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Publisher’s ink: ‘Paper or plastic’ might be dumped

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From page A4 | February 27, 2013 | 6 Comments

“Will that be paper or plastic?” the grocery store clerk asked.

Years ago brown paper bags (or sacks as some folks refer to them) were the only game in town. Growing up in our household, we saved our paper grocery bags. We re-used them to line the kitchen trash container. And at the beginning of the every new school year, we covered our textbooks with the stiff brown paper.

You could say they were a multi-use product. Like newspapers, paper grocery bags are biodegradable, so one needn’t feel guilty about disposing them outright.

Today, grocery stores provide customers a choice in bags — paper or plastic. Plastic bags are less expensive than paper, take up very little shelf space at the end of the checkout line, and are more durable.

According to an article appearing in a regional newspaper last week, Sacramento City Council members are entertaining a new city ordinance that would ban all plastic bag use by grocery, discount and drug stores.

Advocates for the ban claim they’re causing pollution and wreaking havoc on fish. Too many of the bags are finding their way into waterways including the Pacific Ocean.

Those voicing angst at plastic bags are referring to them as “single-use” shopping bags. “Single-use” is apparently the new buzz phrase environmentalists are throwing around to justify their objective of banning any product they deem harmful to the environs.

Ask any responsible dog owner and they will attest to the invaluable “multi-use” of plastic grocery bags. We currently have three dogs living under our roof. Our oldest daughter and her dog are temporarily staying with us. This has put a serious dent in my plastic bag inventory. Walking three dogs at the same time is challenging enough. Try picking up what they leave behind without a plastic grocery bag and … I think you get the picture.

Multiply three dogs by seven days a week and one can easily see how imperative plastic bags are in our family. The extra mouth to feed (my daughter’s and not necessarily her dog) does require the purchase of additional food. This helps increase our bag count.

A savvy bagging strategy is also helpful.

“Why are you placing the cream cheese in a bag by itself?” my wife asked during a recent shopping foray.

“Don’t want to damage it,” I replied.

She quickly caught on to my scheme when she noticed I was double-bagging the plastic ketchup bottle.

These so called “single-use” bags are used for more than just toting my bread, chips and hotdogs home from the store. Last month for example, after cleaning our outside grill, I used several of them to dispose of the grease.

If opponents of plastic grocery bags are so bent on eliminating this product on the grounds it causes pollution, then why stop there? What about doing away with plastic straws and drink lids provided by fast food restaurants? And why hasn’t anyone proposed legislation outlawing plastic water bottles? Aren’t these single-use products? And just how are plastic grocery bags originating in Sacramento getting into the Pacific Ocean via the landfill?

At last count more than 50 California localities have passed legislation banning plastic bags. In Sacramento’s case, not only would they ban plastic bags but also force stores to ding customers with an additional charge for their paper bags. Yes you read that correctly — a paper bag fee.

Oh now I get it. Restrict the use of plastic bags, force a charge on paper bags and then return the tax back to the stores. This in the minds of the legislators provides cover for the stores when angry customers accuse them of charging for bags the store should be providing for free in the first place.

Perhaps if Sacramento legislators picked up more dog poop instead of dumping more of their crap on consumers and businesses they’d learn the difference between single-use, multi-use and the value of plastic over paper.

Richard Esposito is publisher of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Wednesday.

Richard Esposito

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Discussion | 6 comments

  • Jim RiordanFebruary 27, 2013 - 12:51 pm

    Richard, One comment: My wife bought some oversize cloth "carrying Bags" from Costco and from Sam's. They come with two sets of sewn in handles , one set long and one set short. I finally used them and found them to be really nice. I would not want to go back to the "old ways" now. They carry lots more in pure volume while at the same time they also carry LOTS more weight and they never tear. What's not to like?? And then they just remain in the trunk. As you know, I am not one of the first in line to do whatever government or environmentalists or for that matter anyone, wants me to do . . . but I must say in this case I really like these since they are just WAAAY better all-around than either the plastic or the paper and they save you trips from the vehicle to the kitchen since they hold so much. . . . Of course when you walk your dogs you might have to wear rubber gloves and put the doggie stuff in your pockets . . . ahahahaha

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  • Gene BellFebruary 27, 2013 - 4:00 pm

    We moved to Avila Beach in San Louis Obisbo County two years ago. They have such a ban. It is the one of the most distuptive acts a government can do. We try to remember to take "our own bags--plastic or otherwise" but often end up at the grocery store or Bed Bath and Beyond without them. what a mess. Either pay 10¢/bag needed or unload the stray items into the back of the car to hear them play ring-around-the-rosy in the rear. Then, of course you have to get them upstairs into the kitchen. Cloth bags may work, but you still have to remember to take them--and there are studies that show rhem to harbor germs and disease. Of course you could launder them or have them dry cleaned...as I'm sure my friend, Jim, does. I say, if you want to carry your "green bags," do so--but don't punish the rest of us.

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  • CoreyFebruary 27, 2013 - 6:47 pm

    I may have short memory, but didn't the bunny huggers and tree huggers raise a fuss years ago about the paper bags killing too many trees. Now their complaining about the landfills. Can't win to lose with these people.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • francescaduchamp@att.netFebruary 27, 2013 - 7:13 pm

    http://www.cityofslt.us/index.aspx?NID=651 it is happening all over--i used to used my paper bags for lots of things as well--the original recycled item...you can even wash them--dry them--and paint great stuff on them.

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  • Publisher’s ink: ‘Paper or plastic’ might be dumped for grocery stores–E Coli for allFebruary 27, 2013 - 7:17 pm

    [...] Publisher’s ink: ‘Paper or plastic’ might be dumped [...]

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  • Jim RiordanFebruary 28, 2013 - 1:33 pm

    Thanks Gene, although I really value the carrying capacity(like almost three to one) far more than I care about the "Green part." We just leave them in the back compartment of our suv . . and yeah, My wife does wash them occassionally , but usually they stay really clean . . . we don't use them for anything else. And they can carry a lot of wine from wineries without worrying about having a darn bag tear (;>)

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