The Mystery of Plastic bags…

An old mossy shoe…on an old mossy stump…  all so very not plastic… 🙂

I’m not smarter than you and I’m sure I’m not more organized than you or more concerned for the health of our planet and it’s inhabitants. I’ll bet you look at pictures of landfills full of plastic and the plastic “islands” floating in the ocean with as much horror and sadness as I do. So please don’t think I’m bragging or showing off.  I’m simply mystified…

I stand in line at the local natural foods store every week and see people spending a lot of money on healthy organically grown food — and then carry it all home in plastic bags. Their produce and bulk grains and beans are all in plastic bags, too. Why is that?

I read that in Ireland (or was it San Francisco??) they got people to stop using plastic bags by charging a nickle a piece for them. Holy cow! Having to pay an extra 20 or 30 cents for a grocery order was incentive enough to change the way people behave – but all those pictures of dead turtles and whales and birds didn’t do it! We humans are a very strange lot, aren’t we? I’m sorry if that sounds condescending and snarky, it’s really more that I truly don’t understand – because I know people sincerely care about our planet. I know most people care a lot. You all love and care for your kids and your pets and are kind to strangers and love growing things. Most people work at being unselfish and loving and wouldn’t think to throw trash out their car windows.

For more than 30 years I have been carrying cloth bags in my car along with nylon produce and grain bags (all pretty easy to find and buy these days). I have a couple very old squashable nylon bags that I carry in my purse because they are really light and take up hardly any room and I always have them with me, just in case. Getting ready for a shopping trip means getting my list together and an appropriate number of bags. It only takes a minute.

I remember not that many years ago it was challenging to use my old canvas bags because checkout people made grumbly noises about how hard they were to fill – they just wouldn’t stand up… they were a hassle. I smiled and apologized and brought them anyway. Now – check out people take cloth bags in their stride, and they often smile at me. So why do so few people use cloth? It’s not the cost, because you can buy big sturdy bags from every big store for only a dollar or so. Why, then, do the checkers in our natural foods stores still ask “paper or plastic?”??

I’m not trying to shame you – if you are someone who hasn’t yet quit the plastic bag habit. I’m just mystified…

Here’s a dead whale story, if that helps….


  1. FINALLY! Someone writes about all the plastic packaging used for produce in the same stores where the tree huggers shop! I do not get it either. Those sorts of stores are the worst. The bottled water comes in those flimsy (but tough) thin plastic bottles in order to use less plastic, but other produce comes in much thicker plastic than it was ever wrapped in before. Here in the Bay Area (south of San Francisco) there is a charge for grocery bags. Both plastic and paper bags are very stigmatized. Yet, the reusable bags which contain as much plastic as about a dozen plastic bags are likely to wear out after only about half a dozen uses. I would like to make my own very reusable grocery bags from the furs of gophers that I trap in the lawn. They would be renewable, recycled, repurposed, and everything that tree huggers like . . . except that they would also be dead.


  2. I love your plastic bag solution, Tony! But I would also like to put in a plug for the awful petroleum based cloth bags – at least a couple I began using weekly about 10 yrs. ago. Bought them for 99 cents and because they have big flat bottoms I used them along with my cotton ones because they were easier to pack. The writing has worn off and they have softened over the 10 yrs. of weekly use but they are no where near wearing out… I think of all the hundreds of plastic bags they have saved me from using over the years. The pretty printed cotton bags are best if you have the money to spend on them, but if you can’t afford it the second best choice would be a not so environmentally friendly bag that will last many many years of uses like mine have. They may be unique – but I don’t think so. But your solution has many interesting and useful levels…. I wonder how rat and mole fur would work?….. 🙂


  3. Since we (in the U.K.) got the 5p charge on plastic bags, their use has plummeted. Now I’m no longer a strange person for taking my reusables!! However, people in shops still comment at how organised I am…
    I would like to see more items in an unpackaged state to start with, though. Why do dried produce such as beans have to be clothed in plastic??


  4. Most of our natural foods stores do carry beans and grains and nuts and some seeds bulk – but then people use a plastic produce bag to carry them home – defeating the purpose of having lovely un-packaged bulk foods! Go figure…. Perhaps if they put racks of the small reusable cloth produce/grain bags for sale in that section of the store people might get the idea that they have a choice… Not sure what the answer is. I’m glad to hear that there are places – like your town – where people are moving away from plastic bags… yea…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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