Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's All in the Bag

Last week I went into a 7-11 for coffee one morning on my way to work. I picked up something else (probably a doughnut and a Diet Mountain Dew and potato chips for lunch), and after paying by credit card, the clerk left my things laying on the counter. "May I have a bag?" I asked, politely but somewhat dismayed that she did not package my purchase. "That'll be five cents," said the Middle Eastern woman behind the counter. "Five cents?" I asked. She nodded yes and punched it into the computer. Remembering that I was in the People's Republic of Maryland, I sighed and dug around in my pockets and change purse until I found 5 pennies, thus holding up the 30 Hispanic workers waiting to pay for their coffee, gallons of water and chips that would be their lunches in a few hours.

Plastic bags have become a symbol of "excess" in some parts of America. Everywhere you turn they are being targeted by "green groups" that want to ban them from existence. It is such a ridiculous proposition to suggest that plastic bags will be the demise of our world. But that is what some people who need to feel self important try to make us believe.

I can understand situations like the frugal shoppers' grocery store chain in my hometown that tries to keep down overhead costs so as to keep down grocery prices. They charge for plastic bags -- 3 cents -- to encourage you to bring your own. If they do not have to buy them then they do not have to pass down the cost to the customer. That's capitalism at work. If you don't want to bring your own bags, you can either go down the street to the big-name store and they will provide them (and you will pay more anyway) or you can roll the cart out to your car and unload your items loose into the trunk, backseat, floorboard, and glove box. I usually sprang for the bags. But at least I had a choice.

In my house we use a lot of plastic bags. I carry my lunch to work almost every day in one, as a substitute for my childhood Starsky and Hutch lunchbox. I use them to pad packages that I pack. I cut them up to line my coconut lined flower baskets to retain water. I use them to dispose of old food from my refrigerator (not that my family doesn't like my cooking or anything). I use them to line my trash cans in the bathroom and bedrooms to make disposal easier. In fact, I have them stored in cupboards and drawers all over the house.

 Now, normally I am not often impressed by nor supportive of lawsuits filed by "activists," whatever the cause. I think tort reform and the British system (loser pays) would go a long way toward weeding out some of these kooks who file suit at the drop of a hat based on "vibes" they get from a rotten banana or some other transcendental object.

However, when I came across the website called "Save the Plastic Bag" I was intrigued, in part because of the fee we now have to pay to get a plastic bag at the grocery store in these parts. I explored the website and was intrigued by the extent of their legal acumen and what they have accomplished. The folks in this reality website are in the liberal bastion of California. They have filed a number of lawsuits against municipalities for banning plastic bags. They sometimes charge that the government failed to do the proper environmental research to support their assertions that the plastic bag is harmful. They even debunk some of the myths about plastic bags killing turtles and seals and other water creatures by showing how the same photos are reused all across the Internet. Their research and  legal tactics are nothing short of brilliant. I love it when sane people put environmentalist wackos in their place.

Now, before you think that I am a plastic bag freak, I also have sympathy for ChicoBag. This company was sued on the east coast by a plastic bag company, proving that there are litigious people on the east coast as well as the west. You can read about this crazy lawsuit on the ChicoBag website. They make reuseable bags, the kind which I use frequently to haul my groceries. It's not an environmental protection issue, but rather a matter of convenience. If I can make one trip to my car instead of three, I am all for it!

And now I have to go get a plastic bag to take the dogs for a walk.

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