Bagging It

One of the things which catches U.S. tourists out here in Britishland is that retail outlets frequently do not offer bags to carry out any purchases — or, if they do, they charge 5p each for the wretched things. And it works, if the goal is to reduce trash.

Now Tesco is apparently doing away with the cheap flimsy ones, and is going is issue sturdier bags — for 10p each  — which can survive multiple uses.

Now, as Doc Russia reminds me, this is all very well; but it should be noted that the number of disposable bags may well have gone down, but that has been offset by a concomitant rise in sickness from e. coli bacteria infection. Yup… traces of bacteria from fruits and especially fresh meats will stay behind in the bag and be transferred to future purchases.

So if you’re going to do the Green Thing, wash that bag, y’all. And by the way, I’ve been doing this for a long time and let me tell you: canvas bags work better than any of the sturdier plastic things, which don’t handle the washing machine experience well at all. You just have to remember to put the damn things back in the car before you go out to do their shopping (something I fail to do quite often).


  1. I first encountered this while in Santa Barbara, CA for a wedding a few years back. I was checking out at a convenience store and the clerk asked me if I wanted a bag, I said yes, and she said something along the lines of “They’re ten cents each, there’s a law that we have to charge for them.” I responded with some sort of polite disbelief, a comment that we don’t do that in Philadelphia but, sure, charge me, I need the bag. From behind me I hear a voice say “We care about not polluting our oceans and waterways in California.” I turned my head and saw a desiccated 50-something, well-dressed woman wearing a smug, purse-lipped smirk, arms crossed in front of her. Pretty much everything I dislike about CA. I looked at her, smiled, and said “Interesting. In Philly we don’t throw our garbage in the water. Seems easier to me.”

  2. My favorite grocery store in Florida offers reusable bags, but not very many people use them. The ones that do tend to bring in bags that look like they were left under the car, not in it.

  3. I am shocked – shocked! – that in the UK you have to buy a bag to carry your purchases. You mean they don’t deliver them?

  4. What, there aren’t herds of itinerant dickensian waifs crawling over needy widows, pensioners and each other for the opportunity to schlepp your purchases for you for tuppence? Or did you cane them away?

  5. It took no time at all to develop a seething hatred of the #$@&ing plastic bags endemic to grocery establishments; for any reasonably-sized grocery order one winds up with a dozen or more, each able to hold only small number of items, all of which will be rolling around on the floor of the car after the formless bags spill their contents. Where I am the plastic bags are free, and one can even have paper bags for the asking at no cost (except at the new, Kraut-based stores moving into the area), if one is prepared to endure the scorn of the supermarket and fellow patrons, and the delay while the bagger searches for them. Often, there’s no bag-quantity advantage with paper unless one specifies “please double-bag and pack them heavy” which, of course, increases the scorn quotient.

    Consequently, I’ve procured a couple collapsable plastic crates; collapsed, they take up little space, ride well on the bottom shelf of the shopping cart and only a few seconds are required to lock them open; they’re also very easy to clean, with a hose or even a hand-held shower wand (I checked – mine will even fit in the dishwasher, opened, if I remove the upper rack, but that seems extreme) and the plastic material is not conducive to absorbing spilled stuff (a section of clean newspaper on the bottom absorbs spills and is easily discarded; insert fresh paper before re-collapsing and it’ll be there for the next use). The downside is if one is buying a fair number of canned goods they can wind up weighing quite a bit. Each of my crates is rated at 75 lbs, so there’s little chance of exceeding their weight limit, they stack nicely in the cart when assembled, and fit well in the rear of the vehicle.

    For those interested, I’d suggest buying “industrial grade” crates rather than much cheaper (but not necessarily less expensive) “consumer grade” ones. In addition to groceries, I find them quite useful for a multitude of other purposes.

    1. Why didn’t I think of that? Nice idea.
      And, having done all we can to ensure we look after Gaia, the jolly supermarket puts its meat on Styrofoam trays, its cakes in plastic boxes, and uses metres of cling-wrap: and our biggest chains whisk away all the cardboard cartons so that the customer cannot avail herself of them. There is an irony lurking in there

  6. My local store uses paper bags on request. They stand up way better than the flimsy plastic ones (which often don’t survive the trip to the parking lot) and pack better in the back of my Earth Killer SUV. At home we use them as trash can liners, line the bottom of the recycle bin, and CINCHOUSE packs our tax records in them each year before they go into a box.

    I never have understood why plastic is considered more “green” than a renewable quickly bio-degradable paper bag. I have a feeling it started as plastic being cheaper (to buy, transport and store in large quantities) and some genius in the industry manged to con an Eco-warrior into it being better (probably by lying and saying the paper comes from old growth rain forest or similar) to improve their market position.

    (and I’m not being sarcastic when I say genius. That’s the kind of self-serving con job I can truly respect)

  7. Odd. Virtually all the websites detailing the plastic bag scams by these idiot politicians come back as 404’s now. It’s only been a couple years since the locals started with this idiocy, and that is when I bookmarked them.

    One study suggested that perhaps half a dozen deaths/ year in San Fran since their bag ban.
    They’re not made from oil, but from natural gas. The paper versions consume a lot more energy and produce much more pollution during manufacturing.
    The reusable plastic bags are mostly made in China. I don’t know what the reusable ones are made from.

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