cart and not load them till you’ve finished buying everything. Very inconvenient.

My friends and i laughingly call reusable bags “plague bags”.
It is a joke with just a bit of truth to it.
E Coli is no joke.

We might be the center of the reusable bag universe.

Visit Europe some time :wink:

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I have a dozen canvas type bags I collected over the years. Trader Joes is the only grocer I can find that still sells their branded bags. The beauty to them is that after every use I just toss them in the wash and bleach them with my whites. (Yes, I do my own laundry.)

I’ve had several cashiers comment on how clean my bags smell. :joy:

Those heavy plastic re-useable bags just don’t seem to be practical from a hygiene standpoint.


Trader Joe’s bags are capable of holding two six packs of beer or cider and the handles are sewn securely and don’t unravel/break.
My main test for reusable bags.

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New York has had such a law for several years now. After some initial whining people got used to it. For produce, I bought reusable, washable mesh bags from Amazon.

Do they offer paper? If you make tortilla chips or bread, I find paper to be my go-to.

That, and you can wash the produce in the bag. I like this concept.

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@eleeper I always travel with my reusable bags. Baggu bags are great for any kind of shopping at home or while traveling. They fold down to a small, lightweight square and can hold a lot of weight. Along with those, I bring my reusable produce bags. All of these are easily tossed into our luggage (and we only do carry-on when we fly so even with space at a premium, everything fits.

Probably a little bit of both. All the local supermarket chains I visit use either the green “compostable” plastic bags or the white very thin plastic bags for fruits and veggies. They are so thin that they rip easily. I think the primary concern for plastic bags are the heavier weight plastic ones that take forever to break down. I recycle nearly all my bags for garbage and cat litter. What I can’t use, my local grocery store does have plastic bag recycling bins.

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That can-do spirit

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Kind of an aside but California passed a law requiring separation of garden and food waste (compostable) from trash and recycle. Most people got a separate trash can for this as well as a food waste bucket to use inside the home. Where we live people are totally confused because some trash haulers can’t (or won’t) handle biodegradable plastic bags so food waste has to be placed in the food waste bin directly. Our hauler finally has begun to allow brown paper bags and food/stained paper in there too, but many people are complaining that open food waste is leading to maggots and generally disgusting conditions in the bins. Older folk are not easily able to wash out these bins and people whose community association handles all landscaping have little garden waste so a 35 gallon bin has only open food waste in it if they don’t use a bag of some kind.

Supposedly the hauler who won’t allow biodegradable bags has an issue where the bags get tangled in their equipment while the other hauler either just deals with it or has different equipment. All this has led to very confusing and frustrating NextDoor posts because the area has both haulers and people don’t seem to understand that. You’d think plastic bags would have enough bad PR without this.


Good intentions are sometimes not well thought through, or even if they are, aren’t communicated clearly enough.

I wonder how much of the compostable content actually reaches a proper facility. Like recycling? I keep seeing articles in the LATimes and other bemoaning that something on the order of 20% of recycle-binned waste actually gets recycled.

(20% is a rough off-memory number from popular press and op-eds. These guys claim it’s more like 15%, but I don’t know them or agenda they may/may not have well enough to trust, but at least this one article appears pretty straight-forward)

It seems some of the problem is definitional.

  • Americans find recycling… more confusing than building IKEA furniture, doing their taxes, playing the stock market or understanding their spouse,” [State Senator Ben] Allen said. Allen chairs the Environmental Quality Committee.

[Ed - I like this guy’s sense of humor]

We tend to slap the recycle triangle onto any plastics, but many of those plastics aren’t even close to economically useful retreads, so California limited use of that recycle triangle to plastics that were usefully recyclable.

So I wonder if compostables might similarly (eventually) be divided into “yes, compost” and “no, put it in the trash” categories.

I’m not any kind landfill expert, but to the extent we hope at least some of the stuff in landfills eventually biodegrades, would some compostables in the mix be beneficial in helping to generate breakdown organisms? Does a sterile landfill ever biodegrade anything?

Or contrariwise, are the timescales so long that it effectively is a moot point?

This is true with our local green waste hauler. I end up keeping proteins and other potentially funk stuff in the refrigerator until the day before trash day.

Also, they won’t take palm fronds! :thinking:

Jeez, must just be NJ (I kid, I kid). Who on earth would steal those nasty ass baskets that strangers touch? I use them, but I wipe those handles thoroughly with the antibacterial wipes now. Any fresh fruit and produce goes in a produce bag, so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the basket.

I’ve been to many cities with plastic bag bans in place, and not even once have I seen someone try to steal the store basket. Especially when every business or promotion seems to involve a free reusable shopping bag as a giveaway.

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Just to be clear, while the picture is of a full size basket on wheels ( some lock their wheels if you go too far), the article reads “Statewide, supermarkets and grocery stores are reporting that handheld baskets have gone missing by the thousands”.

I was wondering why I can’t seem to find one anymore!

Here in NY, plastic grocery bags have been banned so most people bring reusable bags with them. If I am only getting a few items, I just put the directly into my bag rather than use a handheld basket. Wegmans lets you scan your groceries as you go avoiding checkout lines.

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Sunday market in Ubud, Indonesia
Credit: Roozbeh Rokni, Flickr