My name is Megan, and I’m addicted to plastic bags

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West Hollywood, I defy your plastic bag ban! I just smuggled in an entire plastic bag full of plastic bags! Mwahahaha…
West Hollywood, I defy your plastic bag ban! I just smuggled in an entire plastic bag full of plastic bags! Mwahahaha…

We’ve talked about ditching plastic, we’ve talked about the joys of re-usable bags, and all that other great-for-the-environment stuff.

Oh, but my darling Homies, I have something to confess… I’m addicted to plastic grocery bags. Before you banish me to Earth-hater jail, allow me to explain…

These plastic bags are an integral part of my waste-management system: I line all my small trashcans in the living room, bedroom, and bathrooms. Once the trashcan is full, I lift out the plastic bag, tie it off, and toss it. This makes it easy to take out the trash AND keeps my cans from getting gross. I also use the bags to clean out my litter box. I can also use them for picking up dog poop.

grocery bag trash can liner

Recently my neighborhood of West Hollywood implemented a ban on these magical plastic bags. While I love the plastic bag ban on Maui (an island-wide ban was implemented back in 2011) because it keeps plastic bags from floating into the very nearby ocean and killing ocean wildlife — I HATE having it in West Hollywood.

When the ban was first implemented I tried using compostable bags to line my trash cans, but they were too small and didn’t feel strong enough to stand up to my kitty litter dealings. They also didn’t have those handy-dandy handles. I also thought about buying plastic grocery bags on Amazon. But that felt wasteful, knowing full well that there were plastic bags out there, already in circulation.

How I feel when I get a delivery of plastic bags.
How I feel when I get a delivery of plastic bags.

So while others are thinking and celebrating ways to get rid of excess plastic in their homes, I’m hoarding plastic bags, and getting shipments in the mail of nothing but bags from my mom’s plastic bag-rich home in Texas. Yes y’all, I’m currently IMPORTING plastic bags.

I have a feeling my relationship with plastic bags might be upsetting to some of you. I know my addiction is controversial. But the heart wants what the heart wants. And I feel okay about it, since I’m re-using every single bag, not a one is going to end up in the throat of a fishy or a turtle.

Are there other plastic-lovers in the house? What do you use your plastic grocery bags for — are there uses I haven’t even thought of? Alternately, to those who can’t get their bags off the black market, how are you coping with your bag bans?

Comments on My name is Megan, and I’m addicted to plastic bags

  1. Yes! I agree with you completely. I actually use plastic bags for the same reasons you do. There isn’t plastic ban in Toronto so I have plenty. I actually use them several times over when I bring my lunch to work, reuse them at the grocery store, and use them for trash collector in my car.

    • I love using plastic bags for lunch. If I am bringing a soup I give it a wrap with a plastic bag. So if there is a little leakage it is easy to toss. If not, it comes back home to be reused.

    • Sometimes I wish there was more effort to rein in the plastic bags in Toronto though. Our house has a bad habit of getting massive amounts of plastic bags, just because a nearby store has this annoying habit of bagging every damn thing separately. And we never remember the reusable bags.

      • Austin implemented a plastic bag ban maybe a year ago, and I really used to struggle to remember my reusable bags. Of course, every grocery store sells them, but then I’d end up with way more than I need and I’d be wasting money for a product I already have enough of. I implemented a carry it myself punishment, where – if I forgot my bags – I’d have to take my groceries without any bags. That got me remembering in a hurry. I also leave them in my car now, and they go straight on the door handle to go back to the car after being brought inside.

        • The “carry it myself” rule, as it were, is what we’ve ended up with when we forget the bags. VERY rarely there aren’t even any in the car. But usually it’s just “Oh crap, forgot the bags, just pay and put it all back in the cart & we will bag it at the car.” Bagging is my mister’s job (I’m disabled, he helps me do all the shopping) and if he has to stand in the Seattle rain because he forgot them in the car, well, guess he should’ve remembered! (To be fair he usually forgets because he’s getting me a cart to ride, so it’s a joint effort and I’m usually reminding him. But it is NICE to have it his job because if he has to stand in the rain to bag things into the car he has no one to be mad at but himself.)

