I use my own reusable bags everywhere, not just at the Safeway/Sav-ons/Costco grocery stores. I put them to use at local spots such as JCPenney, Best Buy, Michaels, Gottschalks, Target and even Subway. No one has refused to use my bags, but I think not every bagger or salesperson is adept at packing them: The roomier bags are the equivalent to three plastic bags’ worth of stuff.
My dislike of plastic bags found a solution the very day I saw the red reusable bags being sold at Target. I had already amassed quite a collection of cloth bags, but using them had not proved, I blush to say, convenient. However, the reusable bags at Target acted like a paper grocery bag: With a thin liner inside, the bags stand up when opened, making packing groceries easy.
Now every grocery story has its own version of the reusable bags, anywhere from 99 cents to $1.49. Some stores, like Safeway and Sav-on, even offer bag credits of 3 cents to 5 cents a bag, paying you to not use their bags. More than two years later, I am still using the same original 10 bags.
The availability of reusable bags and the recycling program at every grocery store was in direct response to California law passed in 2006 (AB 2449) that requires groceries and pharmacies to provide recycling locations for plastic bags and allows consumers an alternate to purchase reusable (non-plastic), handled bags. This was to encourage Californians to recycle the staggering 19 billion plastic bags used every year, which translates to about 600 bags used a second. Sadly, even with the law, Californians’ only recycle 1 percent of the single use bags. Most bags either end up in a landfill or as litter.
What most people don’t know is that plastic doesn’t biodegrade when thrown away: It just breaks down to smaller pieces of plastic. When plastic finds its way into water, the problem is even worse, the plastic floating suspended, like a broth of plastic shreds. Our planet’s plastic consumption has produced a floating garbage dump in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of the US that is 80 percent plastic. But you can help!
If you are looking for a change: Start with recycling the bags, taking them to the grocery store and stopping the waste.
If you’re looking to make a difference: Buy some reusable bags and start using them when you are shopping.
If you’re looking to make a stand: Don’t use plastic bags at all, for any type of purchase. Its better to carry your purchases out naked for everyone to see and not take a bag!
Changing our habits takes time. My “aha” moment, came when I realized that I had accepted the idea of reusable bags, but I hadn’t figured out to make it work in my life. I now keep the bags in my car all the time and take them with me to whatever store I am going in. It works. It’s easy. And it helps!
• Christina D.B. Frankel is a 20-year Tracy resident, architect and mother of three. Her column, Living Green, will run twice-monthly in the Tracy Press. She can be reached at email@example.com.