Cities Banning Single-Use Shopping Bags

by Tammy Taylor

Many cities around the United States are trying to ban plastic single-use shopping bags.  These bags are a constant source of litter, costing cities heavily from their already-restricted budget to clean up all those bags that easily blow through the city streets and into the storm drains, into our lakes and high up in the trees.  I’ve had to hurry into my pasture and remove a half-eaten shopping bag from a cow’s mouth as she was struggling to swallow it, thank goodness I got to her in time. Sadly it’s the carelessness of some people with this kind of litter that affects all of us.  Three cities in Texas have already banned these bags and now Dallas is considering the ban as well.  Although there are some that oppose the ban, I for one applaud their decision.  I developed a hate relationship with these awful plastic ‘kites’ many years ago, opting instead to bring my own easy-to-carry bags to the store with me.  I’ve never experienced a problem with clerks not being able to place my purchase into my own bag and I’m often told by those clerks what a great idea it is.

Cities Everywhere Are Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags.  See My Helpful Tips On Getting By Without Them.  #TaylorMadeRanch

It was a step-by-step change for me though.  I began to see the negative environmental impact of plastic shopping bags some 10 years ago. As a result if I only purchased one or two things I would tell the clerk not to bag my purchase, I’d simply carry it out with me.  I was always surprised when the clerk would exclaim “Are you SURE??”  Wow, it’s like I couldn’t carry this one thing with my own two hands without it being enclosed in another plastic bag!  Soon I began bringing my own sturdy bag when I went on smaller shopping trips, often sacking my own groceries on small trips with the few reusable bags I brought.  Of course this was before bringing your own bags was fashionable and I got some strange looks, but it was an issue that mattered to me so I continued on.

But back in those days on larger grocery shopping trips I stayed silent & allowed them to encase my groceries into their single-use plastic bags.  I guess I was just too embarrassed to ask them to use my bags for more than a couple of bags worth of groceries.  (yeah I know, I’m really ashamed to admit that!) Thankfully now it’s actually fashionable to use reusable shopping bags so other than occasional times when I don’t catch the clerk in time, I haven’t brought a plastic shopping bag home in over 5 years now.  (On that note, It kills me when I catch the clerk just as they pull the bag off the holder and tell them I don’t want a bag, so they remove my item and wad the plastic bag and throw it away.  REALLY??)

Some people complain that since they practice the environmentally-responsible task of repurposing single-use shopping bags, so if cities banned them it would mean they’ll have to buy trash bags for their small bathroom trash cans.  I’m here to tell you that you don’t!  My household kitchen trash can is the same size as a small bathroom-sized one that fits small plastic shopping bags as well.  But what surprises me is that even though I don’t bring home shopping bags there are STILL plenty of plastic bags that come into my home for me to use for that purpose.  I now watch for other things to use such as the plastic wrapping carefully removed from a large family-pack of toilet paper or a plastic bag that once held a family-size cereal purchase.   Take a look around, I’ll bet there are plenty of OTHER plastic bags that already come into your home to use in ways you were trying to re-purpose those plastic shopping bags.  Put on your thinking caps and I’m sure you’ll find lots of options and feel mighty proud of yourself for your creativity and environmental care.  Remember “REDUCE” comes before reuse or recycle.

~TMR~

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50 thoughts on “Cities Banning Single-Use Shopping Bags

  1. Candy C.

    Remember when the stores actually paid you 5-cents each for using your own bags? I try to take my bags when I go shopping but do forget occasionally. I do re-use plastic bags at the Farmer’s Market to put customers’ purchases in when they don’t have their own bag and I take excess bags back to the store for recycling too. I agree about the plastic bags being a blight on the environment too. Which reminds me, there is one tangled up on the east side of the pasture fence I need to pick up. (sigh)

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      When I brought them home from the store I always tried to reuse them or at least recycle them as well Candy. But I’ve found that now that I don’t bring them home I don’t miss not having them, and I’m so surprised at the amount of plastic that still comes into our home. It’s became almost a competition with myself to see how much I can eliminate. LOL Good for you for reusing them at the Farmer’s Market. ~TMR~

