Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hands (and Shopping Bags) Across The Water

Apparently, (and I'm basing this strictly on my readings of other people's blogs), there is a common cause for concern in both the US and the UK with regard to those wretched little plastic bags they hand out in grocery stores. You know, the ones that replaced the sound, solid brown paper bags that groceries *used* to be carried in. When I was a girl, the practice was to recycle the brown paper bags by making them into book covers for school, but there's really very little to be done with those plastic things that split before you've even gotten the full distance between the store front and your car.

Books, Mud and Compost points out that Marks and Spencer will be charging customers 5p per carrier bag in the interests of encouraging consumers to bring their own bags to the grocery store. This is apparently in the wake of the Prime Minister issuing warnings as to the consequences of continuing use of such polythene bags (via Mutterings & Meanderings). The Libertarians in the UK are really up in arms on this one.

On this side of the pond, bags are an object of interest as well in terms of re-use. Of course, Americans may be the ultimate consumer shopping bag population (see this NYTimes article that ran last December). And someone must be making a killing over here on Amazon.

My husband and I caved in yesterday morning when we went to the local Acme to do our food shopping. Food-wise, it was a light week and there, right by the cash registers, was a practical display of the new style carrier bag currently being pushed by the U.S. food industry. So we picked up two of them in which to carry home our $50 worth of food. Ours are Acme-trademark-blue and they're made of some peculiar fiber that is weird to the touch but ostensibly less threatening to the environment. I rather suspect that, over the long-term, I will prefer the canvas boat totes sold by LLBean for moving this kind of stuff around. The downside of the canvas is that those, properly loaded, strain my elbow joints. The re-usable Acme bags don't cost as much -- just a dollar a pop -- but I'll likely need to buy 2 or 3 more of them to carry away all my usual groceries. And my elbows will still ache.

They charged me for gift boxes this past Christmas at places like Sears, which is another harbinger of the future. I have already adapted to recycling various sturdy boxes and cloth gift bags for use at Christmas, as that makes sense to me. (I don't mind putting Hallmark out of business if that is deemed to be an economic or environmental necessity.) The carrier bag situation may also be more sensible. But I remember the energy crisis of the '70's and it irritated me no end last summer when everyone was fretting over the price of gas because no one seems willing to adopt the obvious solution of gas rationing or some other method of cutting down on our consumption. The individual simply ended up paying more for gas, even people like me in our itty-bitty Saturn. All I know is that it always costs me money when someone else decides that society as a whole should be environmentally conscious. I understand why it works that way, but jeez louise....