NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 3, 2013

A European response to the plastic bag debate

I remember when I was newly wed and shopping for the first times on my own. The bag boy would ask if I wanted paper or plastic. I would say “paper, please” and get a judgmental look from the clerk and the bag boy. You see, that was when everyone thought they were saving the trees by using plastic instead. The grocery sack debate has been going on for quite a while already.

I never liked the plastic because I had to carry at least twice as many bags and sometimes they broke. I have always been an environmentally conscious person and I even felt guilty using the paper. However, I would reuse them as garbage sacks, not because I was “recycling,” but because we were young and poor. No recycling programs were in place where I lived here in the U.S.

Later when recycling programs started, along came the new canvas grocery bags. They were heavy, thick, relatively inflexible, yet couldn’t stand on their own and didn’t hold very much despite their strength. Lots of environmental organizations started making or supplying these, so I had all different sizes with all different lengths of straps, which could make it a little difficult when carrying them to the car or apartment. Needless to say, I did not use these too much for grocery shopping.

Technology just gets better. Lately, they have come up with super-thin and transportable cotton or nylon bags that are great to throw in your purse for that spur-of-the-moment purchase. The nylon ones actually fold in on themselves and fit in your purse at the size of a small folding wallet without the weight. I like these for when I need to only purchase a little; if you are purchasing a lot of heavy items like laundry soap, then these don’t work so well.

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