Hang out in the produce section of a large supermarket and try to count how many plastic bags are ripped off those big rolls in one hour. In one supermarket in the world. Do a little math until your head starts spinning. All that energy goes into manufacturing bags that are destined for the trash in just a few days.
But what is the alternative? Plastic is the perfect impervious container for damp vegetables or fruit. Completely eliminating them is probably not feasible, BUT we can greatly reduce how many we use.
Do you really need it?
Some produce–eggplants, cauliflowers, for instance–you can place directly in your cart. Why not? Do you bag watermelons? If you’re worried about sanitation, perhaps you should distinguish between vegetables you cook (destroys bacteria) and vegetables you eat raw. Or fruit with peels you eat and peels you don’t. But, of course, most people who are worried about sanitation would buy pre-packaged produce that hasn’t been handled by god-only-knows how many shoppers before you came along and selected it.
And I have to ask–why do produce bags all come in the same super size? I’ve seen people place three mushrooms in a huge bag because that is the only size that is available. Have small bags available for pity’s sake.
Re-use the ones you already have.
Confession: I don’t wash really gooby bags. I used to let them pile up next to the sink until something snapped and I threw them out. Now I just throw them out right away. Slightly smeared bags are easily and quickly washed. (Turn it inside out and put it on one hand like a puppet. Use the other hand and water to do a quick wash and then shake it good and let dry.) Many plastic bags just need a real good shake, turned inside out. Let them air well before you store them. This works for bread wrappers too.
Bio-degradable plastic bags sound like a great idea, but they’re mostly made from cornstarch. You use energy and valuable land to grow corn for starch. Re-usable produce bags are much better.