      Reply
  2. raisingcropsandbabies

    I use fabric bags and don’t miss plastic ones at all either. The key to not forgetting them is to weave the one that holds the others in your purse strap after unloading your groceries inside, then keep them in your vehicle. The trash can in the bathroom doesn’t have a bag in it, which means we just have to dump that trash into the kitchen bag when it’s time to take it out. I just rinse out the trash can every now and then (focus on “then”). Since switching to cloth pads and composting (I would love to start recycling vs. burning our trash), we don’t seem to accumulate much trash anyway. This is the tutorial I used to make my grocery bags (I just took a bunch of old fabric I didn’t love and used that): http://www.skiptomylou.org/2009/07/17/how-to-make-a-simple-reversible-totebag/ . I enlarged the bags to 18×20 for a lot of them.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Thankfully we have a recycling facility about 30 miles from us in a town we have to frequent relatively often for business, so we accumulate our recyclables in paper feed sacks and take it when we head into that town. I had to research to find a place that took recycling but I’m glad that I have this option for glass/milk jugs/paper. Most black/white paper I compost since we don’t have much coming in, but I don’t like to compost the shiny colored paper. ~TMR~

      Reply
  3. Gail @ BibleLoveNotes.com

    We lived in Europe for awhile, and most stores charge the equivalent of 10-20 cents for plastic bags. So most folks carry their own shopping bags to avoid this minimal cost. Of course, Europeans have never had as much plastic as we have, and for many years went to the open air markets with their baskets in hand. I actually enjoy bringing my own bags, and our local Whole Foods now allows us to donate the bag cost to charity.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I loved Whole Foods when we had one close to us before moving out here – primarily for the fact that I could buy in bulk with less packaging waste and on occasions even bring my own containers (although I realize that’s an accounting nightmare for them) I love that you can donate the bag cost to charity. I think the reason plastic bags are such a litter problem is because they have no value. The clerks at retail stores often hand them out like Pez, double-bagging single items, etc. and there’s no extra expense to the consumer so they take them and then try to figure out what to do with the growing mountain of bags. Add a nominal expense for each bag and I’m sure you’d see a very drastic reduction in the numbers of these bags going out. ~TMR~

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  4. Ashley

    Instead of being banned, here they just charge you 5 cents per bag! I’m trying to get into the habit of bringing my own reusable ones, and I’m getting better but sometimes I do forget. I do find the plastic ones handy for little garbage cans like under the sink and in the bathroom, though.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I’m hearing of many cities charging a small fee for them as well Ashley. Maybe that’s the best of both worlds? I think there will be many fewer bags for single-item purchases or double-bagged items if the consumer has to pay for them. And at only .05 per bag I’m guessing it’s probably still less expensive than small purchased trash bags? Thanks for your comment. ~TMR~

      Reply
  5. Meghan

    I admittedly love getting plastic bags, they are perfect for our dog poo bucket that gets changed weekly (2x if we have a foster); as well as a toddler in disposable diapers part time and my caged chinchilla’s cage cleanings and litter… they are a perfect evil for me. There are several stores that either dont have or charge for bags and I love being able to use my basket and cloth bags! When the day comes that no stores have them, I’m not sure what we’ll do, probably buy them in bulk.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Meghan, not knowing the size requirements involved this may not be helpful, but I’ve heard of individual pet pickups being done with other plastic bags that previously contained such things as bread, tortillas, carrots, newspapers and the like. Or perhaps the bags from larger family-sized items like cereal and TP for larger needs? Maybe even non-food item plastic wrapping that always seems come with some household items? Maybe there’s an appropriate-sized bag already floating around the house somewhere that will fit some of your needs. Just a thought. ~TMR~

      Reply
  6. Jackie

    Hi, Tammy, I sure agree with you about plastic bags! Was wondering, is it possible to receive your posts via email? The subscribe button is probably right in front of me but I just don’t see it! Thanks, Jackie.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Jackie – we have a button in the follow-us section that reads: “Follow Us By Email”. If you click that button you’ll be able to enter your email address. Thanks. ~TMR~

      Reply
  7. Megin

    Great post; I agree. I hate plastic bags ~ they are worthless. I’m visiting today from DIY Mom. I hope you get the chance to visit my blog, linkup and leave a comment, too! ~ Megin of VMG206 Join me each Tuesday for Brag About It Link Party and Saturday at 5pm Central for DIY Showcase Link Party

