Monday, April 04, 2005

Say no to plastic grocery bags.

For several months this fall and winter, a tall pine tree in my yard was plagued with a plastic grocery store bag that was tangled in its topmost branches. It was quite unsightly. But my 8 foot ladder wouldn't help me get it down and for those many weeks, the wind and rain didn't help either. I asked one the rogue yard squirrels to climb the tree and bring it down but it wouldn't comply. Finally, about two weeks ago, I noticed it was gone. Perhaps the wind finally worked its magic and the bag is off to 'decorate' someone else's tree.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is bothered by the excess of plastic bags that take up space in landfills, and escape proper storage to clutter up the landscape. Consider this:

* There's an entire blog dedicated to eliminating the excessive use of plastic bags. Check it out!

* Plastic bags can an entangle and harm marine life and other animals. According to the World Wildlife Fund, "more than 100,000 whales, seals, turtles, and birds die every year as a result of plastic bags." The Australian government reports that "on 24 August 2000, a Bryde's whale died in Trinity Bay, 2 km from central Cairns. An autopsy found that the whale's stomach was tightly packed with plastic, including supermarket bags, food packages, bait bags, three large sheets of plastic, and fragments of garbage bags. There was no food in its stomach."

* San Francisco government is reviewing a proposed law that would levy a 17 cent tax on each grocery store plastic bag. Many countries including Malta, Papua New Guinea and other are taking similar measures. They're serious about getting rid of these bags!

* The small state of Rhode Island spends about one million dollars each year to pick up "these bags that blow all over the place from trash being delivered to the Central Landfill." Imagine how much larger states must spend. And if they don't, their landscapes must be a mess. It seems a shame to have to spend all that money just to pick up plastic bags.

* Plastic takes an extremely long time to degrade. We can burn it, but that pollutes the air. Getting rid of plastic is a no win situation. We need some plastics, but should monitor how much we use since it's so costly to dispose of.

"So what can I do?"

* Most everyone I know has a drawer or shelf full of plastic grocery store bags. If you are not using them, recycle them. Publix and Wal-Mart both have plastic bag recycling centers outside their stores. Please leave a comment if you know of other stores that offer plastic bag recycling.

* Ask the person who bags your groceries to use just one bag instead of two for lighter items. I always compliment the baggers that single bag my groceries, and some of them are beginning to know that I don't need "all those extra bags."

* Bring your own reusable cloth bags to the store to carry home your groceries. If you're like me, you have lots of cloth bags at home that mostly sit around unused.

* Buy a few cloth bags for grocery shopping. Try or

So get yourself some handy cloth bags, and next time someone asks you, "Paper or plastic?" you can answer, "Neither!"


Karama said...

Click here for more stats on the high cost of 'free' plastic bags.

Also, if you have just one item, you may not need a bag at all. Just be sure you keep your receipt handy.

birdwoman said...

It's not the most eco-friendly, but most daycare centers use the bags also, instead of buying garbage bags. At least, it's reuse.


Steve said...

Very informative. Are the brown bags recyclable? If I can remember, I will try to start asking for tham at the store.

Karama said...

Thanks for stopping by, Birdwoman. It's nice to know that at least some of these bags are being reused before they are trashed, incinerated or left to deface property. I hope you enjoyed your visit to "So what can I do" and will stop by again soon.

PS: I like your bird drawing!

Karama said...

I'm glad you found this useful, Steve. Are you talking about brown paper bags? If so they are reusable, recyclable, and degradable. But there is some controversy over what does more damage: tree destruction or plastic production and disposal. Some say it's really an environmental toss up between paper and plastic.

With that in mind, I request paper when I have a small load, insist on single bags for plastic and use cloth (or no bag) whenever possible. And I'm going to recycle that shelf full of plastic bags this weekend!

Thanks for stopping by, Steve!

Karama said...

If you really want to convince yourself, check out these facts on plastic bags around the world. Here are my two favorites:

* Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.

* Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.

Wow. Reduce, reuse, recycle, folks.

April Girl said...

Hey karama : ) I hope you're doing good. I have a problem. I use plastic bags to put trash in, any alternatives? I'd like to stop using plastic bags altogether.

Karama said...

