Elevate Blog: (Reusable) Bag Lady

March 25, 2019

By Wendy Royalty

Even before we moved to Seattle, I brought reusable bags with me (almost) every time I went to the grocery store…. Giant, Safeway, Whole Foods, Mom’s, and Trader Joes (where all the cool kids bring their own bags)…you name the store, I had the bags. I’ve long been bothered by the countless plastic bags leaving the stores (except TJ’s).  SO MANY plastic bags used for groceries. And not much put in to each bag, either.

I remember seeing baggers put things that are sold in bags, in a bag. Things with carrying handles, meant to be carried by the handle, were put in plastic bags. Larger items with carrying handles were double bagged.  What do people do with these bags? You can only use so many trash liners.

I was taught to reduce, reuse, recycle-in that order. So I’ve been doing my part, as an individual, to reduce plastic bag usage.  I know I’m not the only one. But I do wish people would use them less.  A lot less.  In fact, if I had been fortunate enough to be elected to Howard County Council (some of you may remember that I ran in D1), my first initiative would have been to reduce or eliminate plastic bags in HoCo.

So for all these years I’ve gone about toting reusable bags and rejecting the plastic ones.  No law required me to do it. The reason I did it, is because plastic bags are terrible for the environment. Just one story about a turtle eating a plastic bag, unable to digest it, never eating again, dying a slow death, and I was done.

When we moved to Seattle, I didn’t have to worry about plastic bags anymore. They are outlawed. Effective July 1, 2012, the city of Seattle summarily stopped the use of nearly 300 million plastic bags per year.  The options are:  bring your own bag, carry your goods in your arms, cart them to the car, or pay 5 cents for a paper bag. The paper bags are made of 40% recycled paper. The only complaints I hear in the grocery store line are when someone realizes they forgot their bags. But it rarely happens. We’re in the habit now.

I’ve been following @scotteblog who has been writing in opposition to the enabling legislation that would allow Howard County to collect a tax on plastic bags. I see his point. It’s frustrating to see incremental steps instead of an all out ban. Also, why not charge a nickel for paper bags and outlaw plastic? Or even better, be like Trader Joe’s and give your customers brown paper if they forget their reusables.

I’m hopeful that by the time we return from our Pacific Northwest adventure, we won’t have plastic bags as a choice.

Wendy can be reached at @WendyRoyalty1

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