Tag Archives: bag it

I Still Get Strange Looks When I Do This…

backpackFor some reason, I still get vibed out when I bring my own bag to the grocery store… how is this still a foreign concept?

Then again, old habits die hard and forming new habits is a pain in the ass, too- I get that (I’ve been trying to quit biting my fingernails for over a decade and still haven’t kicked it).

Anyway, up above is a picture of my backpack.  I’ve had it forever, and it has served me well in more situations than I can count.

The little bag at the bottom of the picture is the Chico Bag.

Between these two items, there’s no reason why I should I ever have to use a bag, paper or plastic- again.

Of course there’s times where you might forget- The Chico Bag has a little clip on it so you can attach it to something, if you remember to do that.

Plastic bags are the worst and paper bags aren’t all that much better.  I’ve talked about this in the past plenty of times and I’ll continue to mention it until not only do we have a bag tax but everyone is subconsciously doing it.

[Bringing your own bags isn’t a groundbreaking message, either…trust me, I’m aware.  However, it’s important to speak up…I guess.]

Admittedly, I’m still the guy that gets annoyed when someone asks me if I’d like a bag for that single item I purchased that fits in my fist… “it’s for convenience” was always the original response.  Over the last year or so, responses have increasingly changed to “you’d be surprised how many people ask for a bag”.

Either there’s more jerks like me, or more people are declining the bag.  Either way, just decline the bag.  Millions of these things are wasted per day, and their life is about 5 minutes.

Plastic bags (and film plastics in general) are considered a contaminant by the recycling industry.  As for paper bags, I can either pray to the recycling gods it will get recycled (best option assuming it does get recycled), or I can confidently compost it at home, but at least you can see it through without relying on anyone else.

Get in the habit of carrying a backpack to the grocery store, or a duffle bag, or a bunch of Chico Bags, or a well-made reusable bag, or really anything.  Use the bottom of your shirt.  Tuck your pant leg into your sock.  Fill up your shoes with quinoa and granola and walk home barefoot.

This is merely step 1 in cutting your plastic footprint.  Check out Beth Terry’s Plastic Free to take it to the next level… this book rules.  She’s very aware how tricky it is to cut your plastic intake, and even acknowledges how frustrating it can be to avoid purchasing plastic.  At one point it even led her to drink a lot- sadly I know exactly what this feels like.

Just try it.  If you’re frustrated with how to make a positive impact, or just want to “get involved” a bit more, or you’re up for an extremely simple challenge with a simple benefit for the entire glob of star stuff we live on- bag your own groceries in your own bag (and don’t give me that “you’re putting someone out of a job” crap either- think a little harder about that one).

Getting Pickier with Plastics

After reading a fair bit of material regarding microplastics in compost, I’ve decided to become more strict on what I contribute to my compost piles.

Up to this point, I’ve been experimenting with how much of an item will compost, even when I’m aware it contains some plastic.

For example, I’ve added quite a few ice cream cartons, chinese food containers, paper cups, and fast food waste that I dumpstered from several establishments.

The plan has been to pick out the plastic skeletons that remain when I screen my finished product…I’ve been doing that for a long time, with the most common example being the occasional produce sticker that I missed.

What’s the big deal anyway?  I’m not going to use my compost to grow anything at this point… I’d rather just use it for horticultural purposes.

If I throw “away” the chinese food carton, it gets landfilled and does nothing forever.

While it’s not as visibly obvious as pieces of styrofoam floating in a puddle or plastic bags dancing with the wind, microplastics in the environment are contaminating everything.

 A 2011 study by Woods End Laboratory states that all plastic-coated paper products (single or double coated) leave a trail of microplastics, whether the lining is made from LDPE, PET or clay with binders.

I screen plastic bits from my compost with a 1/4″ sieve, but there’s no way I will be able to remove strands of polyethylene that are 100 microns in size.

I never thought about it like that, but it makes perfect sense and I wish I would have realized this sooner.

Keep plastic coated paper products out of your compost.

The only exceptions are products certified as compostable.

Composting facilties need to ban all plastic coated paper products from entering their faciltiies, which can’t be easy.

Between the plastic garbage gyres, the plastic bag dilemma and now this huge contributor to plastics working their way up the food chain, we have a very serious problem to solve.

Pa. bill would tax 2 cents on each new plastic bag (article)

Originally posted here, but I had to repost it: http://articles.philly.com/2013-08-23/news/41437636_1_plastic-bags-100-billion-bags-leach

HARRISBURG – An area lawmaker wants Pennsylvania shoppers to BYOB (bring your own bag) or pay a fee.

Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) has introduced a bill aimed at reducing the volume of plastic bags in the trash by imposing a two-cent fee on each new bag used by shoppers.

One penny of the fee would go to state recycling programs, and the other would go to the retailer to help with its recycling.

Leach said his bill – like those already enacted in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington – would encourage customers to shop with reusable bags while reducing landfill waste.

“Two cents is a small price to pay for a cleaner, more vibrant planet,” Leach said, who set up an easel with facts about plastic bags and a bag-recycling box outside his Capitol office. “However, our goal is not to collect the fee, but to encourage shoppers to make sustainable choices at the checkout counter.”

Statistics show that the typical family uses 60 plastic bags in four trips to the grocery store, he said.

No states have yet to enact such fees, but legislatures in New Jersey, New York, and Vermont are considering implementing them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Lawmakers in Maryland (where at least two municipalities, the City of Takoma Park and Montgomery County, already have bag fees) this year introduced a statewide five-cent-a-bag fee, but it failed to win passage before the session ended this spring.

