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Ban on Plastic Bags Bugs L.A. County

Paper or plastic? Bag from South Africa.
My friend recently came back from a trip to South Africa and brought me a reusable grocery bag. It is from Woolworths, one of the largest retail chains in South Africa; it is made by a community project and serves as a symbol of the company's commitment to sustainability and social development. I will think of this whenever I use my new bag. Thank you, dear friend!

The Woolworths bag is not my first reusable bag. I carry two baggies which fold up into packs smaller than a deck of cards in my purse and a bunch of bigger ones in the trunk of my car. To me this feels like an easy way of making a difference environmentally.

Others seem to have a harder time. When the county of Los Angeles recently introduced a ban on plastic bags for its unincorporated areas the new ordinance was met with resistance. Shops bemoan that paper is more expensive than plastic. They charge customers ten cents for every paper bag. Shoppers complain about the ten cents; they also claim that they are left without a choice which they say is "Un-American".

Change always hurts but the choice is still there, it is just different. The cashier's last question, "Paper or plastic", has been replaced by "Paper or your own bag?"

Paper or your own bag? Store poster in L.A. county.
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P.S. Coincidentally another friend of mine posted a video on the topic on Facebook today. It is three minutes long and fun to watch, especially for those who are not familiar with the way stores in the U.S. use a separate plastic bag for almost every item we shop. So here it is, the Bag It Intro. The long form documentary attracted a lot of attention at film festivals this year.


debi said…

I try to remember to take my own bags in the store; they're always in my truck begging to be used.

Did you know Target pays you five cents for every one of your own bags you use, whether it is a Target bag or any other bag? Now there's incentive; I seem to remember more consistently to BYOB when I shop at Target.
Thank you, Debi.

I didn't know about the Target program but Whole Foods does it too. At Trader Joe's customers who bring their own bag get to enter into a monthly drawing for a ten Dollar cash reward. Not bad either - and always fun (though I have never won so far).

Btw: do you have Trader Joe's where you live?
Lorraine Seal said…
Ireland instituted a charge or tax on plastic bags about 10 years ago. The idea of the charge, as I understand it, was to make people thing twice before tossing the bag, because the Irish are terrible litterers, I hate to say.

So there, as well as in Austria and, I assume, other parts of Europe, one knows to bring bags to the market or to be prepared to pay for one on check out. Ironically, my favourite bags are the Trader Joes ones brought to me as gifts. Sadly, one of them is beginning to give way; I will mourn its passing.

I also have one of the nylon ones that folds into a sac smaller than a deck of card to carry in my purse. Very handy.

I understand that some consider this change 'unAmerican', an attitude that makes me shake my head.
Thank you, Lorraine.

European countries started charging for store supplied bags a while ago. If I remember correctly the change came around twenty years ago for Austria. People complained at first but after a while all was well.
debi said…

There are no Trader Joe's in Texas right now, but stores are scheduled to open in Dallas/Ft Worth and Austin by the end of the year - yay!

My boyfriend, Ken, who lived in Santa Barbara for 22 years, told me about Trader Joe's. When we were in Santa Fe, we visited the one there. I like it! It had an artsy, unique atmosphere, great produce, herbs, coffees and wine selection. And the employees were really helpful.
I like Trader Joe's too and will blog about them in the near future. Hope your outlet opens soon!
Mark said…
Hi Christina,

I think the plastic bag manufacturers must have come up with this "Un-American" idea of charging for plastic bags. The plastic companies over here try similar tactics.

I wonder about the use of paper or plastic at grocery stores depending on the region of the US. In the Midwest, we tend to shop once a week and buy a lot of groceries, so we always use large, paper bags (I can't remember my mom ever using plastic bags at the grocery store). Do people in California generally use more plastic bags, than paper?

Thanks, Mark. That's interesting about the regional differences. I would say that people here do use more plastic than paper, at least at the big chains. I hate to say this but - maybe it's an L.A. thing?
Mark said…
It might be more of an LA thing (or west coast/east coast thing). Do you find LA is more European style in that people shop more often, so they buy in small amounts each time? In the Midwest, we shop once a week at the most, and stock up like it's the end of the world.
It seems mixed here. I know many people who do a weekly run to Costco, Target, or one of the big grocery store chains. At the smaller or more expensive markets there seem to be many small time shoppers too (Trader Joe's, Whole Foods). I tend to shop the European way, meaning every three days or so, which has to do with the fact that I like my produce, meat, and bread fresh.

How about Penang? I would assume it's all on a small scale, but who knows.

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