Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Bag Craze

Me and my jump rope.
In the last few years, many areas have moved to ban free plastic bags at grocery stores.  I don't blame them.  If you travel anywhere in the world without significant garbage management, you will find plastic shopping bags dotting the landscape.  Even back in the 1980's when I spent time in Yemen, I saw plastic bags stuck on lots of desert vegetation across many areas of the country.  In Romania, I've seen them line river banks, and in China, they are everywhere sediment collects in stormwater basins.  They are really an environmental menace because they cover natural soil and sediment surfaces, animals ingest them to cause slow painful deaths, and they are a significant eyesore all over the world.

In many areas, you have to pay a few cents for a bag (or even more) if you want to use a bag to get your groceries and overall, our culture is moving slowly away from the convenience of free disposable plastic bags to using our own cloth bags or not using any at all.

Today, I stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods in the Roosevelt Field Mall here on Long Island to buy a jump rope to use for exercising when I travel.  It came in a heavy duty plastic bag container.  If I were a sustainability officer with the manufacturer, I am sure I could have found a greener packaging system.

Anyway, when I checked out, I said I didn't want a bag to carry it out of the store.  Why would I need a bag for a small item that was already in a bag?  But the cashier said I had to have one for security reasons. He said if I didn't want the bag, that I could throw it out in the trash right outside the door.  Mind you, I was feet from the front door.

This policy goes against the trend in retail around the world and doesn't make a great deal of sense.  In Long Island, there is a great deal of discussion around banning plastic bags or at least charging for them due to serious damage to shallow marine ecosystems.  When I participated in the Manhasset Bay Coastal Clean Up this year, plastic bags were a significant part of what we pulled from the shore of the bay.  If you ever do a coastal clean up, you will probably have a similar experience and you will probably start to limit your plastic bag use.

I know that my poor cashier was just following company policy.  What did I do?  I left the bag on the counter and left holding my jumprope in its hefty plastic bag.  They didn't call the police on me.

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