Paper or Plastic?

When I was growing up, it was easy to go to the grocery store. Aside from which kind of steak you should buy or whether you should buy whole tomatoes or stewed tomatoes, there were no decisions to be made.

Even as a young adult, I still walked up to the checkout stand where the cashier manually pressed the price of the item into the cash register, which then totaled up my groceries at the end. While he or she was doing that, there was a pimply high school student putting my groceries into a paper bag. By the way, the bag had no handles. You simply grabbed the sack from the bottom and hoped it would hold. If the wet lettuce had gone in first, there might be a problem.

And then, in the early 80s, plastic grocery bags came on the scene, and grocery shopping as we knew it changed forever. At first they seemed like a miracle — sturdy, with handles that could fit around your wrists and hold a lot of grocery items. But then we all became concerned about what plastic grocery bags were doing to the environment. We sipped our water out of plastic throwaway bottles and wondered if we were ruining the oceans with our Walmart bags. Grocery stores didn’t help, because they began putting fewer and fewer items in each bag. Fewer items were necessitated by the increasingly flimsy bags. Grocery shoppers would buy five items and have three bags to carry.

We were then faced with that crucial question: paper or plastic? Paper killed trees; plastic killed ducks and porpoises. Plastic apparently won, because as of late, if you shop at the big grocery stores — Kroger, Safeway, Target, Walmart — there are pert near no paper bags to be found. It’s plastic all the way.

At least until recently, when a new question is being posed: reusable bags or plastic bags for which you must pay? Starting July 1, if shopping within the boundaries of the City and County of Denver, we must bring our own bag or pay for a plastic bag. Whaaaaat?

I really was up in arms about this new ordinance. I generally bring my own bags to the store, but I often forget because I’ve run out of the house quickly. I also often forget my grocery list and have to walk up and down the aisle and guess what I need. I’m nearly always unsuccessful.

Anyhoo, I was ranting wildly to my husband about the new requirement to pay for plastic bags. After I settled down, he — in his typical manner — gently reminded me that each bag was 10 cents. One thin dime. If I needed to use four plastic bags, it would only be 40 cents. I spend almost $100 on groceries every time I go, so 40 cents would simply be a little tiny drop in the proverbial bucket.

I had settled down until I then heard that the Colorado legislature had passed — and the governor had signed — legislation that will ban the use of plastic bags. BAN. That means my dime won’t buy me a bag. In the case of forgetting to bring my reusable bag, I will have to buy another reusable bag. Maybe two or three. In three months, I am liable to have to add a room onto my house to hold my reusable bags. Shall we have our morning coffee in the kitchen or the Reusable Bag Room?

This law, my friends, doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2024. I have three years to prepare. Living in Denver, I will have an edge up on my non-Denver friends and family members who will go into it stone cold. Maybe I will invite them to tea in my Reusable Bag Room and send them home with party favors.

2 thoughts on “Paper or Plastic?

  1. I thought I was the only one ranting about this! Wait until we hear from the organic people about how filthy dirty our reusable bags are and that we need to wash them after every use, or the meat/chicken bag can’t be used for produce, or
    bakery items.

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