Yes, of course. Obviously bringing your own bag is best. But here’s the thing: I live in the real world. I own dozens-DOZENS! Of those goddamn reusable bags, from all three of the big grocery stores in my area as well as a handful from other areas of the country where I lived for a brief time, or visited, or flew over on my way to someplace else or thought about a little too hard. Dozens! of reusable bags from all over the universe and yet, often it is the case that I pull my grocery cart up to the checkout AND…bags are in the car. DOZENS of bags…completely useless.
For a long time, I’d buy new ones, adding to my collection, which is precisely why my collection is so big. Sometimes, if I remember before I get in line in front of a single mom juggling two kids, a snippy old lady with a fistful of coupons and some hapless bachelor behind all of us with only a quart of milk and a six-pack of beer (are you going to mix those, sir?) if I think of it before getting to the head of the line, I will tuck my cart into a safe spot and run back out to the car.
But sometimes I don’t. And in such cases I am forced to consider that dreaded question: “Paper or Plastic?”
The multitude of articles informing us that there is no Eco-Friendly answer to this question point most incriminatingly to the amounts of pollution generated by paper versus that of plastic, (paper is considerably higher), the contribution of paper bags to the clear-cutting of forests, and the amount of energy and water required to manufacture the bags (paper loses here, too),
But here’s the thing…well, here are the thingzz, plural:
1) The types of pollution generated by plastic manufacture are worse than those generated by paper. (Also, pollution from manufacture of anything is controlled as per Federal regulations, so I'm uncertain how relevant the fact of more pollution generated from one than the other is in the long run. Generated is not equivalent to released.)
2) Plastic is made from oil which is a non-renewable resource. We can grow more trees. There is no true need to clear cut old growth forests to make paper; this is a matter of responsible stewardship on the part of the manufacturers.
3) Uh...okay you got me on this one.
But you should know that paper bags are actually infinitely recyclable, where plastic bags can generally only be recycled once, and not into other bags, either, but "downcycled" to some other plastic product. And less than 10% of them ever get recycled anyway. Paper is also generally more reusable (and gets reused more).
Whatever. Based on just those things, it’s still essentially a draw. They both suck and I am going to Hell.
But there are no giant, horrible islands of paper gyrating in any of the Oceans. Googling “Animals Killed by Paper Bags” does not return any images of animals being killed by paper bags. Replace paper in that phrase with plastic and you’ve got half an hour’s worth of heartbreak.
So if, like me, you live outside of PuppyandRainbowville, and you are caught at the checkout with a cartful of stuff and no bags of your own, ask for paper. Then spend the ride home and flogging yourself with all those reusable bags you didn't bring into the store. Maybe that will help you remember next time!
If you don't have any reusable bags, BUY SOME for fuck's sake! Most stores sell them for like a dollar, there's no excuse unless you hate Earth. Or let me know and I'll mail you some of mine.
Yours in Theory,