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Jan 26, 2014 11:33 AM

Impact of plastic bag ban?

Hello left coast! Here in NYC we are considering not a ban of plastic bags, but a charge for them. My local Community Board (I’m a member) is weighing in, and I thought Chowhounds would be a good source of info from a place that’s gone even further. What’s been the experience/reaction from this broad group of thoughtful people who presumably buy a fair amount of food? Not looking for statistics (though that would be nice); more just the anecdotes. Is it a big deal? Have your attitudes and behaviors changed since the ban went in place? Sorry to the moderators if this is too tangential!

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  1. we have this in downtown seattle (bags are charged for). it's not a big deal. my behavior has changed in that i now almost always remember to bring my reusable bag with me. it's honestly not a big deal. the charge for a bag is, i believe, about 5-10 cents. my biggest complaint is that i have a cat, and i used to use grocery bags for cleaning the litter box. now, i just use produce bags (no charge for those).

    22 Replies
    1. re: chartreauxx

      Glad to see you mention the kitty litter as I wondered about that. I switched to canvas bags years ago...but still occasionally shop without them for exactly that reason. I need the plastic bags for pet waste (dog and cat). It rankles me to ~buy~ new, unused bags for that purpose.

      1. re: pedalfaster

        With you all the way about new bags for old poop! I'm in SF and periodically get a supply of plastic shopping bags from my corner store. By law, they are allowed to use bags purchased before the ban until their supply runs out, but the owners decided against it because of all the potential misunderstandings and buttinskys. Meanwhile, I get to feel slightly illicit (ooh- bag stash, man, cool!) and my litter boxes are empty of ick. Maybe a well-placed inquiry would do it for you.

        1. re: monfrancisco

          Yes, but not just kitty litter. At least you can improvise with that at home.

          Where I walk my dog in town, you HAVE to carry plastic bags to clean up after them. Signs all over " it's the law" every hundred yards. I am having a hard time finding plastic bags to reuse. I now have to buy them. My dog is like a play-doh machine on a walk :/

          1. re: sedimental

            I see people around here using newspaper bags (long, skinny, plastic) for play-doh (!) pick-up. The fact that it hasn't rained in about fifty years doesn't stop them putting the paper in a bag every day, but that's a different topic. As is the fact that only dinosaurs get the paper delivered...

              1. re: GH1618

                Sorry, let me clarify-- my paper is waiting for me out front every morning at 6:00!

                1. re: monfrancisco

                  Thanks for the clarification fellow dinosaur!
                  And yes we have noticed those bags and save them for pet-use as well. I actually get kind of grumpy when I find rips/holes in said bags.

                  1. re: monfrancisco

                    My paper(s) :-).
                    3 of them and I love them.

              2. re: sedimental

                A friend carries newspaper sheets, folded in quarters, and scoots the paper under her dog's butt as soon as he assumes the position. These get gathered up and put into a plastic produce or grocery bag which she knots and tosses into the garbage can when she gets home. This is a better clean-up than the bag-gloved hand, which can't do a thorough job if the deposit isn't completely formed.

                Of course, these days not too many people still subscribe to newspapers..... you could always save the supermarket flyers and other larger junk mail pieces.

                1. re: greygarious

                  My green neighbor buys the packaged wet wipes and actually cleans her dogs butts on the walk…
                  It's a sight to behold.

                  1. re: latindancer

                    oh, FFS. Seems the green is little faded, there....

                  2. re: monfrancisco

                    i have two dogs.
                    when i knew the bags were going to be banned, i enlisted three of my pet-less friends to save me all the plastic bags from their households in anticipation of the ban.

                    the sheer volume of plastic bags that were generated by our four households in the two month period prior to the ban was astounding. i have suitcases and cardboard boxes in the garage completely STUFFED with these things. up until seeing this with my own eyes, i had been pooh-poohing the ban. now, i see things very differently.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      Except that you will find those bags DO degrade.

                      I have no idea why everyone says they will last forever; if they did, I could store everything in my garage and outdoors in those bags and not have to purchase plastic containers. Outside and in the car, they fall to pieces within two months; I've tried it with my 'earthquake kit'.

                      1. re: Cathy

                        This is why:

                        While the bags might fall apart and shred, the plastic the bags are made from doesn't magically vanish into thin air (first law of thermodynamics). I look forward to the day when all Americans realize that the planet belongs to all of us who live on it, and isn't only a resource to be exploited and dumped on to make a few zillionaires even richer.

