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Clinging to plastic as a creature of habit

In today's 'Everything King', Wendy is having trouble saying goodbye to the plastic bag. Are you?
(via Shutterstock)

If I am being completely honest, I do not want to give up my plastic bags.

I saw a recent Facebook meme and it really resonated with me and has prompted this column.

“So, let me get this straight. I go to the grocery store and buy some sliced ham wrapped in plastic, a loaf of bread in a plastic bag, three bags of milk in yet another plastic bag, a package of napkins wrapped in plastic, a salad in a plastic container, a plastic bottle of mustard and ketchup and they won’t give me a plastic bag to carry it all home in because plastic bags are harmful to the environment.”

I found myself nodding in agreement.

I understand why we are being encouraged to cut down on the use of plastic bags. I don’t want landfills clogged up with material that won’t degrade for a thousand years. I don’t want wildlife choked or strangled by plastic in water or on land.

I do have some concerns and questions, though.

Honestly, I resent having to pay to use a plastic bag, which seems like a cash grab, but I do it for a couple of reasons. I want the plastic grocery bags for convenience and also for other uses (mini garbage bags) at home.

While I am sincerely trying to remember to bring reuseable bags to the store, I don’t always succeed. I can’t be the only one.

To be up front, I don’t care for them. There is no stretch to them and they are heavy. I also don’t know how to properly pack groceries, so the bag is just a big heavy mixture of pointy and irregularly sized stuff. 

There may be various policies and maybe some cashiers will still pack the bags for the customer which would be helpful. It's been my experience, though, when you bring your own they seem to expect you to pack it yourself.

There can be contamination in a fabric bag, so there’s the need to clean them constantly.

Plastic is flexible. It has some give to it. Plus, they have handles.

Paper bags, I find, are too stiff. They are heavy. How many will I need per shopping trip? If they are filled with produce or fruit, which is damp or if there’s a leak, can you imagine the mess?

Boxes? I’ve tried this, too, but they are very heavy and awkward.

What are we supposed to use for garbage? For litter? For scooping poop?  Paper bags aren’t going to cut it.

Research suggests there are recyclable plastic bags, but they are just quicker to break down not technically recyclable. They are costly. Will those be accepted curbside?

Another suggestion was to put the dry garbage directly into the garbage bin at the street. That doesn’t seem like a viable option to me. Sounds like a messy nightmare waiting to happen.

More internet suggestions:

1. Choose your purchases carefully.

2. Buy food in reusable containers such as glass jars.

3. Purchase food in bulk using refillable bags or containers.

That makes sense, but again I am mostly concentrated on product quality and cost when doing the weekly food run.

My question is sincerely what is the answer?

Probably some of this will just become routine in time.

There will come a day when all of this is just common practice.

But for right now, I feel pressured to make changes I am not prepared to make. I am currently not shopping at any grocery stores that won’t give me a plastic bag. That’s just my decision.

I do try to recycle as much as I can. Does some stuff fall through the cracks? Yes, admittedly yes.

I am trying to do better.

Back to the meme. How about the totally unnecessary extra packaging on products? Individual packaging on items which are already in plastic and inside a box. 

Agreed, a lot of my concerns come because I am a creature of habit and of convenience.

I would truly love to hear how you handle the issue and if you’ve found some alternatives to plastic that work for you and your family.


About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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