Plastic, please

Ahh, the flimsy plastic grocery bag! Since 1999’s American Beauty, it has been renowned as a symbol of the magic found in everyday litter. Whether dancing along the sidewalk, impaling itself in your favorite oak tree, or choking adorable sea otters, the sight of that mystical, mischievous little petroleum byproduct always fills me with a sense of wonder. Refusing these plastic bags at the grocery store in favor of stronger, longer lasting, and reusable fabric bags is the latest way environmentalists want us to clean up. Poor, maligned flimsy plastic bag. This opinion piece from the NYT catalogs a host of reasons Americans don’t want to give up the bag yet-reusing them as trash bags, not wanting to stop the eager bagger, forgetting their other bags- and makes an uncomfortable point.

Plastic bags are a small part of the picture…But you think, if we can’t change our behavior to deal with this one, we can’t change our behavior to deal with anything.

Other countries around the world are dealing with the grocery bag issue- with more or less success. Apparently Ugandans like their bags as much as we do. Ireland’s government is taxing each bag, leading to a 90% reduction in their use, and Bombay banned them outright in 2001. Some local governments in American have banned the bag, notably in San Francisco, but the vast majority of the country isn’t bound by the hemp rope of hippie rule, so we may forget our own shopping bags at home and use as many of the little non-biodegradable sacks as we please.

Don’t feel too intensely guilty at still taking the bags. You can recycle them after use- most Giant grocery stores in this area have bins to collect them for you. And, if you’re at all artistic, or know anyone who is, it’s a cinch to convert your bags into yarn and crochet them, or make your friend crochet them, into various items. That site has some pretty awesome sea monsters. Be all ironic and crochet your plastic bags into a larger, cooler, better plastic grocery bag. Some helpful tips for working with the plastic yarn are here, as well as link to finished projects and crocheting instructions. I’ve made a few balls of the yarn, and I’m working on crocheting a square that doesn’t look like a triangle. I’ll post pictures when I succeed, or just distribute the wobbly fruits of my labor to loving relatives.

If all that recycling and crocheting sounds like a hassle, though, practice what Reagan preached, and just say no. The baggers may stare, progressive grocery stores may give you a discount, and you’ll need either large pockets or an empty purse, but I promise that soon you’ll wonder why your plastic dvd case in plastic shrink wrap needs that third layer of plastic baggie, and carrying an extra bag into the grocery store will be second nature.

5 Responses to “Plastic, please”

  1. 1 RecycleCindy October 5, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing my site and ideas at your blog site. I hope you’ll post your completed project. I love to see other people’s creations. Keep working and it’ll get easier. Best wishes on your recycled crafts!

  2. 2 keithedwhite October 8, 2007 at 5:53 pm


    Okay, I am one of those ‘American Beauty’ plastic bag loving Americans. And I do use them for my trash cans. So if I want to cut down on my use of plastic, how do I keeps my trash cans lined without using unneeded plastic?

  3. 3 virescent October 8, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    I’d say linings for trash cans are a great way to put plastic bags to use. Recycling centers generally also want your recycling packaged together in a bag, though in that case if you package it in paper bags they might have an easier time recycling the bag. I mean, if you don’t use the grocery bags as liners, you what, purchase other plastic bags to use as trash liners? That would be additionally wasteful. Ideally one will purchase wisely, recycle, and compost enough, so that one don’t need to use many of your plastic bags as trash can liners, and one can recycle/repurpose the rest. Ideally.

  4. 4 Jaynee October 17, 2007 at 11:15 am

    How about taking a spin from this water bottle carrier to make wine bottle covers for Christmas (or other) gifts? Single crochet rather than double or triple. Make the bag twice as long, forget about the handle….ribbon…or maybe chain stitched “ribbon” to close?

    Shopping bags for going to the mall to buy your fur coats for winter! How about a car “bra” for your new Lincoln Navigator’s grill? Hmmmmm….let’s see….what else?

  5. 5 Jaynee October 17, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Okay, as could have been predicted, here is the link I intended to attach, but forgot:

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