Social Question

Jeruba's avatar

What are you substituting for banned plastic bags?

Asked by Jeruba (48711points) August 13th, 2016

Plastic bags at retail checkout are now banned in many areas. I’ve just read that 150 districts in California have banned them (with certain exceptions) and that a statewide ban is under active consideration.

It’s easy enough to carry reusable tote bags along when shopping, once you acquire the habit. But what about all those other things that the plastic bags are (were) good for?

Number-one use at my house: lining wastebaskets around the house, and especially in bathrooms, making emptying very easy.

Many other uses included tidy disposal of certain garbage items, such as a turkey carcass or a quantity of fruit peels; sending things to school with kids; wrapping shoes before they go in a suitcase; protecting stored items from dust in a closet or basement; and many more. I think we typically used all we had for one purpose or another.

If the bags are banned in your area and you were in the habit of reusing them, what are you doing now instead?

Do you buy plastic bags at the store?
Do you do without?
Do you replace them with paper?

And…what about all the other uses you used to have for newspaper? Can’t do that any more with the online edition, can we? Try lining your kitchen floor with msnbc.com at pumpkin-carving time.

 
Tags as I wrote them: plastic bags, recycling, reusing, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, environment, pollution.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

80 Answers

Seek's avatar

Yes, reusable totes for the grocery. But for home, I buy small (4 gallon) garbage bags at Dollar Tree, 50 to a roll. They’re even lavender scented.

And unlike grocery bags, they don’t have annoying holes in the bottom that let stray bits of kitty litter escape.

As far as newspaper, my hubby works in construction, so we always have rolls of painter’s plastic around.

ragingloli's avatar

I, uh, I have a, now what is it called again… oh right, a fucking backpack.

canidmajor's avatar

Great minds, @Jeruba, I was having this conversation this morning with a friend. At the moment I already institute some measures, as I don’t acquire many, but they really are useful for so many other things.
I have a woodstove, so the starting paper is now junk mail and shred.
Veg garbage gets tossed behind the garage, maybe for compost later, but mostly not to fill garbage bags and go into landfills.
Non veg food guck (that turkey carcass after stock, for example) goes into a base of shred in the kitchen garbage. Stuff like that.
But so many other uses! Ack!

canidmajor's avatar

@ragingloli do you put your kitchen and bathroom waste into your “fucking backpack”?
Or do you just not bother with the details?

stanleybmanly's avatar

We line our wastebaskets with paper bags that the grocers & merchants now charge us a dime apiece for the privilege. The strange thing about all of this is that the wife for some strange unaccountable reason had been folding and collecting the paper bags for decades and stuffing the plastic bags with other plastic bags. For years prior to the ban, we brought our own bags to the supermarkets, and in the years since have put no noticeable dent in our reserves.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Sometimes I use a backpack for groceries; more often I use reusable grocery bags which are sold at grocery stores, or one of the tote bags I’ve looted from conferences, etc.

The only bin that I line at home is the kitchen garbage bin – for that I’m currently trying to use the last of the disposable plastic bags in my once seemingly endless collection. Once those are gone, I’ll revert to buying garbage bags, and I’m hoping that composting will be collected in my area soon, which will cut down on those.

My bathroom bin has a built-in hard plastic liner, which I can clean. I hate the idea of lining bins with disposable plastic. It’s so unnecessary and wasteful. My wastepaper baskets are unlined – why would they need to be lined? Wet waste goes in the kitchen garbage bin.

I usually freeze animal carcasses to make soup. I don’t need to wrap these in plastic bags. Even if I were throwing them away, I would not wrap them in plastic in order to throw them in a plastic bag. Good lord. I mean, if I lived in the deep south and there were only two garbage pickups per month, maybe I’d feel differently about it, but we have two pick-ups per week, and even in the hottest summer months here the garbage will not smell within that time. There’s just no need for that much protection.

After an adjustment period, all these little “necessary uses” are going to seem ridiculous. Plastic is a relatively new invention. People don’t need to use nearly as much of it as they do.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Not here. I was in Kroger last night, and they gave me 5 plastic bags for about 12 items.

I have some of the pseudo-cloth bags, but never remember to use them.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have bags of bags. I can send you some.

To save on plastic bags I occasionally use milk or juice cartons for kitchen waste. I also use bread bags. When I open something wrapped in plastic I try to do a neat job of it with my handy dandy knife. That way the bag is reusable.

Seek's avatar

I find if I keep my tote bags in the back of my station wagon they’re much more likely to get into the store with me than if I store them in the house.

