Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Plastic bag ban vs. urban realities

I think the people who are lobbying to ban plastic bags aren't taking into account urban life. This explains so much! I often hear people say "Why on earth do you need to put X in a plastic bag?" where X is something that needs to be carried home, just like everything else. This would always get me puppy-head-tilt confused, but after reading this I realize they think the stuff doesn't need a bag because they think it's going in a car trunk.

A&P and Dominion, for example, sell a 99-cent reusable shopping bag that holds the equivalent of about three plastic bags of groceries, and give 5 air miles to customers with reusable bags. With all grocers and other stores on board, through their associations, competition will set in and incentives are likely to rise.

The incentive program flows from a pilot project in Sault Ste. Marie, which is trying to find out what it takes to get people to remember to bring their reusable bags back to the store.

"What are consumers looking for? What will make them remember to open the trunk and bring the reusable bin or the reusable bag. `Gee, if I'm going to get $5 off my groceries I'll do it,' or air miles or whatever the incentive is – what is enough to (encourage) them to take it back?" Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director of the Recycling Council of Ontario, said of the pilot project.

See, the thing of it is, there is no trunk involved. I can't just stick the reuseable bag in the trunk because I don't use a car to grocery shop. I just stop by the store right on my way home from work. And because the store is conveniently located right on the way home from work, I don't plan my grocery shopping. I start getting hungry before I leave work, and on my way home I just buy whatever I'm craving to eat. (And yes, eating exactly what I'm craving is an important part of life for me. Planning my meals would seriously reduce my enjoyment of life.) So if I couldn't get my purchases bagged at the store, then I'd have to carry around one or two of those big Dominion tote bags with me all day, every day, just in case I start craving something for dinner that I don't have at home. Either that or I'd have to walk home from the subway, grab my shopping bags and walk back to Dominion, then go shopping and walk back home again. That's 15 minutes of walking where there is normally five, which is significant when your commute is only 17 minutes. So for people in high-density urban areas, where grocery shopping isn't done with a car and isn't a special trip because it's right there in your immediate neighbourhood, not having bags provided by the store is a far greater inconvenience than just having to keep some extra bags in your car trunk. And, as I've mentioned before, if the store didn't give me plastic bags, I'd need to buy (and subsequently throw out) plastic bags for garbage disposal purposes.

My suggestion: have stores bag customers' purchases in biodegradable plastic bags.

1 comment:

L-girl said...

Yup. Urban life needs the plastic bag.

You also touched on something I've been wondering about (and I think I'll blog on it, too). What about the second life my plastic bags take on, for our household trash, and our dog poop?

If we didn't get plastic bags from the supermarket, wouldn't we have to buy trash bags? And wouldn't that be worse?