It’s (No Longer) in the Bag
So, do you miss them? As of July 1, plastic grocery bags have been officially banned for use in unincorporated Los Angeles County. They join jobs, legal immigration, a prosperous economy and rising home values as things of our once proud past.
Bye bye “paper or plastic” at the checkout. Then again, I can’t remember the last time I was actually offered a choice. Not long after the nation’s two largest grocery chains, Kroger and Safeway, began offering plastic bags to shoppers back in 1982, if shoppers wanted paper bags, you had to ask.
Plastic has been the bag of choice for almost every grocery store I’ve shopped at for the past many years (with the notable exception being Trader Joes.) I suppose the bags cost retailers less to provide. Unfortunately, the environmental costs were high because it turned out that the bags don’t decompose in landfills and will most likely be the only thing left to entertain all the lonely cockroaches when everything else disappears from the planet. Whoops.
That said, plastic grocery bags also cost consumers untold amounts of frustration, spilled groceries and nearly-amputated-fingers. Personally, I’m not the least bit sorry to see the demise of the bags. On the contrary, I celebrate this new development. But not for the environmental reasons typically given. No, I’ve long been against the use of plastic bags simply because – as carriers of groceries – they stink.
Sure, the bags have some positives. Their large plastic handles make it possible to hang them from each of the five fingers on both hands, dangle them from my forearms and even hang one from my lower jaw. And yet, the capacity of a plastic bag was never enough for me. Even waddling from the car into the house with bags hanging from me head-to-toe like bizarre Christmas ornaments – the amount of groceries I could carry would easily fit into only two or three of the classic paper bags.
And more often than not, a bag will be loaded with too much weight (e.g. three cans of beans instead of two!) and split open just as you lift it from the shopping cart. Or on the rare occasion that one is fully loaded and doesn’t burst like an overripe melon, the weight turns the plastic handles into knife-edged guillotines that slice into the joints of your fingers turning the journey from garage to kitchen into a mini-Bataan Death March.
There’s another problem with the things. I’ve lost count of how many times a bag or two or three will shift on the ride home from the grocery store and upon opening up the door to the backseat, a can of soup or cottage cheese carton or fragile fruit will fall out and begin rolling down our steep driveway.
“We’ve got a leaper!” My wife will yell as we chase down the escaping dairy products before they make it all the way into the neighbor’s backyard. Yes, you really haven’t lived until you catch an airborne seedless watermelon milliseconds before it hits the garage floor. Good times with groceries.
In reality, the new ban on plastic grocery bags is nothing more than a tempest in a landfill. With Pennsylvania Avenue being the dividing line between the City of Glendale and unincorporated L.A. County, if the grocery store you frequent no longer offers plastic bags, simply drive a few blocks east and find one that does. So what’s the point, other than making it possible for stores to now charge customers 10 cents each for paper bags (which used to be free)? The new ban seems to be another example of a government mandate that sounds good, makes politicians and activists feel good, but really doesn’t do much to solve any problem. In fact, the good it accomplishes could fit into a bag.
A plastic one at that.
I’ll see you ’round town.