Do cashiers at the supermarkets where you live ask you, “paper or plastic?” Well, screw that. Bring your own bags.

Plastic bags are a huge recycling failure. Only 5% make it to the recycling bins. Yet a lot of recyclers refuse to take even those because they’re such a pain to deal with. A lot of supposedly recycled bags end up in landfills.

Or on the street, or festooning the branches of trees. Or in the craws and stomachs of birds and other dead wildlife.

paddling a canoe through a sea of plastic trash

Or in the ocean where they help form Texas-sized continents of plastic trash.

Responding to this threat of burial in plastic, some cities have banned them. That’s good, but there’s one little problem with banning plastic bags. Paper bags require more energy to manufacture. And even though paper bags are biodegradable, they release an impressive cocktail of toxins as they rot.

chico bag
See the little attached pouch? This 16″ X 15″ bag stuffs into that little 4″ X 2″ bag.

┬áThe obvious solution is reusable bags. Canvas bags, denim bags, synthetic bags–just use them over and over. Solve the trash problem and save energy all at the same time.

It took me about a year to train myself to remember to bring bags into the store with me. Eventually all that forehead-smiting had the desired effect. But I also carry in my purse one of those Chico bags that stuff up real small. It comes in handy.


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