The Plastic Bags You’ll Always Need
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The Plastic Bags You’ll Always Need

Posted by Vivian McNeil on

We are all being told and trying our best to lessen the waste that comes from using plastic bags. Charging for supermarket bags may be a way of conserving the use of plastic but there is one type of bag that will always need to be brand new; that is your trusty plastic garbage bags. Whether it’s for your kitchen garbage can or for your outside container, there is no way that I know of to reuse these bags. Whether it’s the black ones or the white, whichever fits your trash can, they must be brand new.  

On the other hand, supermarket bags can be reused to a certain extent when they are carrying dry, clean groceries such as cans, pasta boxes, chips and even soda. There is no problem with this type of conservation. However, do not reuse those bags that you bring home your chicken, meat or even milk in unless you are ready to wash them out well. I have not gotten to that high level of green yet. 

I must admit, I was quite opposed to recycling my supermarket bags when the whole movement began. I enjoyed using my supermarket bags for other uses around the house, such as vegetable peels, small bathroom trash can liners and dirty diapers. However, now that some of the supermarkets in my neighborhood have begun to charge for their grocery bags, I have been rethinking my resistance to bag recycling. Grocery bags are being sold in some supermarkets at the price of twenty-five cents for five bags. Now you might laugh at my economic concern, what is a quarter these days when we pay an extra five cents for every can or bottle of soda that we buy without complaining? The charge for the bags is no more than that and you can always reuse the bags. Yet somehow, I object to being charged for the grocery bags. 

I am now getting accustomed to the objects of my past veto-reusable shopping bags. I have a nice collection of both canvas and heavy plastic reusable bags in my car trunk. I received these at various events and appointments and have not yet had to pay a penny for them. They can cost under a dollar for a large size in most stores if you do have to purchase a couple. Presently I keep a collection of these bags in my car trunk before I visit the supermarket. I will also bring the regular used grocery bags with me if I remember but I don’t think I’m imagining this but if I take along the regular grocery bags that I had paid five cents each for on my prior visit to the supermarket or used the new purchased ones, the bags are packed normally. However, if I give the cashier the larger roomier reusable ones, I end up lugging very heavy packages into my car and then into my home.  

As a senior citizen I am in a quandary. Should I just give in and pay the quarter for five grocery bags and be treated as a valued customer, or continue to bring in my heavy-duty plastic or canvas bags? In case I am not making myself clear, it makes little difference how many reusable bags I hand the cashiers. They sometimes even leave some empty while loading up the others heavily since they know they will not rip. 

Wouldn’t you think that the cashiers are trained to encourage the use of my heavy-duty reusable bags? On the contrary, they are encouraging me to buy the five for a quarter supermarket bags. I am beginning to wonder if I am missing some important piece of information, namely that the supermarkets are making a nice profit selling the disposable supermarket bags and discouraging seniors like myself from bringing their own canvas bags.  

Let’s assume that a former diehard disposable bag user is getting used to reusing their supermarket bags, is there any way to express this recycling sentiment with the typical plastic garbage bags? Allow us to follow the usual tossing of garbage into the kitchen trash receptacle. Most kitchens today are required to have some sort of recycling can as well as the regular garbage can. Where you live will determine how seriously you must separate your garbage. Some municipalities will want you to separate the clean plastic, aluminum, and paper in a separate bin. Others expect the homeowner to separate the dry garbage from the wet garbage. In all cases some type of plastic trash bags will be required. Typical family meals consist of both wet and dry garbage. Although dry garbage also goes into plastic bags, we will explain the need for plastic garbage bags with the messier type of trash, wet garbage.

Breakfast: With a typical family there is a vast assortment of garbage to throw out. If there is a baby or toddler in the home, the remnants of oatmeal or rice baby cereal will be tossed out. This is considered wet garbage. If you use a disposable coffee cup, there will be some liquid remnant at the bottom of the cup, and this will be considered wet garbage. Perhaps the greasy wax paper from your teen’s Cheese Danish could be called dry, however, it will ultimately meet with the other wet garbage and turn damp as well.

Lunch: The macaroni and cheese that you made for your child is usually drenched in ketchup making the plastic bowl that you used quite wet. What about the mayonnaise and tuna sandwich that your daughter refused to eat?

Supper: This meal is the worst culprit for wet garbage. Even if you are a user of china and not plastic or paperware, the leftovers such as meatballs, soup or mashed potatoes will inevitably find their place in your trash bag. 

As we can see, we would have a very messy and smelly garbage receptacle without plastic garbage bags. There are ways for a family’s garbage problem to be faced more efficiently. One of the ways is to make sure your kitchen garbage is compacted. 

Although, we all know that black heavy-duty bags trash bags are much stronger than the tall white ones, sometimes the black ones are not right for specific kitchen pails. If you find your black bags too big for your kitchen bin and you must use rubber bands to keep them neat you may very well be using the wrong size bags. Try using the tall white bags which may fit perfectly into your bin especially if you have the two-bin type of can. By this we mean that there is a pedal to step on to open the bin and inside there is a removable bin that sits inside the outer one. The outer bin protects the inner trash bag from moving around. The bag does not move out of place and more trash can be added more easily than with a larger bag. The attached cover makes it necessary to make sure that the bin can be closed, and the members of the family will get into the habit of pushing down the garbage till there is no more room. You will notice that there is a nice amount of garbage that fits into the tall white bag which is easily removed and tied up when filled to capacity. 

Tricks like these will keep the master of the house happy, not only that the garbage will be taken out less frequently, but you will be getting more for your buck with each trash bag that is used. Sometimes it’s not only the trash bag but the trash receptacle that must be the right size. There are so many new models of kitchen cans to choose from and in all price ranges. Each one is suited to different personalities and different needs. You will be surprised how a new kitchen trash receptacle can make a difference in the moods and garbage habits of the members of the household. 

We have learned that there are ways to decrease both the use of one-use supermarket bags and home trash bags, however, how is the conservation of plastic bags actually doing? 

Would you wager a bet as to how much of a decrease there is in the use of disposable supermarket bags? It’s probably too early to read about surveys but interestingly one of the first supermarkets to encourage reusable bags, Trader Joe’s, is still offering free paper grocery bags while selling reusable plastic ones at the same time. 

I do agree that money talks and the fact that certain supermarkets charge for their bags will make an impression on even the most diehard anti- conservationists. Also, the supermarkets make these disposable bags very convenient to buy and use. They are right there near the conveyor belt and just a grab will get you five. It’s like those yummy candies that are right by the cashier that even the strictest dieter finds hard to resist. 

Hopefully, the citizens of the country are slowly learning how to conserve and decrease their use of plastic bags by reusing them when possible or using canvas bags for groceries. Unfortunately, eliminating the need of disposal garbage bags is not a likely reality in the near future. Rather, people will be looking for more efficient means to dispose of their trash, whether it is with more efficient trash receptacles or trash bags.


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