          As far as the lack of plastic bags is concerned, I found it’s cheaper to just buy tiny trash bags than import them. However, only marginally so, and I applaud reusing them rather than increasing the market for new. My mom uses them as shipping materials when she sends me care packages. Also, we were buying cat litter for a while that by SHEER HAPPENSTANCE the cheapest cat litter and the one we liked the best comes in square pails. The mister has one lined with a trash bag, scoops the litter clumps into it, & replaces the lid. He empties the pail when it gets full, so instead of using a grocery bag every day (er, two) he uses one not much bigger for a month. The pail does not smell up the apartment with the lid on, but oh heavens you do not want to be in the hallway while he’s scooping. Ammonia hell!

          As far as bathroom & bedroom trash cans, they get scrubbed as needed, but that’s not very often. I just find they don’t need to be lined as badly as I used to think they did. The mister walks around the house and empties them all into a bag come trash day–which now that we live in an apartment is “whenever the heck he gets to it” and no longer “it’s midnight and the trash truck comes at 6-10am.”

    • Iโ€™m with you. Kroger is eventually doing away with plastics bags. I use them for used kitty litter. I also use them as trash bags. Does this mean Iโ€™ll have to PAY to get them? I think itโ€™s also a matter of money as much as for the environment. Not happy about this at all.

  2. Dallas just instituted a “partial” ban last week. Meaning people will be charged a fee for each bag (paper or plastic) they use. I have a stockpile of plastic bags that come into the house from others, but I really prefer to bring my own when I shop, so I don’t end up buried in them. I make sure the plastic bags I do end up with get used for good. It’s funny that it’s such an oddly polarizing issue!

  3. I love plastic grocery bags for the very reasons you mention. There’s talk here in Dallas of a plastic bag ban, but I feel conflicted. On one hand, yes they’re terrible for the environment, but on the other hand, kitty litter is so much easier to handle with a plastic bag.

    • Science has shown plastic bag bans do not help. The reusable bags are made out of a worse kind of plastic and are shipped from China whereas the plastic bags are made in North America. Add to that the fact that you are supposed to wash your bags regularly -using soap hot water and energy. They break often and have to be replaced, the majority of these reusable bags don’t get used enough times before ending up in the garbage to offset thier environmental foot print. The single use plastic bags always found many uses in our house before being recycled, the reusable ones aren’t recyclable. These plastic bag bans make me want to bang my head on the wall. Yes if you use cotton bags they are better environmentally, but the vast majority of people use the crappie ones they sell at the grocery store.

      • “Science has shown plastic bag bans do not help.” Sources, please.

        Plastic bags are banned where I am. I drive across the bridge to Vancouver, WA and I see plastic bags blowing down their streets, stuck in trees and on the river banks. I’d say that Portland’s ban is working simply based on observation – the goal is to cut down on litter and also get people thinking about the things they discard. When I lived in Hawaii, the beaches that are usually downwind on the Tradewinds path are covered in plastic bags. They get lodged in the trees and eventually end up in the ocean.

        Sure, the cheap reusable plastic based bags aren’t the best option, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. I don’t think the bags I’m throwing in my washer with my regular kitchen laundry are creating a measurable amount of energy waste – I’d be washing those rags and towels anyway and a couple small grocery bags aren’t going to make a difference.

        Transport is an issue, but that is combatted by spending a little more for a bag produced locally. Or using fabric you already have to make a bag. Pillow cases, old t-shirts sewn up, old sweatpants with drawstrings are especially good for a new life as bag – cut off the legs, sew the open edges, and you have a drawstring bag ready to go. There are a lot of options.

        The downside to bans are when customers are charged for bags – that can have a negative impact on people living in poverty. But that isn’t the case where I live because there isn’t a tax or charge for receiving a paper bags at stores.

  4. I truly wish someone could come up with a compostable bag that felt a bit stronger and a bit bigger, i would totally buy those for cat litter. I sometimes use the compostable doggie scoop bags for litter, out of guilt, but their opening really is way too small to work.

    Toronto used to charge 5 cents for them, and i was okay with that. It meant you had the option of getting them, but it also meant people wouldn’t take them unless they had no choice or truly wanted them.

    we try to use canvas bags for most of our shopping, but with the two-cat situation we need some bags on hand. (we also reuse bread bags, the bag our newspaper comes in on rainy days, etc, for this purpose so that we can limit our grocery bag usage and reuse all incoming plastic at least once….)

    i deem them a necessary evil.