                  3. re: pedalfaster

                    Many parks provide doggie waste bags. My apartment complex does as well. You can also go to the dollar store and buy a pack of 3 rolls of waste pick up bags. The rolls are about the size of a C battery. The bags are thin but hopefully your dogs aren't producing so much waste that it would be a problem.

                    1. re: ohmyyum

                      the bags at our dog park are a nice heavy weight -- but jiminy -- they're scented with a horrible scent that I can't stand to have in the house, so I can't keep any on hand.

                    2. re: pedalfaster

                      I just ran out of my stash of old plastic grocery bags, and had to buy brand-new small bin-liners for kitty litter for the first time in my life. It hurt me in all my penny-pinching places.

                    3. re: chartreauxx

                      I also now use produce bags for cat litter. We don't have a plastic bag ban here in all stores, but I try to remember to keep my reusable bags in the trunk. Plus, most of them have handles that make it so much easier to bring the groceries in with them thrown over my shoulders.

                      1. re: chartreauxx

                        I am not a dog or cat owner, and yes, this definitely is not about food, but you can buy diaper sacks, 100 for a buck or so, that would also serve this purpose.

                        To OP - Moved back to US from Europe a decade ago. At that point they were already using canvas bags and charging for plastic, so I was in the habit... but those first few years back in my Midwestern town I was the oddball at the store with my Tengelmann and Aldi bags. Cashiers didn't know what to do. Thank goodness times are changing. I think it's a great idea and should be de rigueur everywhere. I think the impact is only positive.

                      2. Not in SF but in Seattle, there have been no plastic bags for a while. (Well, except for the produce ones which IIRC are biodegradeable) There are paper bags only and if you get one, you're charged five cents. I think it's a great thing. It's not the nickel but the fact that it draws your attention to what you're doing. More than once, when we forgot our totes, we'd just carry the few items out. I wish they would do this where I live (Reno/Lake Tahoe).

                        Looking forward to hearing the SF CHs thoughts.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: c oliver

                          some stores have slightly more expensive, reusable plastic bags available in addition to paper. actually, most do. but they are 1) more expensive, and 2) must be reusable.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I agree with this. It makes you think about what you are doing. There's no plastic bag ban where I live but my family and the company my husband works for are in Oregon where there is one so between the two of us someone is up there 8-10 times per year. I literally heard the aha moment from the husband. He was on the phone with me grousing about the bag ban and saying he had just carried his item out, then there was a pause and he said "but, but I guess maybe I didn't need a bag for one printer cartridge, did I?"

                            1. re: ErnieD

                              At stores such as Walgreen's, OfficeMax and other places where my purchases are usually few, I always refuse the proffered plastic bag.

                          2. You get in the habit of bringing reusable bags. It can be annoying when you forget.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              i amassed quite a collection of those cloth bags as i was getting in the habit of remembering! i forgot all the time at the beginning. still have about a million cloth bags in my closet... :-)

                              1. re: chartreauxx

                                I'm ever so slightly peeved by the over-production and over-distribution of these re-usable bags. Kind of defeats the sustainability rationale for them if they are given away free and we all end up with an over supply! I recently gave half my collection to a friend who somehow was in need of them.

                                1. re: BernalKC

                                  i use them for a lot of things: picnics, camping, overnight stays at my parents', that kind of thing.

                                  1. re: chartreauxx

                                    no kidding -- somehow more of mine are in use hauling other stuff than they are hauling groceries.

                                  2. re: BernalKC

                                    so they still didn't go to waste, and saved your friend buying, and thus duplicating, the supply....

                                    1. re: BernalKC

                                      The real problem is ocean pollution. We are ruining ecosystems with our thoughtless consumption.

                                          1. re: The Professor

                                            Not only. Lots of countries are contributing to the continent of plastic.

                                          2. re: Josh

                                            Maybe we are just to lazy to dispose of trash properly, like let's re-cycle.

                                    2. I like the reusable bags much better than the brown grocery bags or the plastic ones. They are much stronger and you don't have to worry about the bag ripping open or those paper handles giving way spilling all of your groceries.

                                      1. lived in Europe for a few years -- you'll be amazed at how fast it becomes no big deal.

                                        Yeah, you forget bags once in a while -- disposable bags are dirt-cheap and can be reused if you have dogs, cats, or kids -- and you need a crap ton of reusable ones because they tend to walk away being used for picnics, trips to the park, hauling stuff to school, etc., etc., etc.

                                        Right now I switch back and forth -- we have two dogs, so we recycle the disposable ones, but when we get a good stockpile I switch back to the reusable ones.

                                        I try to always keep one or two reusable in the car, and carry one of the small cloth ones in my handbag for quick trips.