The Cat’s Out of the Bag

Written by Diane Smith

Now paper bags are more than just a source of amusement for anyone with a kitten. In San Luis Obispo County, California, they’ve become law. In anticipation of the Plastic Bag Ban, effective October 1, 2012, most merchants posted little yellow notices alerting shoppers to this new policy.

Some stores have tried to lessen the pain for those die-hard plastic baggers. Here on the Central Coast, the local Walmart gave away little blue recycled bags the week before. Target reportedly did the same, while also offering a five-cent discount per reusable bag brought in by shoppers. Of course, Trader Joe’s customers are used to the idea, with many already in the habit of bringing their own bags or using the paper bags provided at check-out.

Most shoppers come prepared with their stack of reusable bags. Some are willing to buy the 10-cent paper bags available at the registers. It’s not uncommon to see people unload their unbagged items directly from the shopping cart to the trunks of their cars. Owners of vehicles without trunks often travel with a cardboard box for items they want to contain, such as glass bottles and other breakables. Small towels tucked in between make good cushions for the trip home.

One particularly inventive—and unabashed—shopper brought a small red wagon into the store. The image of him driving home, lifting the wagon out of his vehicle and wheeling it into the house is inspiring. No bags, no shopping cart, no transfer of goods from cart to car. It could be a family affair; maybe he has an entrepreneurial child who rents him the wagon for a nominal fee.

The new law has only a few folks grumbling about the inconvenience. For instance, there are those who forget their bags in the car or haven’t quite gotten the hang of judging the number of bags they’ll need per shopping trip. An easy remedy is not bagging larger items, like detergent, cartons of milk and multi-pack toilet paper. In many cases, quick stops for one or two items don’t require the use of a bag at all. One exception: it is still illegal to carry liquor out of a store without a bag.

All in all, it seems everyone is adjusting nicely to the plastic bag ban. Everyone except the plastic bag manufacturers, who are doing more than grumbling. Some have even begun filing lawsuits. It’s not like they didn’t see it coming. Non-biodegradable plastic bags have been littering our highways and plugging up water drains for a long time. Not to mention the harmful effects when ingested by animals. Plastic bag makers might do well to turn to another product, preferably one that doesn’t require petroleum to produce it.

A few ideas come to mind for those companies in search of a new market. How about biodegradable bags for those of us who need to pick up after our dogs during our daily walks? And while we’ve done a lot to reduce our weekly garbage, such as recycling and precycling (buying goods with less packaging) , we’ll still need something to use as trash can liners both inside the house and out at the curb.

It’s great to see people on board with eco-wise efforts like curtailing the use of plastic bags in favor of canvas and paper. As for our cats, they’ll just have to be happy playing with a ball of yarn.

About the author

Diane Smith

Diane Smith credits the turmoil of the '60s and hormones with curing a childhood shyness, the only residual being some embarrassing poetry. In addition to having fostered a lifelong free-floating anxiety, she raised various children and animals, while working as a teacher. She has published several articles and won first place in short story in the 2011 Lillian Dean Writing Competition.

Diane is married, with grown kids who are currently spread out over the three states that make up the west coast, naturally causing her some concern. After a long career in education, she retired to the Central Coast to continue writing. Her fervent wish is not to float away when an earthquake causes California to break off from the rest of the country. After all, she has her poodle to think about.