    • Oh those bags exist but few retailers buy them because they cost a boatload. I have a local store, which is fondly called the “hippie store” around here, that uses tough compostable plastic bags. They’re really nice looking too so it’s a shame for me to scoop kitty litter into them but they hold it super well so……

  5. I think we all do what we can do to help, without making ourselves crazy. We use plastic bags in the same way as Megan (kitty litter + double bags = essential.) We’ve cut out paper towels from our house completely, use reusable menstrual products, recycle and reuse all the glass bottles that come into the house, and compost all of our food scraps.

    If everyone did one or two things to reduce their impact, it would make a massive difference overall. I try to not get overwhelmed with guilt about choices that I know aren’t stellar (same thing with buying organic/local food- I do my best without making myself crazy.) Sometimes, a little knowledge can equal much guilt, but it’s all about balance.

    • Like you, I do what I can and let go of the rest. My goal is “better.” Better than before, better than average, better than yesterday, better than the worst. Yes, I’m going to eat boxed mac & cheese sometimes. But I try to buy Annie’s since it’s at least organic–it’s better. Yes, I’m going to snack on potato chips sometimes, but usually head for tortilla chips–they’re better, because they have less salt & grease & more nutritional value. And when I do choose potato chips, it’s better than eating nothing. I use reusable towels because that way I’m not adding to the landfill, even though I’m not entirely sure if washing them is better–but it is cheaper, so that = better. Reusable toilet wipes & menstrual products? Better than TP & disposables, and I don’t give a crap about the environmental aspect of that, that’s a bonus to me. Also reuse glass bottles and have seriously reduced our demand for on new plastics.

      Then I do crap like buy plastic planters for my garden because they’re only a dollar (they were labeled BPA free though so there’s that). Because there’s only so much I can do and hey, growing my own greens & herbs is Better. Speaking of, I also buy tubes of squeezy herb pastes. Because they last sooooo much longer and I actually get all of the product that I buy fro them as opposed to buying a bunch of cilantro and having half of it go to waste every time. I actually SAVE money buying $4 tubes of 3 oz of cilantro puree. Also being able to have fresh-tasting garlic without aggravating my arthritis is amazing.

  6. Leachate from the Landfill from garbage and plastics like your bags seeps into the groundwater, poisoning ground and water animals. It’s great that you don’t see a *direct* impact to a “popular” animal like the sea turtles, but don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s NO impact.

    • smells like sanctimonious self righteous posturing and otherizing to me. how about something constructive like an option, instead of finger wagging?

      • That’s just facts. How is that “sanctimonious”? Sanctimonious would be assuming I’m morally superior; I didn’t state what I do or don’t do. I’m merely offering facts from a waste management perspective as a counterpoint to assuming there’s no harm because they’re reused.

        I don’t know that I have an option for someone I don’t know. There aren’t a lot of great options out there. I mean, one option is simply not using a bag in each bin, but she’s already stated that’s not an option – now THAT would be finger wagging.

        I don’t feel I’ve done any of the things your comment accuses me of.

    • Kiki, you raise a good point, do you have an studies or links that might back this up and educate us a little more?

      • And also — bags in some form are a necessity, so what I’d be interested in is how do plastic bags (even assuming that they are reused <50% of the time) compare to those standard reusable grocery bags? I would assume that the reusable ones have a much higher manufacturing impact, which is offset to some degree by their longer lifespan (mine break and need to be replaced about every 6 months).

        To me, the plastic vs reusable is similar to the paper vs plastic debate…. neither is a perfect solution; they are just impacting the environment in different ways.

  7. Wait, are there people that throw out plastic bags? Just like, throw them in another bag and send it to the landfill? Why? They’re so useful!

    We reuse plastic grocery bags in all of our garbage cans (except the kitchen one, because it’s bigger and needs a real garbage bag), for cleaning out the hedgehog cage, and someday we’ll have a dog to clean up after, too!