Pachy's avatar

I live in a small city that doesn’t ban plastic bags. It abuts a large city that does. Soooo… I keep cloth bags in my trunk for any shopping I do outside my zip code.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Bathroom bin liners I’ve never used them. One has a hard plastic removable liner that gets emptied into the kitchen bin and then washed out if necessary. The other is a ceramic trash can. It also gets a cleaning when needed, just like all of the other bins.

Food waste. Seeds are dried for human snacks or to feed to the birds. Vegetable waste and bones can first be used for making stock, with the remains saved in a container in the refrigerator or freezer until bin day. We also compost egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds and veg. bits.

CWOTUS's avatar

As far as I know this hasn’t even been under debate in Connecticut, but if California has gone that route then it’s a near certainty that CT, NY and MA will do it as well before too much longer.

Like @LuckyGuy I have “bags of bags”. I use them for wet, smelly garbage items all the time. I use them to wrap lunches that I carry to work. I use them to line trash baskets and to carry out my shredded junk mail. I also use them to re-store items in the freezer after I’ve broken some things out of bulk packaging (not as the primary layer of protection, since they’re not freezer-safe, but to wrap the primary wrapper and add some protection to that).

But I also have some additional strategies:
– I buy food for the dorg in large bags, and don’t throw the bag out when I pour its contents into the bins that I “serve” from. I use the opened and emptied bag for a week – sometimes longer – as a container for items to go in the recycle bin.

- I compost nearly everything that can be composted.

- I compact trash (informally; I don’t own “a trash compactor”) so that the trash that I do generate doesn’t take up a lot of volume. (I generally set my trash container on the curb for pickup not more than once a month, and sometimes I only do it to keep in the habit, because many months the bins aren’t even half full when I set them out.)

- When I have the option I opt for “paper and plastic” (plastic bag outside of the paper bag) to use as my primary trash bag for non-recycleable, non-compost “trash trash”. That takes a surprisingly long time to fill up. I’ll take it out to the bin any time it gets smelly, of course, but because the stuff that goes in there is not often food waste, then that means I can let it fill – again, sometimes for more than a week – before it gets so full that it has to go out.

- I always save likely bags. If it’s whole and clean and decent-sized, then it goes into the “save bin” with the others. I also could send you a couple of bags’ worth of bags and not even notice the loss.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

The flimsy bags are banned here. I don’t miss them (except when I take care of friends’ dogs, they were great poop-picking tools).

• I have canvas grocery bags I keep in my car (when I remember to put them back in there).

• I have a few heavier-duty plastic bags I bought for a dime when I forgot to bring my bag to the grocery store. I use them until they wear out.

• Non-grocery stores like Lowes and Target still give free bags. I re-use those.

• I bike a lot and use grocery panniers
I use them off the bike, too.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Corn syrup bags.

Strauss's avatar

Plastic bags are not banned here yet (except maybe in Boulder); I have three giant bags o’bags. We reuse and re-purpose them all the time. Our weekly organic produce delivery service will take anything we have and repurpose, reuse or recycle.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have saved thousands of bags since I heard they are going to ban them years ago. I store them in the large toilet paper bags I buy my tp in. The garage is lined with them, and I have hundreds stuffed into bags under my bed.

You can buy a box of 1,000 bags at Sam’s Club for around $12.00. The box is about the size of a box of computer paper

SecondHandStoke's avatar

During my miserable stint in the California backwater known as Napa I happily paid the ten cent fee to carry out in bags.

Yes, it cost me money, but the satisfaction in the knowledge that I didn’t allow the State to have the last word was priceless.

JLeslie's avatar

I love using the Publix insulated bags for all my groceries. I use them for all my groceries so the person bagging the groceries doesn’t have to negotiate what fits where and make sure all the cold stuff is in the right bag. I still want all the cold together, but it makes the puzzle easier.

The Publix bags stand up like the old brown paper bags, and work well at keeping the frozen frozen in sunny hot Florida. Large boxes like cereal and frozen pizza almost always fit just fine.

Every so often I wipe them clean on the inside, because I’m a little of a freak about germs, but they have never really been visibly dirty.

If you are interested in the bag I’ll buy them for you and send them and you can send me a check. Online I see them for ridiculous gouging prices on eBay and others. Don’t buy them without letting me price them for you here.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

it makes the puzzle easier

I joke with the baggers. “It’s like a puzzle!”

The best response was, “Grocery Tetris!”

