Plastic bag bans

I was informed today at the tiny local grocery where I buy most of my produce, eggs, and dairy that starting next week the city of Tlapa (in rural Mexico) will require stores to charge for bags and we need to bring our own. Unlike in many places in the States, the minimal charge per bag will be cost prohibitive for most people, and I expect everyone will bring their own. Most people already own multiple reusable bags because if you go to the open air market, most vendors don’t offer bags.

I had just read this article last week about how plastic bag bans are affecting US cities, and not in the eco-friendly way everyone hoped. Granted, the studies they talk about are only looking at carbon footprints, not trash, and trash is a huge problem here. But I resonated with this line:

Stop depressing me. What should we do?

I’m all for being a good global citizen, but why does everything have to be so complicated?

How about in your town? Have they banned bags? Charge for them? Do many people use reusable ones?


Austin and several other Texas cities had banned single use plastic bags, but a state court case overturned the bans, so they are no longer enforced. It was a pain as one store in a neighboring suburb furnished bags, then a few blocks over in the other jurisdiction no bags were furnished. We actually carry reusable bags around in the car, but sadly forget to carry them in the grocery store much of the time.

Interesting article, and I would agree with the unintended effects as we often repurpose plastic bags, as well as save them for recycling. I suspect reuse in low income areas is important also. The stats on how much you have to use a cloth bag to make it environmentally better were interesting. Being a good steward of the earth can get complicated.

When we are in the States we keep reusable bags in the trunk, but it is harder to remember here in a pedestrian society.

I used to shop at Aldi a lot, and they have always charged for bags and had people bag their own groceries, so I would just put a sturdy laundry basket in my cart and then refill it at checkout and pop it in my trunk. It was so much easier to deal with than a bunch of reusable bags. Laundry baskets would be my preferred solution in any context where grocery carts and cars are involved.

We live in Cambridge, MA, and our law (plastic bags banned, all bags must cost $0.10) went in effect a couple years ago. I do the shopping, by bike, and have always brought my own bags even before the law, but we did notice that we have to buy more plastic trash bags. So our total plastic bag use has probably only dropped by 25% or so, mostly because we changed our behavior a bit. But then last year the city started curbside composting, and so our trash volume has dropped a bit, with less plastic bag use. I am glad to see the wispy plastic grocery bags disappearing, given their potential for harm to marine life, but it does seem that the environmental footprint of paper bags is a lousy trade.

We’re now working on reducing plastic overall, which is challenging given our reliance on Trader Joe’s, but we have some plans afoot, including an upcoming experiment in yogurt-making.

Probably only shopping for two old people just doesn’t require as many bags. In Berkeley you do have to buy bags if you don’t bring them and paper is the only kind you can purchase apart from reusable bags. When it first started we bought so many reusable bags before we finally remembered to put them back in the car. The city also imposed a tax on sweetened drinks in 2014 that is credited with decreasing consumption, though how they know people don’t just stock up down the road a mile or two I don’t know. Soon we’re either going to have to use biodegradable straws or perhaps pay another tax. Living in a college town makes us a canary in the mine. You’d be surprised how generous young people can be.

Heck, it wasn’t too long ago we had to go to a ton of meetings to avoid a creeks ordinance which would have prevented people from building or repairing structures on their property if the structure lay within 30 feet of the center of the creek. We actually do have a year round creek on our northern border. Fortunately they defined a creek so liberally that a huge number of properties were included. Otherwise homeowners would not be able to insure, repair or sell their property. Honestly there was even talk of allowing creeks meander naturally. Guys, this isn’t Yosemite valley.

I have an instant pot and it makes great yogurt. Then I strain it a few hours with a coffee filter to make Greek yogurt. Homemade yogurt is the best!


I have an electric pressure cooker (off brand) and it doesn’t have a yogurt setting and I’m despondent. But I’m thinking about buying a strainer, they’re pretty cheap.

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In New Mexico, we don’t throw away plastic bags. We toss them in the air and watch the wind blow them into Texas.

The view in Lubbock. Sure that bag is in there somewhere, Jay.


Not sure I understand this adjective “reusable.” Most are reusable, and the real tragedy is that people are simply throwing them away. I do not. I use them for so many things more than cloth bags can be used for. And I don’t see the advantage of cloth bags anyway. What do you do, pretend that the cloth bags are not getting just as dirty as plastic bags do?

The article calls the thin plastic grocery bags “single use.” Then they acknowledge that many people would reuse single use bags for pet clean up or lining trash bags, but the idea is they were not designed to be used multiple times for shopping.

You can wash cloth and polyester bags. Admittedly they are only useful for shopping, not for lining garbage cans or picking up dog doo.

Net style bags seem good, and can squish down and be stuffed in a pocket, but very bad for picking up after dogs.

Nets are mentioned in the Bible, too.

Thankfully I still get the NYT in a plastic bag rain or shine for cleaning up after the pooches. I am sure not interested in reusable poop bags.

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Okay - maybe the air in Lubbock gets hazy now and again. But I’m scandalized by how clean the dash of your vehicle is. That’s a vehicle that doesn’t belong to a parent of kids with sticky fingers or people who engage in vehicular projectile snacking!

Regarding interesting conversation over reusable bags … we had an elderly lady (now deceased) who would create tough nylon bags for shopping and general re-usability purposes. She was affectionately called “the last bag lady” [think about it]. I think she’s still defiantly thumbing her nose from the grave at all this disposability culture, whatever research seems to show. And it appears that the research may not have taken into account the true total cost of disposable culture with regard to eventual clean-up needs.

Still it is good to have reality checks on our “oh-let’s just make the easy shift over from habit A to habit B and then rest easy” attitude to problems that realistically demand much more for any effective mitigation.

I remember reading an article about how there tended to be an uptick in foodborne diseases in some places after banning plastic bags, which makes sense. Some of them are difficult to wash – I try to wipe mine out with a clorox wipe every now and then and hope that’s good enough.

The thing I dislike the most about these policies (and about many well-meaning environmental policies) is that the people who tend to be affected the worst are those who can least afford it – those in poverty, people who can’t afford cars, people with large families for whom a bag fee will actually make a difference, etc. But at the same time, I do support environmentally friendly policies and I know sometimes we people need a kick in the pants to get us going.

At least plastic straws are generally easier to get by without. :stuck_out_tongue:


Forget where I first saw this … even if it was here, it bears re-posting…



Here in Belgium, or at least in my local stores. We use reusable bags made of a thick kind of plastic.
They are about 50 cents each and we have a closet full of them. So whenever we go shopping we bring our own. I’m not very sure what they have banned here however. I think plastic straws and perhaps thin one- use plastic bags as well but take this with a pinch of salt!


I heard that in parts of Europe, manufacturers are taxed on the front end for the disposal costs of the packaging they use. So there is economic incentive to minimize excess packaging. That is not the case here, and often packaging waste is ridiculous because it becomes part of the marketing strategy to have things look bigger and more colorful. I wish the US would focus on that too.

Also one thing we do here in Mexico is we still use refillable glass soda bottles (and real cane sugar :wink: ) and now they even have returnable refillable 2 liter bottles. Everyone uses refillable 20 liter drinking water bottles (LOL because you can’t drink the tap water) instead of single serving water bottles.


You must have some serious biceps, drinking water from a 20 L bottle!


Getting them up into the tippy things everyone stores them in is no joke. I’ve been bailing on it since my back surgery, so my biceps have withered.

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