    • I had a room mate who would do that… I finally appealed to his laziness that if you don’t throw all the bags in the trash, you don’t have to empty the trash as often. Put them in the closet with the recycling, instead. Also in this house I would frequently come home to the windows open and the heat or air conditioning running. And another room mate would use 2 entire paper towels to wipe up a tiny tiny spill that would take 2 square inches of paper towel to wipe up. Or wrap each sandwich in 3 layers of plastic wrap before also putting it in tupperware. Or ALWAYS get leftovers to go in styrofoam containers, but NEVER actually eat them. Or had friends who would throw away dishes if they didn’t feel like cleaning them. And they would also throw away pennies because they didn’t want to deal with them. It drove me crazy living in that house of people who I swear were being wasteful on purpose.

      • My MIL & FIL do the “windows open, air on” thing ALL. The. Time. Even going so far as to layer on three blankets because the AC is making the house too cold. As in, walking past the thermostat twice to go grab another blanket. Yeah. ๐Ÿ™ And then it’s too hot in here so we’re going to open the windows, but not turn down the heat. I simply refused to contribute to the utilities so long as they refused to cooperate with reducing the bills. PS, us living with them and turning off all the lights behind them and only running a load of laundry once instead of forgetting it 4 times and rerunning it actually reduced those bills, so they couldn’t really complain about our lack of monetary contribution.

        Their food waste was phenomenal before we moved in, too. They would go out grocery shopping, then be too tired to cook any of it and just go out to eat all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done that sometimes too; I’ll go shopping which will send me into a fibro flare and I can’t cook for days. However, that has been their lifestyle consistently for years. Somewhere along the way I learned to plan a crockpot or frozen dinner for grocery day, not buy things that take too much energy to prep, and submit to the siren call of the occasional convenience food.

      • Pennies are useless, that’s why Canada stopped minting them years ago. They were costing more to produce than the other face value.

  8. Hey Kiki,
    I’m interested in learning more about Leachate. Do you have resources about this? I’m personally in the try to avoid plastic bags camp, but I’m interested in general.

  9. Just because you have become accustomed to doing something one way does not mean that it is the best way. Sometimes when we are forced out of our comfort zone we find more amazing options and are then surprised that we didn’t make the change earlier.

    My solution for the little trash cans is to use them only for things that won’t be messy and keep messy/ stinky trash for the kitchen. With a compost bin, even that trash can doesn’t get very messy. It is also possible to clean the bins periodically. I have faith that you can find solutions that work for you and do not require plastic bags. Get creative!

    • While I believe this is a wonderful solution, I can’t see it working without the aid of reusable menstrual products. I’m hands down the least germaphobic person I know and there is no way I would put my used tampons in the kitchen trash.

      • I thought they were better flushed. I could swear I’ve seen them disintegrate in water, but I’m not a regular user and I don’t know how terrible either way might be. Seen some getting tossed in the bin and they make a royal mess

        • Holy smokes please don’t ever flush tampons! Yes, technically (according to the package) they are flushable, but they are a HUGE source of plumbing issues because they expand and block your pipes (trapping toliet paper and other junk, causing a “lovely” backup).

      • So… What’s stopping you from using reusable menstrual products? Once I got the hang of the diva cup, I never touched a tampon again because it’s 110% easier/better/effective.

        • Everyone always claims diva cups are better, I found them messier to use when they worked right, they leaked far more often and much more seriously when they did leak, and more uncomfortable when it was in properly. I gave up using mine after trying for half a year. I didn’t find it had a single benefit.

          • There are loads of different models of menstrual cups as all women are built differently (position of the cervix, amount of blood, strength of the pelvic base). There are facebook groups etc. who can help you find the right one (I’m in a German group so it wouldn’t be any use for you, otherwise I would have posted the link). Please don’t give up too soon ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Wow, I don’t remember how old my original comment was (probably something like 5 years old, with the time I gave up diva cups being 10 years ago) but I actually did recently give menstrual cups another shot. I got myself some Thinx underwear, and they seemed like such a perfect solution to my leaking issues with the diva cup (and a cup seemed like the perfect solution to my issues with Thinx).

            So, I’ve been using the Luna cup for a couple months. I’m not convinced it’s the perfect solution, it’s still messy as hell (and some months I just don’t bother with the cup) but it’s definitely a lot better of a set up in general.

      • Maybe only use a plastic bag as a liner when you’re on your period then? I have no problem wrapping pantyliners in toilet paper and throwing them in an unlined trash, though I don’t know that I’d feel the same way about pads/tampons. If you’re on your period one week/month and you don’t line the trash bag the other weeks, you’re cutting down on your plastic use by 75%! (In the bathroom. Assuming a once/week trash removal cycle.)