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

We’ve had plastic bag bans here for years. We do have reusable bags for shopping, but we still get given plastic bags when we shop, so we always have enough to line waste bins, to pick up doggie do and the like. I can’t see the point in banning giving us free bags, so we then have to buy plastic bags… defeats the purpose of the ban!

YARNLADY's avatar

@JLeslie That works well for groceries, but I believe this question is about other uses of the plastic grocery bags. I received some wonderful re-usable nylon groceries bags from Sierra Club. They roll up to a tiny size for purse storage.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I can’t see the point in banning giving us free bags, so we then have to buy plastic bags… defeats the purpose of the ban!

Not the same bags.

The flimsy throw-away bags were banned here. They sell heavier re-usable bags for a dime.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

We use the bags for small trash cans. The rest get recycled. Most of our food comes from Aldi, we just carry the items in the cart to the car. FYI aldi does not give out bags.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I can’t find a link to corn syrup bags. .. they were used in my store when I was working in the grocery store in Canada. They were biodegradable bags made of plant starch, mostly corn. Unless my boss was blowing smoke up my ass. I was told that they cost $0.03 per bag and they didn’t hold much before ripping.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Aldi is genius. They put the cardboard cases on the floor, no time wasted unboxing. And customers take away the empty boxes because the store does not give free bags. It’s beautiful.

ibstubro's avatar

Corn cellulose @RedDeerGuy1.
Not corm Syrup!

I agree Aldi has a great business model, @Call_Me_Jay.
I just wish that, locally, the would leave the darned ‘empty box’ cages on the floor longer!

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@ibstubro Ok thanks. : ) they were almost as good as regular plastic bags.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY Thanks! I failed to read the Q all the way through and thoroughly. @Jeruba can flag the answer if she wants.

Regarding the actual Q, I have been known to use paper bags for the trash in my bathroom. I guess I would resort to buying plastic bags if I had to for the bathroom, but I’d prefer not to.

For messy food items I suggest keeping plastic containers you would usually throw, like if you buy salad greens in plastic. Or, any take out food that comes in plastic. You can wash them out and save for disposing of things that you want contained well. You can also use cereal boxes as a way to double protect trash inside your main trash bags. Bread bags once the bread is eaten.

ibstubro's avatar

They were betterer, than plastic bags @RedDeerGuy1.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@ibstubro Then the problem is solved. Everyone should consider corn bags.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay, read my response again. I agree with reusable shopping bags. However, if people are now buying plastic bags to line bins and pick up dog poo and to manage tasks like that, it means we’re replacing free plastic bags that previously filled that role with now paid for plastic bags that are still going to be disposed of. I don’t think governments should remove the ban, my point is, people should still have plenty of free plastic bags to carry out those tasks. I certainly do and we’ve had bag bans for a long time. I don’t buy plastic bags.

Seek's avatar

@JLeslie @Call_Me_Jay – The Puzzle.

I’m completely neurotic about grocery shopping, and particularly how my groceries are unloaded from my cart and how they are bagged. I’m aware that this is a pathetic neurosis, so I don’t make a big deal about it, but I try my damnedest to make sure the right stuff goes with the right stuff.

Last week someone at Publix (Bless them, I love my Publix but sometimes they take the helping thing a bit too far) kindly offered to “help” me unload my cart.

This, of course, meant that there was no way to assure it was unloaded properly and then no way to heighten the likelihood that all the right stuff would be bagged together.

I thought I was having a panic attack by the end. They put frozen vegetables in the same bag as cardboard boxes of dry food.

What kind of monster does that?

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

^ I can so relate. I had serious second thoughts about marrying my husband (and I’m sure those second thoughts were reciprocated) after we went on our first grocery trip together. I like things put on the conveyor belt in a particular order so they end up being bagged with the things I think they should be bagged with. So all frozen food goes on at the same time. Cleaning products with cleaning products. Dog/cat food with pet food. If someone starts loading up the conveyor ad hoc, I can feel my blood pressure rising! He does the shopping on his own mostly now. Less stress for both of us – and it’s cheaper. I’m more inclined to go ‘oh shiny thing!’

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek Frozen with cardboard boxes is completely unacceptable! This almost never happens in Publix in my experience. When I lived in TN, Kroger constantly did that and put raw meat with deli or fresh vegetables. I had to constantly be paying full attention. I’m so glad to be back in Publix land.

I regret going off topic though, we probably should start a new Q about grocery bagging pet peeves.

Seek's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit – Marry me. My order is boxes, bottles, cans, jars, meats, frozen (first boxes, then bags), produce, squishythings.

