Lately, the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag has become a frequent topic of controversy. For years now, plastic bags have been derided as a baby whale suffocating monstrosity by environmentalists, and as a result, efforts have been underway to curtail their use for some time now. These efforts came to a head last year when the City of Seattle attempted to impose a 20 cent tax on each plastic bag used within the city. Although the Seattle bag tax got rejected by a significant margin by the voters in a referendum during this year’s primary election (apparently even Seattleites have their limits when it comes to taxes, not since the notorious “latte tax” proposed in 2003 and rejected by nearly 70% of Seattle voters have I seen people that mad about a tax) it appears that bag taxes and outright bans on plastic bags have been imposed in a number of areas already. Since I make it a point to try to keep this Blog as free of politics as possible (believe me, you do NOT want to get me started on anything political here) I am not going to bother discussing the arguments for or against this type of policy, but I do have to say that I can at least see where they’re coming from. Plastic bags seem to be one of those necessary evils that make life easier, but also bring their own set of problems along the way. In my case, this is the big one:
Yeah, I know. I really need to stop making posts that involve displaying the contents of the deep dark corners of my apartment, but I’ve never really figured out what to do with these things, so mostly they end up accumulating. If you just throw the things away, you get yourself tossed into the category of eco-fiends inhabited primarily by toxic waste dumpers, baby seal clubbers and Republican senators. In spite of the fact that these bags are generally made out of recyclable materials (HDPE, recycle code 2,) for some reason the recycling bins here explicitly say not to put plastic shopping bags into the bins. Some of the local supermarkets actually have plastic bag recycling bins, but I rarely remember to bring bags to be recycled.
Another issue that I have with this is that often when I go to the store, I end up using the self checkouts. As long as the store isn’t too crowded, I find these to be a nice little timesaver, but for some reason, every self checkout that I’ve seen seems to provide nothing but plastic bags. Given the option I think I’d actually be more likely to use paper bags most of the time, since you can at least put them in the recycle bin without feeling too guilty and theyre generally a lot easier to reuse.
Then, of course, there’s the reusable bag option. In the past couple of years, reusable bags seem to have become a lot more popular, although I still don’t seem to see a lot of people using them. In fact, aside from one or two of the big blue bags I picked up from Ikea (which don’t seem to be useful for much more than trips to Ikea) I haven’t ever really bothered with these, but when I went to the new Trader Joe’s in Redmond last Friday when it opened (I’ll have to do a post on this later), they packed the groceries I bought in this reusable bag, one of a number of styles they had on offer. When I think about it, it actually makes a whole lot of sense. I could stop accumulating ridiculous amounts of plastic bags that I’ll never reuse, and maybe I could even get myself off the seal clubbers list. Now I just need to figure out how to actually remember to bring the things with me when I shop…