This week, several New York City Council members proposed a 10-cents-per-bag tax.

Kevin Shrivers, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses of Pennsylvania, called Leach’s proposal a “tax scheme” that would hurt average families and benefit only makers of reusable cloth bags – many of them foreign.

“It’s a tax on the consumer,” Shrivers said. “Leach’s assumption is that the plastic bags are used one time and thrown away, but people use those bags over and over.”

But Leach said only 1 percent of the 100 billion bags used in this country every year are recycled, while the rest end up in landfills or clogging the oceans and killing wildlife.

“Most shopping trips take a half-hour to complete, but the bag stays around for 1,000 to 5,000 years,” Leach said. “Not everything we do is about instant momentary convenience. We have to give some thought to the planet.”

Bag the Bag. Use a Backpack…Or Your Hands.



I’m sure you’ve all been inundated (hopefully) with the horrors of what happens to your plastic bags, and equally so what happens to your reusable bags as they get stuffed in a closet somewhere.

While this topic has been rightfully blown out, keep in mind it’s probably because it’s the most consumed item in the world…crazy, right?  500 billion per year.

I think it’s a good time to ask yourself the question- are you still accepting plastic bags?  The other day, I felt like such an idiot when I received one- I wasn’t asked, it just happened.

I’ve been trying to sell food service vendors on it to no avail-

“You know, if you just asked if someone really needed a bag instead of automatically placing their styrofoam clamshell in one, you’d save some money and look a bit more reputable as a result.”

Maybe that’s too snobby, but it’s hard not to be pissed off about it.  No one feels offended if they don’t get a plastic bag, period.

I guess the problem also lies with the people accepting them, too.  How long does your bag live for?  Ten minutes?  Could you really not carry your styrofoam clamshell, fork and bottled water with one hand?  How many times have you seen a full trash can with bags gushing out all over the place?

Bags get loose into the environment all the time, never hitting that landfill or worse the incinerator to make zero megawatts of “clean energy”.  They just blow away, downhill, into the gutters, into the trees, into the water, to get suntanned to the point of becoming little fish for the birds and other fish to eat.

What really bothers me is the plastics industry response that it’s your fault- clean up after yourself.  Of course, there’s no mention that the plastic bag recycling rate is in the single digits.

Lately all I’ve been thinking is screw the numbers.  While they are of course important, and you can’t manage what you don’t measure, the majority of us aren’t scouring the web looking for recycling data and then basing a decision on it.

For just a second, think about when it is exactly that you receive a plastic bag.  I’ve learned that if you try to change everything all at once, it’s annoying and within a short amount of time you revert to your old ways.

Therefore, let’s take a look at the following situations, and chip away one at a time:

-grocery store
-beer store take-out
-take-away meals (lunch, late-night, whatever)

My answer for the grocery store and the beer store: use a backpack.  That’s it.

For the lunch or dinner take-out scenario: refuse the bag, then ask them why the hell they wanted to give you one.  if you must, have a reusable bag ready.

Personally, I hate the standard reusable bags and I don’t use them.  A lot of the polypropylene bags have been found to contain lead, and simply don’t hold up for very long.  This is why the backpack is my top option, but for those situations where you end up going somewhere don’t have one, there’s the Chicobag.

Full disclosure: I am not an affiliate, salesman or connected in any way to the company…I simply feel like they are the best option I’ve seen.  The owner has even beat the plastics industry in a lawsuit…more on that in a moment.

A few months ago, I got one as a gift- if you’re not familiar with these and you’re looking to finally stop using plastic bags once and for all, this is a big step in the right direction.

While they’ve created several different models, the “micro” model is smaller than your fist and is attached to a carrabiner so you have it wherever you go.  You could wear it on your belt loop, although honestly it bounces around a little too much for my liking.  Some other spots for it include in your car’s glovebox, or attached to your bike saddle.

They’re nice because they’re made from durable polyester and expand to be just as big as their non-woven polypropylene lead-containing made in China counterparts.

While they are synthetic, the company accepts their bags back if they get damaged to recycle them into new products, which is better than sending it out for recycling and hoping something good happens to it.  If they’re still functional, they’ll donate them.

One last thing about the Chicobag- they recently were involved in a lawsuit in which plastic bag manufacturers sued them (in South Carolina, where no anti-SLAPP laws are present) for “irreparable harm” to their companies.

A SLAPP suit basically would allow for the plastic bag companies to outspend them in court until the opponent gives up.

Miraculously, Chicobag ended up winning, which is pretty amazing but of course the only possible result here.  Learn more about that lawsuit here:

ChicoBag Lawsuit

If you really want to get annoyed, check out what one of the losing companies in the lawsuit did: http://www.bagtheban.com .  While I shouldn’t be giving them any attention, I can’t ignore something this outrageous.  Contact them and ask how they can live with themselves: general@hilexpoly.com .

While the problems of the world are not just plastic bags, phasing them (and other plastics) out of your life is substantial for making an impact.  Further, it’s like any other change- once you really go for it, within a few days you don’t even notice it.  Be sure to follow it up by reducing other plastic consumption patterns you have going, BUT- take your time.

I had a few challenges along the way, but at the end of the day it just came down to breaking habit and changing behaviors once or twice.  After that, I never thought about it anymore.

Plastics really are the enemy when it comes to material choices- no one even knows fully what’s in them due to trade secrets and all that business B.S. that won’t be put aside in favor of human health.

While it’s hard to imagine a life without any plastic whatsoever, I know that you can drastically reduce the amount you take in by simply refusing a bag and identifying the situations where you consume plastic, eliminating them one at a time.

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?