Paper or plastic? Neither? But what do you do with garbage?
Yesterday, the Washington D.C. city council approved a 5-cent fee (tax) on all plastic and paper bags provided grocery and convenience stores. (It still needs final approval.) This was supposedly done to save the environment. I think it was just done to improve the D.C. tax coffers! (Retailers were allowed to keep 20% of the take too.) Other communities have made efforts to ban plastic bags; Seattle tried to impose a 20-cent fee last summer. (That measure is going to referendum.) How long until Governor Doyle goes for this one?
What is unusual about the Washington tax is that it is on paper bags as well as plastic. Paper is biodegradable and comes from a renewable resource: trees. Paper/building material companies plant trees just for the purpose of using them for... paper and building materials!
Now don't get me wrong, I am all in favor of cutting down the number of bags used. One of my pet peeves is grocery stores that bag your groceries in a zillion bags when maybe 2 would do*. (Pictured is my $19 purchase, and I asked for paper!)
But there is one thing I still have not figured out: If you always use your own bags, then WHAT DO YOU PUT YOUR GARBAGE IN????
Do you purchase garbage and trash bags from our friends at Union Carbide? How does using a Hefty bag for your trash help the environment? It is still in a plastic bag! What do you put your recyclable newspapers and office paper in if you no longer have paper bags?
I have been against the plastic grocery bag ever since the late 1970s when they first appeared on the scene. When I complained about the use of non-biodegradable, oil based plastic bags (this was during the oil embargo gas line days), the grocer told me that the plastic bags were better for the environment because they did not use trees! Since I was not born yesterday, I countered that plastic bags were cheaper than paper. I promptly made a few of my own cloth bags to use.
Often when shopping back then, the clerk would ask, do you want a bag? If it was a small purchase, I would say, no. This practice came to a halt, however, when too many items walked out the door without payment. Retailers soon insisted customers take a bag as proof that the item was paid for.
Lately, retailers are again asking if I want a bag for single item purchases. I usually decline if I am going straight to my car.
In our household, we never throw out empty bags--paper or plastic. They all get reused for trash, recycling, and garbage. I bring my own bags to ALDI and sometimes bring my own red Sendik's bag to Sendik's in Elm Grove and receive 5-cents off per bag used. (This tells me that bags are getting expensive for retailers.)
Some of this plethora of bags is caused by the grocery store baggers. They have a tendancy to pack just a few items in each bag. If I ask for paper, frequently I get plastic too--as pictured above. Maybe at one time, grocers instructed baggers to use a lot of bags so the customer would perceive that they got a lot for their money? Maybe over-bagging it is just because baggers tend not to be the Einsteins of the world. Whatever reason, they love to use a lot of bags.
If you have too many plastic bags, you can recycle them at some retailers. Kohls and Walmart used to take them. Small resale shops such as Almost Anything on 76th and Beloit take them too. They happily use clean, recycled bags.
The greatest boon go grocers is the purchase your own bag idea. This way, they get you, the consumer, to provide the bag for their merchandise, thus reducing their costs**. That is all fine and good, but it still does not answer my question: WHAT DO YOU PUT YOUR GARBAGE IN?
*My all time high in plastic over-bagging came at the Publix grocery store in Florida a few years back. We purchased about $100 of groceries and they bagged them in over 20 plastic grocery bags--and that was with me helping a little. The concept of putting more than 1 or 2 items in a bag or bagging your own was not one they embraced!
**Menards went one better on buy your own bag. Their last bag sale required that you purchase their 99-cent Menards bag in order to obtain their % off on all that fit into the bag!