Saturday, February 21, 2009

Plastic, Paper Or Cloth?

Terlingua Springs Market does it right. Photo by Trevor Reichman

I wish I could say that this is my only pet peeve; but, I have quite a few of them. You'll probably get to know all of them if you stick around long enough. Enough about me - on with "Plastic, Paper, or Cloth?"

Many cashiers automatically start putting your purchases into a plastic bag before you have even finished unpacking your groceries; let alone had the chance to say, “I have brought my own bags.”

Of course, they obligingly take the few items they have managed to get into that plastic bag out and put them into your cloth bag; but, then they throw out the plastic bag they have just emptied.

Why would they do this? Many stores have rules which don’t allow a cashier to reuse a plastic bag once it has been “contaminated” with another customer’s item(s).

What pernicious disease could I possibly have that has erupted from the time I picked up that item (and several others) compared them, put my choice in my shopping basket and returned the others to the shelf? How does the cashier know that I have not contaminated the other items I considered, picked up, rejected and returned. Why are other customers not being protected from these packages?

Tips and tricks to get your cloth bag in the cashier’s hand before she gets your first item in a plastic bag:

1) I send my bags through the checkout first. Then when the cashier gives me that puzzled look, I have a chance to explain that I would prefer not to use plastic and could she use my cloth bags instead.

2) Use the self-check out lane and bag your own items. You will be unable (in Canada anyway) to use your own bag right away as the weight of your bag on the scale would prevent it from working. You would have to pay them for them first, remove them from the scale and then put them in your own bag.

3) Sometimes I don’t bag them at all. If I’m only picking up a few items, I just drop them in my cart (naked) and flaunt them as I leave the store.

4) Shop at stores which have either banned plastic bags entirely; or, at least require their cashiers to ask “paper or plastic”. That gives you the opportunity to present your bags and reply “Cloth, thanks.” I have to wonder why the question can't be changed to "plastic, paper or cloth?" Surely, it can't be that difficult to implement.

5) Shop at smaller, locally owned stores or markets, where everyone knows who you are and asking for plastic is enough to have you banned for life.

6) Speak and/or write to store managers, city officials, anyone who might help with the fight to eradicate the use of plastic bags.

7) Spread the word about the success San Francisco and China are having with their war on plastic bags.

I feel much better now. Thanks for listening.

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