Hi April Girl,

Well, you are reusing the bags, so that helps. Other than using paper bags for trash, my only suggestion is the reduce the amount of trash you produce (thereby reducing the need for trash bags of either type). Here are some thoughts on how to do that:

* Eliminate junk mail
* Compost fruit and vegetable scraps. (I'll do a post on this soon.)
* Recycle everything you can (paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, electronics, athletic shooes, etc.)
* Don't buy more than you need, or waste what you've got.

Good luck! And thanks for reading!

Rajiv Badlani said...

Hi Karama

There's a blog about you at my website now at

I also appreciate the time you took to reply to my mail. You've made some very helpful suggestions. Thank you!

I see you're getting married soon. As a guy who's been married 30 years, I wish you a wonderful life!

If I may, I'd like to disagree with you about paper bags being better. Cutting down a tree that takes years to grow, lugging it to sawmills and then to paper mills that consume huge amounts of electricity and water to produce a paper bag which gets used once and thrown away is also wasteful.

Using anything once and throwing it away is wasteful. Fabric bags get reused hundreds of times and make so much more sense.

But plastic and paper are cheaper, some will say. They aren’t, actually. The shops that give these to you “free” are actually paying for them and charging you an invisible premium for them. Even if they cost as little as 4 cents, over 300 uses that is $ 12.00. Our fabric bags start as low as 60 cents, and they can be reused used more than 300 times. Do the math!

Fabric bags are the real answer to saving our planet from the blight of plastic refuse. See how attractive and economical they are at

Karama said...

Thanks so much for your comments and kind post, Rajiv. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to 'So what can I do."

I agree with you: paper bags aren't a great option either. In the past, I've had some problems getting certain stores to allow me to bring in my own cloth bags for my groceries. Perhaps I need to be a little more persistent. I'll let you know how that goes.

And thank you for the warm wishes regarding my upcoming marriage. Congratulations to you and your wife for 30 years!

Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed the thread on this post. Great information and I have to admit that I hadn't really considered using cloth bags for grocery shopping, but I will make every effort to do so now. Thanks again Sentinel.
Love you,

Karama said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this post and the comments it received. Cloth bags are quite handy, and play a important role in protecting wildlife and the environment, and reducing our dependence on petroleum products.

Thanks Kwadjo. I really appreciate your support of 'So what can I do." I love you, too.

Anonymous said...

At the grocery store I choose handled paper bags made from recycled paper and since they are usually doubled I reuse them by lining my kitchen trash can. Since I compost most produce I don't have a lot of messy wet trash. I therefore do not have to buy plastic liners for the kitchen. If I ever had extras which I haven't for 10 years I would then recycle.

Karama said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for the tips. It sounds like you've become very efficient with reducing and eliminating trash. Great work!

I hope you enjoyed your visit and will stop by again soon!

Karama said...

I wrote this letter to Kroger asking them to institute plastic bag recycling at their stores (like Publix and Walmart already have done). Let's hope it works!

"Auntie" Linda said...

Hi, Karama, and how delighted I am to find you!!! On
the plastic bag thread, since knitting and crocheting have become very popular in the last few years, and since every yarn shop and yarn catalogue has patterns for shopping bags, all of you "newbie" knitters and crocheters can make wonderful Christmas presents, and cut down on plastic bag useage all at the same time!!! One skein of yarn is usually enough for a biiiiiig shopping bag, lots of compliments, and a priceless "Good Feeling".

"Auntie" Linda

Karama said...

Excellent idea, Linda! A knitted shopping bag is a great idea. The knitter enjoys the knitting, the recipient enjoys the bag, and we all enjoy a cleaner environment.

Thanks for visiting "So what can I do." Please stop by again soon, and spread the word!

Paul Melville said...

Very Comprehensive List. There's a lot to do. Another source of Reusable Shopping bags (with a Turtle Mascot):

I'm adding a link to your article to my website


Jon Baker said...

Great post! People need to open there eyes to the very real problem of leaving bags leftover!

Karama said...

Hi Paul, hi Jon,

Thanks for your comments. I hope you'll stop by So what can I do again soon and spread the word.

Karama said...

Great news! Kroger now has recycling bins for plastic grocery bags. I like to think this Open Letter for Change had something to do with it. Thanks a lot, Kroger!!

