Plastic Bag Ban

Reusable Shopping Bags

With all the clamour about using cloth bags instead of plastic bags rising in recent months, more and more people are buying the recycled plastic heavy duty supermarket bags from Save-on Foods (and its stepsister PriceSmart Foods), Superstore and even smaller supermarkets like the three-store Tropicana Foods.

With Vancouver City Councillor Tom Stevenson proposing an investigation into plastic bag alternatives, I am personally hoping for a plastic bag ban throughout the GVRD, er, Metro Vancouver area.

I already use a combination of Saveon, Michaels and Telus bags; however, I often forget to bring the bags with me until I am already at the checkout. Thus, I end up with more plastic bags every third time or so when I shop. Unfortunately, while I never shop except for food and a few other essentials, the majority of people shop far more and thus use up far more plastic bags – not to mention the excess packaging and, quite frankly, the useless bric-a-brac that the actual product most often is.

Thus, a plastic bag ban would force all of us to re-think at least one portion of our materialistic existence. It would force people like me, who try but fail, to try harder and not fail so easily. Besides, if it was so easy for generations before us to live in a less disposable society, why can’t we do it? We’re smarter these days, have broader life experiences, and we’re not as naive as our grandparents.

The CBC site already has 42 comments on possible ban, with many that deserve further investigation:

Trevor (Vancouver): …The garbage bag issue needs to be addressed as well. Personally, because I eat out so much I don’t have that many grocery bags and I re-use them all as garbage bags. Sometimes I even run out!

[Though Trevor is in favour of a ban, I wonder, really, who runs out of plastic bags turned into garbage bags. I never seem to have my garbage bag bin under control: in fact, my garbage bags seem to multiply faster than I can create garbage. Is this really a serious issue for other people? Here’s another comment that blows this argument out of the water:]

J (Vancouver): [D]on’t use the ‘what will I use for my garbage’ as an excuse to not support this initiative. There are many biodegradable garbage bags on the market. If your local grocery store does not carry some, ask them to. I can stick mine right into the compose bin. Mine cost about $6 for about 100 kitchen bags.

Bunny (Vancouver): While it might be easy to keep a stash of cloth bags in a vehicle, as someone who doesn’t use a car to shop I am not going to be carrying a cloth bag everywhere on the off-chance I pick up some groceries.

[How was it done in the days before widespread plastic bag usage? Did people carry cloth bags with them everywhere on that off-chance? While the current onslaught of bags are bulky, how about those net-like ones? Do we buy too many small items that would fall through the netting? Anyone have experience with these? How about Morsbags made out of old bedsheets – can these not be folded to take up less space?]

JT (UK): Banning is a knee jerk reaction that is only desiring to attract support from the public. Developments have already been made with plastic bags – look at Mountain Equipment Co-op. Their cornstarch bags are strong enough to be reuseable and are also biodegradable.

[Does anyone know if these cornstarch bags are in use anywhere else? But wait, would they still be treated as plastic bags: good for only a few uses? Does that mean we may save turtles from choking on plastic but still use up huge amounts of resources to constantly create these bags?]

Cathy (Kamloops): Remember when nobody wore seat-belts? We wouldn’t think of going out driving without one now. Why not retrain the public to use cloth shopping bags! We are good monkeys – we can be trained!

[Oddly enough, I met a young man last week who still refuses to wear seat-belts. I think that the recycling idea has yet to catch on. What are parents teaching kids these days? As a sometime child educator, I always see kids flagrantly wasting paper, either throwing away an entire sheet for one mistake (in pencil) or not even throwing away paper in a well-marked recycling bin. Can we really be trained?]

Gisele (Burnaby): I think it’s in Sweden that you can bring back your shampoo/detergent/soap bottles and such to be refilled. That’s where we should be as a community. It’s always struck me as weird when I see Bio-degradable, earth friendly detergent in a non-refillable monster plastic jug.. how dumb is that!?!