Stinley's avatar

In England, the bag ban is fairly recent but I have been an Aldi shopper for years and have always taken large bags with me. So in our house the flimsy bags were usually in short supply. Now they are practically non existent. The only thing I miss is that sometimes you just need a bag to carry something. We bought/picked up smaller cotton or hessian bags and would use them. I have a thin nylon bag in my handbag for ad hoc shopping.

cookieman's avatar

We’re not quite there yet in Massachusetts (Boston Globe article:https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/26/mass-senate-approves-ban-plastic-bags/dXkunh5TXAA6NbVQOGbWaN/story.html) — and there are still plenty of opponents, including the governor.

If it does pass in 2018, I’ll just start using the many reusable totes my wife has amassed over the years. @Seek is correct though — they have to live in the car or it’ll never happen.

Most food waste goes down the pig, trash bags in the kitchen barrel, and waste baskets are nekkid plastic (which I wash after every empty).

Also, there’s no way I’m paying 10 cents for a bag. That’s nuts.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Don’t have to, it is not happening here.

ucme's avatar

We have saddlebags worn by our staff as we play horsey ride tidy up time about the place

cookieman's avatar

oops, sorry. I placed the link in wrong.

BellaB's avatar

We’ve had plastic bag bans on and off for about 20 years. You deal with it. After about 3 months , it just works. You can still buy them for 5 or 10 cents at a number of stores. I very very very rarely do. Our nearby bakery still hands them out and we re-use those bags over and over.

I use really cheap pillowcases for a lot of the uses noted in the opening post – wrapping around shoes in suitcases/putting things in storage etc. There’s a store here that sells new, cute pillowcases for 2 or 4 for $1 regularly. They obviously breathe better than plastic so I prefer to use them for storage of shoes/clothing/books.

You pretty much can’t go to a fair/convention/trade show without being handed a bunch of reusable cloth bags. I’ve got a fair-sized mountain of them. I also buy Lands End / LL Bean canvas tote bags when I find them at thrift stores. They’re really my favourites for transporting groceries (and I use them as my towels-to-pool bags as the handles are nice and long.

zenvelo's avatar

I don’t accept plastic bags, at Safeway I have also asked for paper. I use paper to line the trash can and also for putting my recyclables in. When I have wet trash, I wrap it in newspaper.

So, when California goes no plastic statewide, I am not changing any behavior.

ibstubro's avatar

@BellaB has short arms.

zenvelo's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central The law in California is on hold since the plastics industry put an initiative on the ballot for November, where we get to vote to ban them statewide.

It is already happening in a dozen cities in the SF Bay Area.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ It is already happening in a dozen cities in the SF Bay Area.
That is not here, and until it does…..well….no worries, bygones.

ibstubro's avatar

I was behind a woman at The Dollar Tree today that was buying a number of tote bags.
I hope she was headed to Aldi, or a party.
Any place that uses thin plastic bags.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

The EPA promised to get them banned many years ago, but atlas, again they fail at being relevant.

I hope they are outlawed everywhere.

OP, you an buy four gallon bags very inexpensively.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m thinking more about this and I’m wondering if there are biodegradable trash bags? Like the new “green” plastic cups.

Strauss's avatar

@MollyMcGuire The EPA promised to get them banned many years ago, but atlas, again they fail at being relevant.

Perhaps their failure at being relevant is a reflection of the draconian reactionary measures taken by Congress in the name of “free enterprise” to stifle all regulation.

ibstubro's avatar

Of course there are biodegradable trash bags @JLeslie.
The problem is getting them separated out so that they can degrade.

BellaB's avatar

Some of the shopping bags are biodegradable. I found a few old ones disintegrating when I got to the bottom of a bag full of plastic bags.

YARNLADY's avatar

@BellaB Sometimes plastic bags degrade into tiny pieces of plastic, but they will never become bio-anything. They remain tiny pieces of plastic. Someday in the distant future, they might melt down to their original petrochemical form.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Since I started recycling I only have to take trash out once a week. We have to buy dog food about once a week. I’d start making more use of those than I do now, and empty cat food bags.

BellaB's avatar

@YARNLADY – the shopping bags aren’t all made of plastic. Some of them are made of something that turns into something resembling mashed potato flakes. They disappear completely when they go in the composter.

YARNLADY's avatar

@BellaB Oh,that is better.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@YARNLADY @BellaB I think the term is photodegrading.

Strauss's avatar

Those bags that flaked up just might be made of something similar to the corn-based biodegradable “plastics” mentioned in several posts above.

ibstubro's avatar

Celluloid was a pre-petroleum plastic product that was plant based. First practical use was to replace ivory.
One of the biggest problems was that it’s highly flammable.

