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Let’s say you’ve been thinking about plastic grocery bags. Maybe you’ve got two dozen of them stashed away in three different places in the kitchen, and yeah, you use them to clean up after the dog, but you’re way ahead of the dog on that, and the bags keep piling up. And maybe you’ve even glanced at a couple of articles in the recent series here in The Downey Patriot and you’ve noted that there’s not really a market for plastic recycling once you’ve used that bag at the grocery store or for the dog poop.
But you’re not ready to ditch plastic bags cold turkey just on principle when there’s an unlimited supply right in front of your eyes at the supermarket.
If that’s you, take heart! There’s a big loophole not even the treehuggers have blathered about!
Turns out that plastic produce bags–the ones that hang in rolls next to the apples and the brussels sprouts–have been specifically exempted from all current California bag legislation. No kidding.
At first glance, this situation is downright humorous: how could plastic carryout bags generate so much rancorous argument in the public sector when their sister produce bags have been protected by a unanimous vow of silence? On second thought, it’s kind of scary: a parallel universe of plastic bags almost equally prone to finding their way into our fragile oceans. The reason for this apparent inconsistency is evidently that produce bags are quietly viewed as a safeguard against cross-contamination. Thus, by tacit mutual agreement, the plastic bag manufacturing industry hangs on to a cash cow unopposed, and the general public is shielded from health concerns about the spread of bacteria.
So if you’re on the cusp of a change in how you use plastic bags in your life, here’s a suggestion: get some reusable bags for grocery shopping and reuse those produce bags for everything else. For one thing, nobody’s going to ban them in the foreseeable future. (See the postscript below.) Secondly, they contain less plastic than carryout bags. And they work as well or better for all those other household uses you were saving them for, holding about 2/3 the volume and about 4 inches longer. Perfect as protective shoe bags for travel, for that hodgepodge collection of napkin rings that’s cluttering up the credenza drawer–and for dog poop.
Those reusable bags will, with periodic washing, serve you for at least two to three years. (This writer has three cotton shopping bags still in use after over 20 years–and one string bag from a student sojourn to Paris 40 years ago.) You can also make shopping bags at home out of old t-shirts. Just cut off the sleeves and hem up the bottom. Then let your kids decorate them so that everybody in the family has a stake in reusable bags at the grocery store.
P.S.: In the past week in L.A. County Los Angeles has introduced and West Hollywood has approved a bag ban. This writer has also learned that bag bans are under consideration in Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena. (This is not advocacy, just the facts.) As Bob Dylan wrote, “The times they are a-changin’.”
Lars Clutterham is a Downey resident and charter member of the city of Downey’s Green Task Force and Downey Chamber of Commerce’s Green Committee.
Published: September 15, 2011 – Volume 10 – Issue 22