[Even in environmentally questionable Japan, you can buy your favourite brands of shampoo in plastic pouches instead of bottles. Simply refill the shampoo bottle you already have at home, then throw away the pouch that, while still not ideal, at least uses less plastic. Are there any local brands that you can refill? Ah, the days of glass milk bottles…]

Art Vandelay (Vancouver): More pandering to the hysterical extreme environmentalists. Why is it that the leftists want us to live like third world savages? Should we carry our groceries home in a wooden box on top of our heads? No, because that might kill a tree! Boo Hoo! Let the FREE MARKET decide it plastic bags should be replaced with something else. Why bring the heavy hand of government in to satisfy a vocal minority brainwashed by the false religion of global warming?

[Third world savages? Anyone want to comment on this? On a similar vein, a Jeff of BC wrote “Enough of this green stuff already.”]

iain macleod (langley_bcca): [T]otally bogus. The plastic bag issue is just another way for big business to sell another product for almost 100% pure profit, e.g. their new cloth bags.

[Mind you, we got our bags for 99 cents each or for free (Michaels) and we won’t be buying any more. However, I think the Morsbag way, chopping up old curtains and bed sheets and sewing them up into bags you hand out for free, is a nice way around this. Plus, it also solves the bowling alone problem if you can form work bees (another old-fashioned idea that would solve modern problems).]

Tom Chattaway (Surrey, BC): People re-use plastic shopping bags; where they have been banned, the sale of plastic garbage bags has risen so there is no net reduction in plastic usage. South Africa, instead of banning plastic shopping bags, passed a law requiring them to be thicker and stronger so they could be re-used. We should consider that, and design trash cans to fit them. These improved bags should sell for a fair price, and not be subject to special taxes.

[What do people here think of these thicker, stronger plastic bags? The supermarket bags we have are made of plastic and are stronger.]

Andrew (Richmond): There are plenty of places, most of them within supermarkets, which take plastic bags for recycling. Start by educating the populace before trying a ridiculous ban or, worse, a money-grabbing “fee” of some sort.

[Does anyone know if any local stores recycle plastic bags? They are not allowed to join the other household recyclables in some areas of Metro Vancouver.]

Neil Williams (Vancouver): Bags serve another purpose for me, its proof I paid! Many times I have stopped in at safeway for say, a carton of milk. If you don’t use the bag, the security assumes your stealing the milk. Same thing when I used a reusable bag, they assume your a thief. Or the time we were going camping, and just wanted all the groceries in the cart loose, so we could load everything directly into the cooler in the car. Even the manager came down for that one.

[Has anyone else had this problem? Or does this guy just look like a shoplifter? I haven’t had this problem (I always assumed you just showed the fresh receipt if stopped), but I know other people get nervous about being treated as shoplifters.]

9 Comments so far

  1. Jolly Bloger (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

    Oh geez… I commented on an earlier metblog post on this topic so I just want to say a bit about the Art Vandelay comment above. Not everyone who thinks the free market should deal with this kind of problem is an idiot. Not only is global warming absolutely real, but people SHOULD NOT be using plastic bags. Yet I don’t think it is up to the government to regulate our moral behaviour. Let the people choose to do the right thing on their own, don’t force them.

  2. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

    Since apparently we have two current posts on this right now, I’ll repost this.

    “We have the luxury of living in a free society,”

    Sort of, though no society is completely free but let’s see where this goes.

    “You can’t go around making things that are a bad idea illegal.”

    I believe in fact that’s what we’ve been doing since the dawn of time. Lists of bad things might include murder, punching people in the face, stealing things, nudity, rape, dumping toxic pollutants into the drinking water.

    A ban on plastic bags would most likely be focused at merchants, rather than consumers. If you want to use your own plastic bags that’s fine, but a store would not be allowed to give them out free to hold your purchases.

    If this sounds unfree then maybe consider the fact that all businesses have to abide by literally hundreds to thousands of rules, regulations and laws from zoning issues to how they pay and treat staff. To suggest a ban on plastic bags is any more awful than say zoning laws placed on signage on the highway, is to completely misundertand society.

