Before you jump to conclusions, I DO use re-usable grocery bags…when I remember them, and I DO kick myself when I don’t. It’s the reason that I use them that I must confess. I don’t use them to save the planet. I don’t use them to keep plastics out of the land fill. I don’t use them become I’m under some sort of illusion that if I do, manufacturers will suddenly cease production of the vile things, because I’m not. And I don’t use them to keep the millions of animals from choking and dying from the horrid plastic bags floating across the world, or to keep the unsightly mess that is that floating at bay. I actually quite liked that film in American Beauty to tell the truth. No, I use them because I hate how they clog up my house. I hate how they take up room in my cupboards, in the trashcan, or anywhere they end up stuffed. They are inconvenient for me. Selfish, I suppose; narrow, yes, but most of us are not known for helping what and where we can’t see.
Now I know there are people out there who will tell me that Americans consume nearly 100 billion plastic bags a year, that that consumption means 12 million barrels of oil to feed our nasty habit, or that the world uses 500 billion plastic bags annually, meaning around 100 million a minute. To which I will just stare slack-jawed in amazement, but it’s not going to change my reasoning and motivation. No, I need something much closer to home to change my ways, and I think many others do too. I like that some of the stores I shop at give a 5 cent discount for every bag you bring. I don’t know if this works if you simply reuse the plastic bag you got before, but I know it works if you bring in your ultra-hip canvas bags. This is great, as it saves me money, but I don’t think its enough to convince the majority of America to switch. I much prefer the European model where they simply pass the cost of the plastic bag onto you. I got charged at least 5 euro-cents (which is like 8 cents here!) to get plastic bags at grocery stores in Rome. I promise you that I was much more careful when heading to the store to remember some sort of bag, or I simply went bag-less. And thats another reason I prefer this method. Often, if I am only buying one thing, I choose to simply not bag, whats the point, but I don’t get that nifty discount, and that seems unfair.
Sure, Americans will balk at being charged for grocery bags. Some families could get charged 10s of dollars a week – I’ve seen those two-cart shoppers. But, we would all adapt very quickly. We’d have to, or go broke, and humans often need that ultimatum for change – even simply change. As for me, I will continue to take my oh-so-hip-and-awesome reusable bags with me – when I remember – just to keep the plastic bags out of my house. And hey, the fewer plastic bags in my house, is just that many less in the world outside it.