    Reply
  8. Susan

    Last October, our county banned single-use plastic bags at almost all stores (including grocery, clothing, electronics, drug, hardware, big box, etc.) Only the tiniest stores can give out free bags. Even paper bags can not be given out for free, but can be sold for $.10 each. There’s definitely a learning curve. We keep cloth bags in all the cars so we won’t forget, but we still sometimes get half-way through our shopping and realize we’ve left thebags in the car. Depending on the quantity of items, we either send someone back to grab them or we just carry out our items by hand. In the early days of the change, you would often see people leaving stores carrying 10 – 12 items out by hand–we were all learning together. It doesn’t take long to adapt, though. I think now it would seem strange to be given a bag for just one item.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Interesting Susan. I would think there would be a learning curve as people figure out the new system. I have a shopping bag that several other other shopping bags are folded and placed in, I keep it in my back seat (we no longer have children at home that would typically be riding back there) I also have a single larger shopping bag rolled into a little plastic sleeve that I keep just under my passenger seat. When I get to the store if it’s a quicker shopping trip I’ll just reach under my seat and grab that one automatically. ~TMR~

      Reply
  9. labbie1

    Well written thoughtful item. I just bounced over from Frugal Day, Sustainable Ways. We live and travel full time in an RV and I usually use my reusable bags, but from time to time I want the plastic bags since we have dogs and must pick up after them. Those bags just work so well–especially since one of our dogs is a 160 lb newf mix. :)

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Labbie1, I wonder if other plastic bags from products you’re already buying might work just as well? The handles do make convenient ties, I’ll agree, and with a large dog you’d need a good-sized bag. From what I understand the bags will probably still be given out for a very nominal fee, probably cheaper than buying a plastic bag specifically designed for pet pickup? Hummm… Lots to think about – thanks for your comment. ~TMR~

      Reply
  10. Helene

    I walk back and forth to the supermarket and another disadvantage of plastic bags comes immediately to my mind-plastic bags hurt your fingers! The cloth ones that you can sling over a shoulder are much more convenient when you need to walk and multi-purpose wonderfully for other kinds of shopping like the mall.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      That’s a really good point Helene. When we lived in the city my hubbie and I would walk to the store as part of our exercise routine. We figured we’re walking around the block, might as well pick up some bread or fruit while we’re out and about. The cloth bags were invaluable for that. Thanks for your comment. ~TMR~

      Reply
  11. Katharina

    You’re so right!!! It should even be REFUSE, reduce, reuse, recycle. And sadly, the first seems to be considered almost un-American by some! We opt out, no thank you, yes we’re sure! In Germany they charge for plastic shopping bags, and it’s hefty, like $.50 or something. Of course the bags you get are at least heavy and sturdy plastic (which encourages reusing), but since the price is so steep, it’s motivational to bring your own bags. People make changes only when they’re motivated and sometimes they need to be provided with that motivation (because a degrading environment and climate isn’t enough…)

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Katharina – “Refuse” should absolutely be first, especially when it’s something you don’t really need or even want in the first place. All it takes is a little different thought process, but it’s easy. I agree with a small charge being made for each bag that goes out. If someone NEEDS a bag or they want it for reuse somewhere they would be willing to pay a small fee. But as you mentioned it would certainly start that needed thought process on whether or not they really want it in the first place. ~TMR~

      Reply
  12. Barb @ A Life in Balance

    Like you, I would often refuse the plastic bag and just tuck the small item into my purse. In the last 6 months, I’ve gotten better about bringing my cloth bags into stores and using them. I also got rid of the reusable bags which are made from plastic. They’re almost as bad as the plastic ones. Thanks for linking up at Fabulously Frugal Thursday!

    Reply
  13. Sue

    Keep medium size tubs in car have clerk put your groceries back in cart and put them in tubs once you get to your car. we do this at several stores. the tubs are easy to carry in and always in car, good for other things , wet plants, things you don’t want rolling around, camping supplies the list is endless.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I hadn’t even thought about tubs, Sue – what a great idea. Thanks for weighing in. ~TMR~

      Reply
  14. Gretchen

    Great Post – we lived in France for 6 months and they don’t use bags. People would often just load the food into carts and load it into their car or into bins. Great point about finding other bags!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Thanks Gretchen, I think it’s just a habit you get into, then it’s second nature. ~TMR~

      Reply
  15. Mary@Back to the Basics!

