Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Plastic Bags

   When I returned from a month out of country last winter, and of course immediately had to go to the grocery store to stock the refridgerator and pantry I'd left bare, I was taken a bit aback when the cashier asked if I'd like to buy a bag. I looked where the plastic grocery bags had always been, there was nothing there. The cashier was indicating a seperate pile of sturdier plastic bags. What was this madness??
   "uh, how much are they?" I asked
   "Fifteen cents"
   "uh, okay" I said, still a bit shaken by this break in the normal reality of such a mundane transaction.
   "Ta" she said, which my brain invariably translates as "fuck off and die" though they say it cheerfully.

   It took me awhile to get used to keeping the bags in my car, especially since they're invariably brought in to the kitchen when full of groceries and then I'm not about to go back out to the car after loading them into the pantry and fridge, esp if its cold and rainy out, so I still regularly find them not in the car. Or I happen by the grocery store in the work truck -- since I live way out of town, if work brings me by the grocery I'm gonna run in for resupply, and find I have no bags in the work truck. Even though they're only fifteen cents, I have long since bought so many bags that I refuse to buy one more.

   And so, more often than not I am limited to simply buying only as many groceries as I can hold in my hands. I really wonder how many other people have adapted this strategy. It's gotta be hurting their sales, since they're always strategizing to trick people into seeing and buying things they didn't really need. Surely I'm not the only one who will now forgo that $5 tub of icecream for want of a $0.15 bag. Even people that remember to bring their bags, if they brought three bags they're not going to buy four bags of stuff.

   The other day I was caught out with slightly more than would be easy to carry out to the car by hand. As I even then hemmed and hawed about buying another bag, the cashier helpfully pointed to a stack of cardboard boxes that had been located near the entrance and asked if I'd like one for free. Of course I did. Ta. Since then I've noticed ever more customers loading their groceries into cardboard boxes. We are learning to make do. The consumer ecosystem adjusts.

   They claim the reason is environmental, I think. I have never seen an official statement on the subject. And I consider myself a serious environmentalist, but I have questions about this whole thing. These new bags are made from the exact same material as the old ones, I'm told, just thicker. Why can't they just make bags out of a biodegradable material? Surely that is possible. Or even make them out of a material that was recyclable (recycle bins are ubiquitous but the shopping bags never qualified). I frankly, cycnically, suspect the decision to go from free bags to 15 cent bags was economic not environmental in motivation, but it really seems to me like it would be causing people to purchase less. Or maybe its politics, because I think the decision was made not just by one grocery store but seems to have been simulteniously adopted by them all, and so, as happens in environmental politics, like the EU randomly banning pesticides due to political pressure rather than science, I'm guessing some politicians decided banning single use plastic bags would buff their environmentalist credentials. And I guess put that way, yeah I'd be in favor of "banning single use plastic bags," that's the right set of key words to get my environmentalist blood up, as I visualize sea lions choking on plastic bags blowing in the wind. But key words or key word phrases are a toxic element of politics that short-circuits thinking a problem all the way through and facilitates portraying things as black and white. Is it black and white? Are you totally for single use plastic bags or against them? What I'm for is not choking sea lions -- surely in this day and age instead of doing that with a more survivable multi-use plastic bag of the same material we can come up with some biodegradable single use bag that will get your ice cream home but if exposed to sustained sunlight, submerged in salt-water, or chomped on by a sea lion, it will give with the consistency of cotton candy? Like, I don't know, it's almost like you cold make a bag out of recycled paper or something....

Tags: essays, rants
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