        • In my house, we probably never emptied the trash that often. Probably only once a month, after my period, when I used to used disposables. But that’s still a way to consider it and be mindful, at least.

          As for those having problems with diva cups: There are a bunch of other cups you can try, some people find softer ones work better for them, but I find I’m much happier with my sea sponge and cloth pads. You do you! But if you’re looking for other options, that’s what I like!

    • I reuse plastic bags all the time, mostly for shopping again & emptying the kitty litter. But I don’t line any smaller garbage cans with them for 2 reasons: 1 (purely superficial): I don’t like how it looks–it doesn’t make sense to me to have cute little decorative cans & then cover up half of them with ugly plastic & handles hanging over the top all the time. But more importantly, 2: I don’t find it necessary at all, since any trash in these small cans is pretty tame (wrappers & tissues, nothing wet or sticky) & so easily dumped when emptying all of the garbages into (you guessed it) another plastic bag. But the difference is that I use 1 bag for all the garbages for the entire house, and the kitty litter scoopings, however much I can fit into it instead of wasting one bag per garbage every time. Just as easy, more re-using–and nicer looking–as continually re-lining each of them.

      • We don’t line our little trashcans either – and even for menstrual stuff, I wrap it in TP before tossing it in the trash so it doesn’t stick to the can and get gross. It works out fine. Every few days it gets dumped into the main trashcan. Another option is to line the small trashcans with plastic bags, but then still dump everything into the main trash, leaving the lining on the little cans. It keeps the cans from getting gross, and if you throw something really yucky away you can still remove the liner, but if all that’s in the can is some floss and tissue paper, you can keep reusing that liner. Even if you still totally remove the plastic bag liner during shark week, that’s still decreasing your consumption by 75%, at least for trashcan lining.

      • Shopping again!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad someone else does this. But the peeps of plastic-banned San Jose give me so much shit over reusing my plastics, even though we are clearly not natives to the region [hooray for accents!] and these bags came with us when we moved.

  10. not sure how many kitties you have, but we get the 32-orsomethingobscene pound plastic container for litter. When one is empty, we put the dirty litter in that, which has a handle, to then take to our transfer station for processing (our town uses our trash for powering most of our region). It’s the same re-use principle, but you get a bit longer before throwing everything out again. Not sure what other quirks on waste disposal WeHo has, but it’s been working for us for a few years now.

  11. We faced the same conundrum when we moved to Germany when I was a teenager. Here you have to pay 10 cents for a shopping bag at the supermarket, and they are hardcore, thick plastic ones. But the good ole ‘Murrican ones are much better as garbage bin liners! And why buy bin liners when you get them for free? (Except not)
    I’ve come to terms with it by now, though. I always have a reusable shopping bag or a backpack for groceries, so we have few plastic bags in our house, and those precious ones get used for litter box scooping (they are thicker than “normal” shopping bags, which is good in that case). As for doggy scooping: I always found grocery bags to be too big (even with my German Shepherd), so I would get the biodegradable ones that come on the little dispensers, which are more convenient anyway. (Except where I live in Germany, we pay an annual tax for keeping a dog – because there’s a tax for everything – and in exchange get free poopy bags, or “walkies bags” as they are called here.)
    In summation: you get used to it. In the long run, it’s better!

  12. Personally I’m not a fan of plastic bags, they take up space and will eventually end up in a landfill ๐Ÿ™ But… my husband and I are terrible at remembering all of our canvas bags when we shop (I keep saying I’m going to put them in the car, but since I almost never drive I never do it)… so we have a bag collection.

    This summer though I’ve got my solution. I’ve already started making “yarn” out of my existing plastic bags, so I’m going to knit myself strong durable plastic bags… from plastic bags. That way those same bags can be used for years and years and won’t end up in a landfill nearly as quickly. And once I have those bags they will go in the car. No excuses.

    • I’m fascinated by the idea of knitting reusable bags from plastic ones. Is this something you developed on your own or do you have some links you could share on how to do this? Not only would I like to make some for myself, I feel like this could be a great gift idea.

