Monday, August 3, 2015

What if we’re too lazy to change shopping habits by bringing own bags?

I got my first look this weekend at those new plastic bags that supermarkets like Jewel will be encouraging people to use because they’re more durable than the flimsy plastic bags that have become ever so common in our society.

These bags aren't 'nice' any more in Chicago
My reaction was to think these bags are barely more durable than the ones we’re already using (except for those people who always went out of their way to ask for “paper” instead of “plastic”).

I’M NOT SURE I’m going to go out of my way to save these bags and keep reusing them, just because they won’t tear after one use like the current plastic bags.

I’m wondering how many people are going to rant and rage in coming weeks about being forced to use these new bags. How long until someone tries to create a Constitutional dilemma about whether their rights are being trampled just because someone wants to try to bolster the environment and the amount of trash that winds up spending decades sitting in a landfill somewhere?

In my case, I was in a suburban-based Jewel supermarket when I saw the new bags. Which means that, unlike Chicago, nobody was forcing anybody to use them. Jewel officials merely put them out as a suggested alternative.

Unlike city residents who won’t be offered the flimsy bags, even if by chance they’d rather have them.

PERSONALLY, I HAVE a hard time getting worked up about this issue.

When I go grocery shopping, the last thing I want to think about are the bags that I’m going to use to haul my goods away.

Although I’ll admit that when I did think about this issue, I’m inclined to ask for a paper bag. Unless it’s literally just an item or two – in which case I’ll just take the flimsy plastic.

Decades of Chicago trash are buried under this mound at the city's far southern edge
I’m fortunate enough to live one block from a Jewel supermarket, so I can literally walk to the store and save the cost of using gasoline if all I need is a couple of items. Along with the reduction in fumes the automobile emits into the air.

I’M INCLINED TO think that’s my contribution to the better environment – rather than having to keep in mind the need to bring my own bags so I can package my own goods and carry them away.

The supporters of this change – which took effect in Chicago on Saturday – say it’s just a matter of encouraging people to change the way they think about things.

The day will come, they say, when it will seem strange that people didn’t bring their own bags with them whenever they shopped for food.

Which is why some aldermen in Chicago say they’re concerned that the new ordinance they approved is already in need of revision. They think these new plastic bags of slightly more durable plastic are going to be treated the way we’ve become used to treating the flimsy, old plastic bags.

THEY’LL GET DUMPED into the trash can and ultimately wind up in a landfill somewhere. Although because they’re of a thicker layer of plastic, it will take even longer for them to deteriorate.

Who knows; Chicago may well celebrate its Tri-centennial in 2136 with someone thinking they’re being an archeologist by digging into a landfill – and finding an intact plastic bag that someone tossed into the trashcan this weekend.

Will that turn this weekend’s waste into the next century’s historic artifact?

Because I don’t care if someone says these new bags are capable of being used up to 125 times – I can’t think of anyone who would want to use it that many times before moving on to another.


EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the customs of Cubans living in Havana is that people carry around flimsy plastic bags with them, on the off-chance that they stumble across a store that is carrying some goods they happen to actually desire. Somehow, this is one custom I can’t see catching on in the United States.

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