    Our local farmer’s market actually gives you a re-useable bag (which I continue to bring back every week for produce) Plastic bags are definitely not a necessity. I finally made it back from my trip so my comments are late… Thanks for sharing at Tuesdays with a Twist! Looking forward to seeing what you share this week! http://back2basichealth.blogspot.com/2013/06/tuesdays-with-twist-12-with-more-guests.html

    Reply
  16. Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    Excellent post! We need to do everything we can to reduce waste wherever we can! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures Thank you for sharing this post at last week’s Tuesdays with a Twist party! ‘Can’t wait to see what everyone links this week!

    Reply
  17. Carol J. Alexander

    I can never remember my re-usable bags. But I will grab boxes out of the box bin before I head to the checkout. I still get funny looks. :/ Thank you for linking to the HomeAcre Hop. I hope to see you back this week: http://everythinghomewithcarol.com/the-self-sufficient-homeacre-hop-5/

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Carol, I keep mine in the back seat of the car and for some reason it’s natural for me to pull up to the grocery store parking lot & reach in the back to retrieve my bags – I’ve never forgotten them. Maybe move them to the front seat when you head to the store as a visual reminder? ~TMR~

      Reply
  18. Andrea

    Great article! I am impressed that you were so forward thinking 10 years ago. Great job!! I just started using reuseable bags about 2 years ago. They are so much more convenient, sturdy and they hold many more groceries than plastic sacks (fewer trips to the car to retrieve bags is a plus!). Like many, I also use the plastic bags as bathroom trash liners, and I have never thought about trying to use other plastic bags instead. What a great idea! We will start doing that. Thanks for sharing this on Natural Living Monday!

    Reply
  19. Milessa

    22 years ago when we where station in Germany you had to bring your own bag / basket or buy paper bags when shopping on the economy. Even on post they pushed reuseable bags. Loved it came back to the states with my cool German bags. Every store I brought them in looked at me like I was crazy and even said things. So I caved and used their platic for the next 15 years. 5 years ago I said no use my bags/baskets/or no bags please. I have had greaters that check your receipt say “you know it would make it so much easier for me to check your purchase if you would let them just put your stuff in plastic. “. I have had baggers plastic bag items into my cloth bags. Told my bags don’t stay open. So I put cardboard in the bottom of all mine. Told my bags don’t stay or fit on their bagging tray. Have had 3 items put In my bags so they can plastic bag everything else. Told that my cloth sewed together bag is not as strong as when they triple bag my canned items. Big items that have handles on them needs to be bagged so you can carry them. Last but not least the dirt on the bottom will get your bag dirty or your trunk if I don’t bag at all. I know it’s mean but I have even took my bags to clothing stores to use. Now that is so much fun to watch the cashier and my children’s reaction to the reaction of the cashier. Baby steps.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      YOU GO GIRL!!!! It’s the principle of the thing – I’ve told them to REMOVE my items from a plastic bag & place into my reusable bags as I requested in the first place only to have them remove the item and throw the plastic bag away – kinda defeats the purpose. But I’m vigilant and refuse to accept plastic bags. I placate the clerks by doing my own bagging when they let me. I’ve never had one tell me it was more difficult to use my own bags and as I said, nowadays they don’t even look at me funny – they just allow me to bag my purchases and more times than not give me a credit for each bag I brought & used. I use my reusable bags for all shopping: grocery, clothes, crafts, and even at garage sales. Keep up the good work! ~TMR~

      Reply
  20. Steph @ My Country Haven

    Stopping by to say “hello” from the Homestead Blog Hop! Loving your blog, I’m now following you via email & Facebook!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Well Howdy Steph, so glad you stopped by. I’ll be sure to stop by your diggs as well! ~TMR~