      • Hiโ€”I’ve been working on crocheting myself a bag made out of plastic bags (it’s in my Unfinished Objects pile right now though). Here’s a link to explain the process… you have to start by making yourself some plarn, which involves cutting the bags into strips and connecting the strips with a half hitch. Then, using a large hook or needles, you can make whatever you like!
        http://www.plasticbagcrafts.com/make-plarn/

      • I made two using the Morehouse Farm pattern (http://www.morehousefarm.com/PlastiKnits/). The result was disappointing and I think for the use I got out of it, I would have been better off just reusing the bags in their original form. I’m a pretty experienced knitter so I don’t think it was me, I do pack my groceries pretty heavy though.
        What I would do differently:
        Only use the same exact bags from the same exact store, the slight differences in plastic strength created some weird stretching and the joining areas of two different types were where most of my breaks occurred
        I’d cut my plastic strips thicker than recommended and use 2 or 3 strands at a time
        I would find a pattern with separate handles and do them extra thick, like a regular plastic bag they stretched thin with heavy loads, and wore out faster than the rest of the bag. It would have been nice to change them out.
        Plastic needles worked better than my metal ones

        Overall, I use my plastic bags for trash liners, since regular garbage bags don’t fit down our super small trash chute, dog poop, and traveling with wet stuff like bathing suits or muddy shoes. They get reused and it’s beyond silly to pay for special trash bags and after some umm “shitty” incidents with the fancy biodegradable poop bags, well never again.

        • Plarn! (plastic yarn made from plastic bags)

          I crocheted a plastic bag once. It’s okay for lighter items, but not so good for heavier ones (such as milk or soda). I really didn’t like the plarn because the texture is incredibly tough on my hands. It was kinda cool though, because one crochet plastic bag ended up using about 80 of my normal grocery store bags. It’s a pretty quick way to re-use a stockpile of plastic bags.

          • My sister used to take the brown plastic bags and braid them into necklaces. They looked like those raffia ones.

          • Oh man, ditch the grocery bags for poop pick up!
            I’m a professional dog walker so I scoop a lot of poop. I have gotten messy hands from the old grocery bags but I have NEVER had a break, tear or leak with these:
            Earth Rated Poop Bags No Scent
            You can get them on chewy.com, $35 for 900 bags and two dispensers
            They offer a pantry pack too which works great for scooping litter boxes.

            They also have vegetable based bags that truly compost if your city accepts pet waste! I have not tried these, but knowing their other products, I bet they are reliable.

    • When I am cleaning up the house, I put the bags in the car. Or hang them on the door knob, so I am physically touching them on my way out.

      • This is pretty awesome actually – my fella and I are both pretty terribad at taking out the garbage, and so for a few years we got into the habit of hanging it on the door handle. I think we may have finally progressed past this step and can make use of it in other ways… like this!

  13. I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to them, and while I definitely agree that there needs to be less plastic, I don’t know how I would cope in a bag ban sitch. I try to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, but I don’t freak out if I don’t because I know I will use the plastic bags in the same way you do. My roommies and I use our plastic bags for trash can liners (HELL TO THE NO am I paying out the butt for tiny Glad trash bags when I can get that ish for free at Acme or Wawa) and to collect kitty litter business and car trash.

  14. We have a huge bag of plastic bags that we use for little garbage cans and such. It keeps growing, even though we started using canvas bags 2 years ago. The problem is, if I don’t bag the groceries myself, the bag person will put various things in plastic bags to separate each item! But we try to reuse those plastic bags, and the ones for veggies and bread that we inevitably get. I wish they had paper bags for veggies.

    • As a heads up, stores are fine with you also bringing small canvas or muslin bags for your veggies – whole foods even sells (wildly over expensive) cloth bags for that purpose. It might be tricky to remember so many bags, but if it is a priority to you it’s totally doable!

      • I know it’s not super-cleanly since they contained unwashed fruit and veggies, but I like to use the plastic veggie-bags instead of plastic wrap. It’s especially good for covering things where the bag isn’t directly touching the food anyway.

        • That’s a good idea. I don’t even use them for things like onions or anything else where you can put the sticker directly on the item, but when I do get them I need to find another use for them! Maybe they would be good for dirty stuff anyway, like wet shoes or dirty gym clothes.

