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Paper or plastic?

February 5, 2009

by Julienne

I am, by no means, a completely Green Girl — but I certainly do what I can.  I recycle, walk whenever possible, and proudly trek to work with my Nalgene bottles.  I also prefer to forgo plastic grocery bags, but often manage to forget my reusables at home.  (Who has time to unpack the groceries and return the bags to the car?)   Regardless, I am always sure to find another use for the plastic bags when I’m forced to take them.

Imagine my utter elation when I was introduced to the Envirosax on!  For about $40, I get to be on the cutting-edge of fashion and environmental consciousness.  The uniquely-designed bags come in a set of five, with a carrying case for easy storage.

They are not just for the ladies, either.  In a local art gallery last week, I saw a man exiting the gift shop with an Envirosax on his arm.  It was grey with orange swirls, and it made a great social statement, albeit tacitly.

While I was initially put off by the thought of investing in bags for that price, Reusable Bags certainly makes this set earn its keep.  The site says that each bag holds double that of a traditional grocery bag and they are made of waterproof polyester.  They are machine washable, or can even be cleaned by hand — for those who are especially environmentally-minded.

Spend 10 minutes on their site, and you’ll find products that perfectly exemplify the Reusable Bags mission statement.  The mission of this Australian-based company is to make “the whole concept of reusable bags (previously dull, boring and ugly) into something which is trendy, fashionable, and functional.”

It may be no coincidence that the Envirosax originated in Australia.  In early 2008, Australia’s Labor Party announced that they would impose a plastic bag tax on shoppers.  The Daily Telegraph cites costs ranging from $0.25 to $1.00 per bag.  I googled “plastic bag tax” and found that similar programs are in the works for the States (NYC & LA), the UK, and China.  Estimates include a 30% decrease in plastic bag use in Australia alone.

While some multinational corporations have been implementing similar plastic bag tax programs for some time, reactions are mixed.  The website of Aldi Foods, a European discount food store, states that other companies have been hiding the cost of plastic bags in their prices for years.  They claim their low prices are due in part to their policy of charging for bags.

As with most things, the plastic bag tax is met with criticism.  Many feel the average family is the loser in the equation.  The disparagement is unwarranted in my opinion.  Assume, per the aforementioned, that one plastic bag costs $1.00.  A family that purchased 10 bags each week would see an annual increase of $480.00 in their grocery bill.  While that’s definitely the most anyone should ever pay for a synthetic, it is certainly not a break-the-bank kind of figure; not to mention that the tax is not compulsory.  It really is an extra $500 in the shoppers’ pockets — all they have to do is remember their cloth bags.  I say that only the absentminded will be punished (though I may have just backed myself into a corner there).

I, for one, would not be sad to bid farewell to plastic bags.  Recently, I spent the majority of my visit to a local park fishing them out of the ponds.  On top of that, since when have radical, political movements not seen disapproval?  When the United Kingdom set about establishing their Welfare State, a social net program made for the good of the whole, they were met with negativity.  Bottom line: the reduction of waste will bring residual benefits for our planet’s inhabitants, and save us money besides.

(Reminder: Please refer to my first paragraph whenever you see me eat take-out.)

Links,22049,23342669-5005941,00.html (Daily Telegraph Article)

Further Reading: (Washington Post Editorial)

  1. keito permalink*
    February 10, 2009 1:15 pm

    I have reusable bags from a grocery store, and I think they’re great–they don’t just cut down on all the plastic bags that pile up in my home but the cloth handles make it a LOT easier to carry heavy items, especially if I just want to walk to a store (I think we’ve all experienced the plastic bag handle cutting into one of our hands while carrying milk). I don’t know why someone didn’t think of mass-marketing reusable bags sooner!

  2. Julienne permalink
    February 24, 2009 2:11 pm

    Replace milk with 5 soup cans, and I know exactly how you feel…

  3. Julienne permalink
    July 10, 2009 12:48 am

    While in Berlin last month, I saw these bags for sale at the Deutsche Guggenheim. How exciting!

  4. Julienne permalink
    December 30, 2009 9:25 am

    Washington, DC will institute a plastic bag tax. Here’s an editorial from the Washington Post:

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