Saturday, June 14, 2014

STOP - Let's think this through

The lowly paper bag
First used in the 1960's in 1977 the disposable plastic bag was introduced into supermarkets as an alternative to paper bags because of the cries of environmentalists we were killing trees and wasting resources.  See Wiki. I still chose the paper bag. So many reuses for the paper bag not the least of which was to carry lunch. Nice paper bags got saved to do this more than once. And there were other uses like covering your school books (now outlawed because who knows what is under a book cover). And lining litter boxes or lining little trash cans.

But the plastics industry (a by product of oil production) was not happy with just giving us a choice. The biodegradable and infinitely usable paper bag was soon not a choice. Big plastic wanted to cover the world in plastic (and oil as they have demonstrated). And it is not grocery bags, but straws, and boxes for six packs of beer gone to the plastic-fish-killer handle. And bubble packaging. If we outlaw anything can it be bubble packaging in excess. My one inch by inch and a half scan disk came in a bubble package 5" x 6" and totally impossible to open without a commando knife. Which I keep in my car or purse. But I digress.

With the lovely paper bag gone we are now outlawing plastic bags, which has created a whole other industry - the reusable grocery bag. Where are yours? And how many do you own? And who are you advertising for free? Well, not free. You had to buy it. Most recently I had to buy a bag to get out of a store in Santa Fe where they just outlawed plastic and did not offer paper. And they did not want me to take off my t-shirt to carry my five items in. One store was even automatically putting items in their reusable bag and adding the charge for it. Other stores were so angry at the new and arbitrary application of the law they just left customers staring at the pile of things pushed to the end of the counter for them to worry about. Grocery carts were just everywhere in the parking lot. Abandoned by angry customers with no warning.

I was particularly miffed at my art supply store in Santa Fe. They used to have this wonderful mat board sized (42 x 54 inches) plastic bags to get my foam core and mat board purchases home unmarked. I would store my purchases dust free for their life so protected in my flat file. These durable plastic bags got reused a lot for transporting paintings to and from shows. I never threw one away until it was in shreds. To get my purchases home safe they wrapped them in - wait for it - brown paper. Which, by the way, I have used as wrapping paper for purchases from my studio and sketch paper.

I reuse plastic bags too. Not for anything meaningful because they are now made so cheaply but they make good packing materials and prevent me from having to purchase those toxic Styrofoam packing peanuts. Doubled up they are good for kitty litter waste. Which goes into my tall kitchen plastic bag, and then into a larger plastic bag with the trash from various decorative trash cans about the house and then off to the dumpster. Aaah for the days in Colorado when I had an incinerator in the backyard and burned all paper waste to ashes which could be used in the garden.

Now they want to eliminate plastic straws. First image in my mind was trying to drink from my tea to go obtained at the drive through at Wendy's. No straw. No cap. And the big gulps when lifted to your mouth to drink will totally obscure your view of the road and all the cars around you. And I dare you to not look down at your lap when the tea and ice spill all over your lap. And I am not sure I want to eat at someplace that allows me to pass my sippy plastic cup inside the to go window to be filled with tea. Even at buffets you cannot reuse a plate for seconds.

I am not sure what the solution to this is. But every time we come up with a solution we seem to make it worse. There are anti-litter laws in every state. We used to scorn litterbugs. And there was in our state a $300 fine. Some states have made the company whose logo is on the bag or can or bottle pay a fine or higher tax for those cleaned up by the highway department. It would no doubt drive Budweiser out of business with just New Mexico if we did that.

We could provide more trash cans for disposal of accumulated waste in the car. Every drive through ought to have several so you can unload the waste of the last trip before picking up the latest additions.

We could also legalize hemp which can be used to make "paper bags." And if I have to buy recyclable bags from a store I want them really cheap because I am saving them money. And no doing what I swear Walmart does - making flimsy reusable bags and then directing employees to overload them so they give away in the parking lot.

BTW my prettiest reusable bag is Trader Joe's. What's yours? And have you purchased your reusable straw yet? Where are you going to store that?

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