Random Dispute said...

To whom this may concern

Myself and my band 'Random Dispute' have become aware of the problem of plastic bags and its effect on the environment and have writen a song encouraging youth to say no to plastic bags. The song would be a useful marketing tool faced at the youth of today. The basic idea/recording of the song can be heard at the recording isnt the best and the band has improved singing/playing wise since its recording. The song is labeled 'Dolphin Song'. Our environment and its state is a big concern and so we push this proposal onto you in faith that you will take it seriously and see the youth marketing agenda to it. If you wish, the song is able to be re-recorded to better quality and any extra imput can be added.

I thankyou for your time and wish that you will forward this onto anyone with interest in the promotion of this campain. Please contact us at or

Karama said...

Hi RD,

Thanks for your comment, the links and the song. I wish you all the best on your campign. Thanks for visiting So what can I do. Please come again soon, and spread the word.

Karama said...

Kroger now encourages customers to "bring your bag"! Thanks Kroger!

Anonymous said...

I've found a great website with reusable shopping bags that everyone might be interested in. It's at They have great designs and are a little out of the ordinary. I purchased a hemp bag from them a couple of months ago and use it all the time. They wash up great!!

Anonymous said...

Someone above mentioned crocheting a reusable bag, using purchased yarn...well, assuming you already have some of the plastic bags around, they can be used to crochet a reusable, washable (but air-dry only) bag. Just cut into strips (or loops), tie together, then use any pattern you like to make your bag. Any search on the web will give an interested person plenty of info to go on.

Karama said...

Check out this Christian Science Monitor article on saying no to plastic bags. Enjoy!

Karama said...

Oh, and thanks for the anonymous comments! said...

I shop at Food Basics where they charge you for each plastic bag - a good way to reduce the amount people ask for!

Ottawa Grocery Flyers

Karama said...

Thanks for the comment, Citysales. Hopefully the US will soon catch up with Canada. Please stop by again soon, and spread the word.

Karama said...

The US will have to catch up with NIgeria and Kenya too. Lagos and Nairobi are banning plastic bags. Check out this Christian Science Monitor article for the full story.


Md said...

Why dont you guys consider Jute bags to replace plastic?

Karama said...

Jute, hemp, knitted plastic . . . it all works for me! Thanks for the suggestion, MD. I hope you enjoyed your visit. Please come again and spread the word!

Anonymous said...

I found your site while looking for a way to recycle worn-out tennis shoes. I love it! I'm an avid recycler and will definitely come back to look for new tips. And I, too, love my cloth bags for grocery shopping. Target also has great little bags that zip into a little pouch. So easy to keep in my purse for unplanned trips!

Anonymous said...

I hate plastic grocery bags too. They are everywhere. I am using cloth bags now but some cashiers look at me like I am real pain because I cause them to do some thing different. Many plastic bags end up in the ocean. Everywhere is downhill to our oceans. Plastic never goes just gets smaller. Lets find all the ways we can to reduce plastic in our world.

N. Ramjee said...

It's great to see your views against plastics.

You may want to view and use a presentation made by me on the same topic and which has gained good momentum around the world.

The link to the same is
also I've uploaded it as video file on youtube: from where you could get the file linked to or downloaded and uploaded on your site.

If you wish to embed it on your site please do that using the following url code

Mark said...

I remeber when everyone was crying "Save the trees, use plastic bags.!"
Now look. Plastic everywhere. Don't listen to these people!
Save the trees.
Ozone hole.
global warming.
CO2 is a poison!

Every time I'm being saved it costs me money.

Aerin Jacob said...

This is Susan, a community member at, a premier Green Bag community in USA. Seeing the post and the discussions, I found that most of you are engaged in the social cause of protecting our Mother Earth.

Do any one of you own any blogs or sites related to Environment Protection? I would like to review it in one of our blogs.

Thank You,
webmaster @

Holly said...

At most shopping stores you can now buy reusable bags to carry your grocerys in. I bought mine at Wal-mart for only $1 each and one can hold 3 times as much as the plastic bags. I know Publix and Wal-greens are now doing this as well. I stopped asking for paper bags when I noticed a bug problem in my home. These bags are notorious for carrying bugs and their eggs so be careful!

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