B.Y.O.B. (Bring your own bag, of course)

The other day, it was super windy out and I was just watching the plastic bags (what I like to call “tumbleweed” here in Philly) blow around all over the place. First you have the black corner store bags, then there’s the white doubled-up “have a nice day” bags strewn about. Over in Chinatown, I often see red plastic bags blowing around, which reminds me of having to pull empty infectious waste bags out of healthcare waste streams. All because of that cute little biohazard symbol, that empty red bag is considered infectious… but that’s another fun issue I’ll rant about some other time.

I’ve been sinning lately, I admit. Instead of collecting plastic bags off the street and reusing them later (way later…seriously, how often do you reach for a plastic bag in your house?), I’ve been trimming and melting them into durable 8-ply squares. If you’ve always wanted to know how to do so, this is a good video to watch. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them all yet, but I was thinking of making some really ugly shower curtains. I already made a really ugly wallet out of one, and a half decent birthday card.  (UPDATE: I have made a pillow out of 6 months’ worth of these things.)

Of course, in the colder months I jam these things into every crack and crevice I can to keep drafts out of my ancient house. I escaped the mood-altering Philly winter for a minute, and went to L.A. for a change of scenery, some nice weather and an extra dose of car exhaust. I was crashing at a friend’s place that lived right behind a supermarket, and out front of the store they had a plastic bag recycling container:

Pretty nice. What’s their line of thinking? “Well, we’ll get people in the habit of putting plastic bags in one location, so that maybe one day they will be feasible to recycle and it’ll be easy to transition into this wonderful program.” What’s wrong with that, right? In the meantime, we will truthfully “collect” them, but what happens to them after that is just whatever. This article claims that bags cost $4,000/ton to process, and are more often than not sent overseas to be incinerated, or really who cares what happens to them, as long as they’re off our hands? Pretty frustrating. Here’s the inside of the can:

Not so easy to tell, but it’s all bags of trash, not even bags full of plastic bags like most people have in their house somewhere. So what’s going on? Do people know that the program is rubbish, and their bags aren’t economically feasible for recycling? Are they angry that they don’t have a plastic bag tax since 2002 like the Republic of Ireland, resulting in 90% less plastic bags being used? Or they just thought it was a trash can and don’t think about their disposal habits at all? As the customer reports to their car after trashing the plastic bag can, they get to see this:

Maybe this sign should be at the entrance, not in the parking lot at the exit. Any ideas why there’s not more of an incentive to use your own bag? Get a discount on your overall purchase if you have your own bags. Okay, sounds good. So which supermarket will be first to lose a little money in exchange for doing the right thing?

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