      • I picked up a package of mesh drawstring bags from the dollar store. They were originally for “car organization” or some shit, and I bought them to try to get out of zippered lingerie bags (pro-tip: don’t). But they work GREAT as produce bags! Cashiers really don’t mind if I put the things we purchase “by the each” into the same bag, as long as it isn’t so stuffed that it can’t lay flat and they can count everything. The stuff that has to be weighed I bag into the mesh post-scanning. Those go home and just live in the fridge–if I don’t have mesh bags in my shopping bags, it’s a good bet I don’t need those tomatoes because I’ve forgotten some in the fridge.

    • They have cloth bags for veggies. I get the CSA haul in mesh produce bags, which were fairly cheap on Amazon. I can’t remember the name but I got the link for them from this site so hopefully someone knows. I never use plastic bags for produce anymore.

      • These are the ones I have! I love them and use them all the time. If they get too nasty, just pop them in the washing machine. It’s amazing how much fewer plastic bags I use now.

      • I like these for getting produce, but it does nothing to help keep it fresh like those green bags do. I used to be able to walk to the store on my way home from work when I lived in the city, so I would get just what I needed, but now it’s a car ride and I get the week’s produce. Anyone tried the reusable produce bags?

  15. I, too, use alllll the plastic bags. Every time I go to TJ’s I end up buying one or two bags, but yeah…I forget to put them back in the car -_-
    Being one who is always working to simplify, I use them all the time (shoes muddy? Bag ’em till we get home! Doggy poop? Bag it! Nail polish remover stinky cotton pads, greasy messes? See above! Stinky shoes–fill ’em with baking soda, double bag them for a couple of days!) Huh, shoes are an issue here. Thanks, my 3 sons.
    But also, I learned from my grandmother (91 years young!) to cut them into strips, knot the ends, and crochet anything imaginable!

  16. Just a few disparate offhand thoughts:
    *We do a lot of farmer’s and flea market shopping, and we periodically take all of our variously acquired plastic bags to friends who sell at those markets so that they can reuse them to bag merchandise. Thus, less bags must be purchased and less bags exist overall. Ditto for egg cartons.
    *When bagging stuff you intend to keep: (Like a change of clothes, shoes, etc.-Not garbage) don’t forget to bow or slipknot your bags-Not having to cut or tear them open means longer0 reuse of the bag. My favorite knot for the job is a tight half bow (just tie a bow but pull one of the “ears” completely through
    *I second the reuse of kitty litter buckets above – this is muy handy for cleaning several pans at a go, and the buckets can be dumped directly into the big trash can and reused again. (Fun fact – kitty litter bins are great kid stilts!)
    *It is worth mention that your higher quality bags, such as zip bags, etc. are similarly reusable, if washed.

    • I wish my mother-in-law would go by the half bow, it drives me crazy when she gives us stuff double-crazy-tight-knotted so there’s no way to get out the contents without ripping open the bag & having to throw it out! Though I can’t complain too much cause they’re usually full of our daughter’s clothes/shoes from when she watched her that she’s giving us back…. how to criticize when someone’s doing you a favor? Baby steps. Someday I’ll casually mention it.

  17. I reuse my plastic grocery bags in the same way for my little garbage cans in the bathroom. I also keep all of my plastic bags inside of another, larger bag. When it is completely full, I take it to my grocery store which has a bin to recycle the plastic bags.

  18. I try to reduce the number of bags that we use for trashcan-liners, so I can get fewer of them from the store and recycle the ones I do get.

    Bedroom trashcan- really only used for tissues, so I can empty that trashcan directly into the collection bin without using a bag. When I have room for 2 composts, I will compost everything biodegradable that I don’t necessarily want to put on my garden. Right now I only have room for garden-friendly compost.
    Living room trashcan – the kitchen really isn’t that far away, so just use that one.
    Kitchen trashcan – Put large or stinky stuff directly in the collection bin outside so that bag only needs to be changed when it’s full.
    Bathroom trashcan – currently stays
    Kitty litter trashcan – has a lid, so we can scoop poop every day, but only throw out the bag when it is full

  19. I LOVE my plastic bags too! I know it’s terrible, but I have a 20 month old and a dog; they are a part of daily life with those giant mess monsters.

    My city just instituted a partial bag ban, which I don’t know if it’ll stay because Dallas folks hate to be associated with Austin folks and Lord knows that recycling and thinking about the environment is part of that weirdo hippie shit. (insert eye roll here) I’m not sure how I’ll handle it, but have already started hoarding… Did anyone else who’s city had a partial or total ban see a huge issue with transitioning?