  3. Chris (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

    It’s about time. My biggest pet peeve is stores that assume you want a plastic bag and don’t even ask.

  4. Ron C (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

    Even for consumers who buy large quantities, Superstore has been selling its Green Bins that fit into their shopping carts (as well as cloth bags) for years and years (and has been charging 3 cents for bags since inception).
    Lots of people have those Green Bins or cardboard boxes in the trunks of their cars (necessitated because Costco has never had bags either).

  5. Ron C (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

    WRT questions above:

    The newspaper noted that T&T Supermarket uses biodegradeable bags.

    I get close to running out of plastic bags for garbage. Not quite, but close – that’s because I usually grocery shop at Superstore (where I use my own bags and bins), so the plastic bags that I do get are from the other stores that I only occasionally visit.

    I remember a number of years ago (more than 10 years?), household cleaning products / detergents were made available in plastic pouches – but it didn’t catch on.

    Safeway stores accept plastic bags for recycling.

    I agree that if you buy something and don’t have a bag on you, a bag is useful to prove that you paid – especially if you go into other stores. i.e. if I pop down to the mall food fair from the office I usually don’t carry a bag (just going back upstairs), but if I buy something enroute, I’ll get a bag so I don’t have merchandise in hand while walking around.)

    I think that the end result of a ban may be that people will use reusable bags more and more, but stores will make paper bags will be available for those that don’t have a bag. Otherwise, it may act as a deterrant to buying things (which, in the case of material goods, may be a good thing). Personally, I think that the high end shopping bags handed out by clothing stores probably cause more energy consumption and solid waste than plastic grocery bags (and I don’t think that those are more likely to be reused since they have more limited functions (i.e. not waterproof, cannot be tied off for garbage.)

  6. Ron C (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    WRT stores “assuming” that you want a bag – I tell the clerk at the outset that I don’t need a bag. The store will usually err on the side of “more” customer service. i.e. could you see Holt Renfrew making it a practice to ask whether a customer wants a bag? Or maybe asking whether they want their item wrapped in tissue before doing so?

  7. Chevaun (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 5:49 pm is where you will find a facebook cause dedicated to the plastic bag stuff

  8. Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (unregistered) on November 27th, 2007 @ 2:47 pm

    Plastic shopping bag bans are a growing trend globally. Below is a roundup of a number of cities/regions that have passed bag ban legislation, are considering doing so, or have passed laws which stop just short of a ban but provide for other new requirements. THought you might find it of interest.

    Story below:

  9. Max Norton (unregistered) on December 11th, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

    Bag this!
    From: Bud
    Date: Apr 01 2007 – 2:48pm

    So, now we have a mob of ‘eco’ nut bars telling us that food markets will no longer be permitted to dispense plastic bags to their customers. Now you’ll pull up to the checkout with a head of wet lettuce, a few potatoes, a bunch of grapes, some tomatoes, a pound of apples, a half dozen dinner rolls, a moist meat tray, (you get the idea), all loose on the bottom of your shopping cart. Remember now; no plastic bags! (Or are there going to be exceptions that would defeat the whole idea?) And paper bags would be out of the question, what with all the trees and energy etc. required……… right?

    You’ll stuff all these loose food items into the damp (from the last leaky meat package), “recycle” cloth bag, that you just took out of the hot trunk of your car, and give the e-coli some fresh meat and veggies on which to grow.
    And, if people are expected to wash these bags after each use, think of the energy and detergent that wastes. And how many will actually do it?

    One of the arguments against the use of plastic bags is that it “takes a thousand years to decompose”. Well, since plastic is a by-product derived from petroleum and since it took the planet 4 to 6 billion years to produce that, I’d say a 1000 years is pretty quick.

    But, these eco nuts may have a point about there being too much C02 in the atmosphere. There seems to be an increasing number of oxygen starved brains showing up lately.

    Max Norton

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