Degradable Plastics seems to cover @BellaB‘s experience.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Aren’t almost all of the plastic bags either reused or recycled? My grocery store has a collection box for them.
It is counter-productive to buy new bags for trash when the used grocery bags will work.

FYI, in Japan when a discarded bag is seen hanging from a tree or shrub they call it (translating) “witch’s underwear”.

JLeslie's avatar

^^I’ve always wondered about the recycle on those bags. When we use them for trash bags they wind up in a land fill right? When they go back to the store for recycle I assume they are really being recycled into more plastic products. If so, still eventually they likely wind up in a landfill, but the recycling could go on to infinity I guess if people don’t use the items as trash bags and don’t throw any plastic products in with trash.

CWOTUS's avatar

One would be incorrect in assuming that all plastic recycling goes to make more plastic. I guess it’s not widely known, but there are processes being developed (maybe even commercial now, for all I know) to recycle plastic waste back to hydrocarbon fuel stocks. Here is a slide presentation from Western Michigan University to present some of the thinking and research on the topic.

YARNLADY's avatar

Recycled plastic is often used to make carpets and other fabrics for furniture, patio furniture, plastic sheeting, soda bottles and much more. The plastic is shredded, melted, and reformed.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY When the carpet is thrown out, is that going into a landfill? Or, they have a way to recycle it?

YARNLADY's avatar

There are places that will take household carpeting to recycle. The homeowner would have to be sure the carpet contractor takes care of that. With so many recycle businesses shutting down, it would probably be hard to find.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY Shutting down because they aren’t profitable?

Seek's avatar

In my area, trash is burned for energy, and only the leftover ash put into a landfill. You might call that a kind of recycling.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek By power companies? Or, by individuals?

Seek's avatar

By the waste management company. The incinerator feeds into the power grid.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I wish we could just throw everything into a volcano. The earth will take care of that shit!

YARNLADY's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, not profitable. They claim it is because of three things; the minimum wage increase, the high price of gasoline for transportation, and a lack of buyers.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dutchess_III My solution is to simply pack it all into a daily rocket ship and send it to the sun, but I like your idea better.

Seek's avatar

Yeah, my husband is a hardwood flooring professional. He often worked in houses that were new construction or model homes, or were recently renovated for sale and had brand new carpets that the new buyers didn’t want, and replaced with hardwood.

He used to sell the discarded carpet to an elderly man who owned a mobile home park in an area known as “Suitcase City”. It was a nice bit of extra cash – about $0.50 a square foot, give or take – until the old guy died. Now the carpets just go to the dump.

YARNLADY's avatar

@seek Perhaps he could post on Freecycle , Craigslist, or get in touch with the local Habitat for Humanity. I’m sure there is someone that could use it.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Landfills are not so bad because the raw materials stay intact. In the future when our resources become more scarce and there are stronger regulations because of valid environmental concerns we’ll look at them differently. I can already predict that mining landfills will be a thing. I don’t worry about putting things in the landfill. I think burning garbage for electricity is about the dumbest thing ever.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What do you mean they aren’t so bad because the “raw materials stay intact.” That is exactly the reason why landfills are so bad, especially plastic in the landfills

Seek's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me – Burning garbage for electricity is good when you consider where I live: Very close to the Gulf of Mexico. Landfill runoff from the plant I’m thinking of would go directly into the Gulf, affecting all sorts of wildlife (not to mention the tourism industry). Also, our water table here is very shallow, and large numbers of people draw water from those shallow aquifers.

Strauss's avatar

Almost any runoff east of the Continental Divide in the US ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek I think you mean close to the surface.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The County has a facility that has changed names a few times, “Resource Recovery Center”, “Transfer Station”, “Waste Collection Center”... The intent was to collect trash unsorted and have the equipment chop it up and sort it out into categories: metals- ferrous, non-ferrous, glass, plastics, paper, trash, etc. The glass, metals and certain plastics were recycled, while the others were separated into “Light combustibles and other”. The Light combustibles were made into RDF, Refuse derived fuel, pellets which went to the power plant to make electricity. Great idea! Right?
Wrong! They could never get all the glass dust out of the light combustibles and the glass dust ended up coating the boilers reducing efficiency. Clean up was a disaster and cost a fortune. It takes days for it to cool down enough so workers could get inside. Then they use air powered shot guns to break the “glass” free. After a short while the power company refused to take the RDF and it all went to landfills. I would have gladly taken some !
I still don’t understand why they didn’t offer it for free to individuals.

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