We arrived at my brother’s house, and it wasn’t long until my daughter and my niece hit me up for a trip for some ice cream. My fiancée and I needed to pick up a few items anyway, so we jumped in the car and headed to the local supermarket.
As we walked into the store, my niece asked, “Did you bring any bags?” to which I replied, “Bags?” She followed, “Yes, remember we don’t have plastic bags in San Jose.”
I let out an audible sigh of frustration, remembering that San Jose initiated a ban on store-supplied bagged groceries. In a bit of a panic on what options I had to get my goods from the store to my car, I thought quickly. My first option was that I could purchase paper bags from the store at 10 cents each. Or I could opt for a reusable bag for a couple bucks.
I pondered those options while we filled our basket at the store. Rounding the last aisle, we found ourselves in the produce section. And what a beautiful sight it was. Not necessarily the many fruits and veggies on display, but what caught my eye were the many visible rolls of plastic bags there for the taking.
I quickly bagged a few veggies and unrolled a half-dozen produce bags and tossed them in our cart and headed to the check out.
Ringing up our purchases, our checker asked, “Do you need to buy bags?” I happily answered, “Oh no, I got bags,” handing him my unused produce bags.
At this point, my extremely embarrassed teenage daughter and niece headed for the exit.
With my work-around intact, I pushed our cart of groceries out to the car, imagining the scorn the pro-bag-banning movement would feel about this environmentally destructive decision of mine.
Many arguments have been made about the waste caused by plastic bags. They don’t biodegrade, cause a strain on recycling, end up in our waterways, crowd landfills and often simply end up as manmade tumbleweeds rolling across the landscape.
I am all for a protecting the environment, I wonder if banning the convenience we have relied on for the past 60 years or so is the best use of our efforts.
One important question in the great bag ban debate should be, “Is the bag the issue, or is our inability to properly dispose of the bag the problem?”
Growing up, my dad imparted me with two valuable lessons: to close the door after you enter or exit the house, and to put my trash in the trash can. Granted, it took about 25 years for his effort to pay off, but as a father myself, I understand his passion.
Littering is a societal issue facing many communities. Plastic bags, bottles, fast-food and candy wrappers, cigarettes, gum and other papers are tossed on and around our streets by the millions, instead of simply being put properly in the trash.
Whether it’s laziness, a lack of community pride, arrogance or ignorance, so many of us chose to simply throw our garbage out of windows, out of our boats or onto the street, not caring about the effects.
In my view, we can take the simple approach of banning the convenience of bags, or we can take a hard stand against those who litter our community with hefty fines.
While many will still clamor for a ban on bags as they attempt to save the Earth, my dad and I would be happy to just see the trash end up in the can.
• Brian Williams first moved to Tracy in 1993 and returned to town in 2012 after a brief hiatus in Dublin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.