      Reply
  21. Donna

    I’ve been wanting to make the change from plastic to cloth and your post just gave me the push I needed – I am a bag aholic anyway – I have plenty – so I will start using them. Thanks….love your posts!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Donna, one of the very first things that made me stop accepting bags is that I joked to the clerks that those plastic bags must “reproduce in the middle of the night when no one is looking”! LOL I had a handy storage thing to keep them corralled for a while but was quickly overrun with them. Then I got to noticing how many bags go out with your purchases, almost like the clerks were being paid based on how many bags went out the door. Some bags had only a few items in them and many bags were doubled. And purchases that already came with a handy carrying handle like olive oil were still bagged so you’d have another carrying handle I guess. I started noticing how absurd the whole thing was for me & I’ve never looked back. ~TMR~

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  22. Joan @ The Chicken Mama

    Our city just banned single use bags. Such a flurry of negative comments in the newspaper! What an outrage of emotions from a small segment of the population! And…we all lived through the transition. I’m amazed at people who think they can’t get through the day without a receiving a free crappy plastic bag. Now, they’re out 10 cents per bag. And again, the earth still revolves on it’s axis. Amazing!

    Reply
  23. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

    So funny Joan, I am also surprised at the outrage of emotions. Dallas just passed an ordinance that charges $.05 per bag – they wanted to charge $.10 but didn’t have enough votes to get it passed. One person even addressed the City Council arguing that this .05 per bag ordinance was DISCRIMINATION since the bag was no longer free. (Shakes my head…) My hope is that now that the first baby step has been made people will come to accept it as a good thing. ~TMR~

    Reply
  24. Crystal @ Serving Joyfully

    I am really so glad to see this happening! I live in a small town that is nowhere near doing this. In fact, when I bring my reusable bags, they complain about how much more work it is for them and how much they hate it, and/or they look at them like they don’t know what they are for. I always put my bags first on the conveyor belt, so they get those first, and I have literally had the checker pick up my bags, move them out of the way and put my items in a plastic bag! I wish more people in my area would use them :) I actually think they are much more convenient when it comes to carrying groceries in.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Yes ma’am Crystal, they’re so much easier to carry since you can often place them on your shoulders as well. I’ve never once had a clerk baulk at sacking my items or dare to tell me it’s too much work for them, but to be fair I realize that I’m a skip in their cogs since my bags don’t fit on their bag racks, etc and I almost always try to bag my own. I’ve had a few clerks tell me that it’s no problem – no need for me to bag my own they’ll do it for me, but I’ve never been told it’s too much trouble for them. (shakes head…) ~TMR~

      Reply
  25. Kristina (The Greening Of Westford)

    Amen! It took me a year to remember to bring my reusable bags consistently. I find them soooo much easier than plastic bags. They hold more (fewer trips to bring in your groceries) and they don’t hurt your fingers like someone else mentioned! I am finding that I don’t get the strange looks as often when I tell people I already have a bag or that I just don’t want one. I was at Target a while ago and watched a cashier ask each person in her line (each of whom was only buying 1 or 2 things) if they wanted a bag! I loved it! Most said no, but they probably wouldn’t have thought about it otherwise.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I’m seeing that more & more as well Kristina, cashiers asking if someone with only a few items wants a bag. Like you said, the customer probably wouldn’t have even thought about it otherwise. ~TMR~

      Reply
  26. Sandra

    I have to admit, I think banning is a little extreme. If people want to bring their own bags, great. A lot do- but to force businesses to stop using them?? I guess overall I am just tired of the “banning” items in general. Seems to be the new rage. Like banning Large Sodas, light bulbs, the push to ban certain words… I shop at Aldis and buy paper bags, I also bring cloth bags. Sometimes I forget and use plastic.

    Reply
  27. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

    Sandra I’m not sure about other cities but the recent Dallas movement is to charge five cents per bag used. I think although it’s such a small amount many folks will begin bringing their own bags or opting out of a bag if they’re only buying 1 or 2 items. Personally I’m THRILLED at the progress! ~TMR~

    Reply
  28. Deborah

    Love this! We are always trying to remember to bring our bags but more and more it’s so needed. One tip people need to remember is to wash the bags cause they can contain bacteria even non-meat bags. Good to designate bags, meat, fruit, etc, although may be hard to have the cashiers deal with that. Also, some people state they don’t use trash bags but in many cities you can’t do that. They require you to have trash in trash bags. I think this is done because of crime searches and such.

    Reply

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