    • I’m in Austin and we used to use our plastic grocery bags for the same things Megan used them for. After the ban, we quickly went through the ones we had stored up and there was definitely a transition period where I just wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Eventually, we stopped lining our small trash cans and just make sure we empty and clean them when they get dirty. I usually go around the house with a big garbage bag and empty them all at once into a single bag. Most of our trash goes into the kitchen trash can though. For cat litter, well, I should probably clean the litter boxes (we have two) more often, but since I usually only manage to do it once or twice a week and we use clumping litter, the amount of litter and waste that needs to be thrown away is somewhat significant and I usually end up using a kitchen trash bag for that. Not that I’m recommending people don’t clean their cat litter boxes frequently, but just that’s how it worked out for us.
      So basically what I’m saying is that I now just wait for there to be enough to throw away that I can justify a large kitchen trash bag. It works for me because I’m incredibly lazy and I hate cleaning. The good thing is that I now always remember my cloth bags when I go grocery shopping because I hate having to buy a new bag. Although, I do usually bring some bags home with me when I visit my parents since they don’t have a ban where they live.

  20. I think what Kiki was saying above is that EVEN when you reuse the bags as “trash” bags, they still end up in the landfill (and they are a petroleum product, and throwing them away can cause issues when the chemicals finally break down).

    The plastic trash bags I buy are biodegradable, which is another option. You can also use reusable bags to not collect the store plastic bags in the first place.

    For more info on leachate from landfills leaking into groundwater you can just google. I found a few links: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-040-03/

    http://www.beyondlandfilling.org/landfill-groundwater-impacts.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leachate

    http://www.zerowasteamerica.org/landfills.htm

  21. As Wikipedia points out, the fact that a bag breaks down doesn’t mean it’s safe or good for the earthโ€“or compost. Honestly, that sounds just as scary as a traditional plastic bag, though possibly less of a threat to animal life, depending on how long it takes to break down. And it’s worth noting that without proper air, heat and water, many “biodegradable” items will not break down. Landfills don’t offer the right environment, and can actually encourage the production of methane.
    I, too, love my plastic grocery bags. I try to get as few of them as possible and to use them as smartly as possible. I live in an area where a plastic bag ban is not likely to happen, but I’m always encouraged by how full the recycling bins stay for plastic bags (though I’m sure that process is a whole can of worms.)

    • Flushing kitty litter is generally frowned upon, even if the litter claims to be “flushable”. Flushable does not always mean septic or environmentally safe. Septic systems can be finnicky, and if you’re on town waste water, the cat feces can contain parasites that are harmful if they get into rivers and lakes.

    • Couple problems w/flushing cat litter — can clog drains, mess up septic systems, & worse for the environment, the toxoplasma parasite is super-common in cats (bec. they eat meat, esp. cats who go outdoors & eat wild birds or rodents), & when you flush cat litter, that parasite gets into the water system. It’s been linked to deaths of sea life, particularly otters on the West Coast of the U.S. Runoff from lawns where outdoor cats poop is also linked to this problem — yet another reason to keep cats indoors only. (FYI, that parasite is also the reason doctors say pregnant women & ppl with suppressed immune systems shouldn’t clean dirty litterboxes).

    • Personally, I can’t get behind the fact that we have such a surplus of corn and corn by-products that we encourage its use for cats to relieve themselves on.

    • I tried using corn litter for a while. I had the box on the porch (second floor, so no way for the cat to use the “outdoors”). It attracted rodents, who ate the corn, and pooped all over my porch. Not cool!

      Went back to clay.

  22. My county in California has a plastic bag ban. And while I support it, the only thing I couldn’t get past was what I was going to do with the kitty litter. You mean, you want me to BUY bags to put POOP IN? I ordered the Litter Genie online and I absolutely love it. I have three cats, and while it still uses plastic bags, I only go through one bag every week or so. Also, it keeps me from having to haul the bag of cat poop down to the outside trash every day.

    • Whoaaaaa, that thing is AWESOME! That might be my go-to once I’m shit-out-of-luck with mah precious bags.

    • …people scoop the litter box more than once a week?? Damn, no wonder my cat complains. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I just use a large tupperware container with no plastic bag, and knock the poop into the trash every few days. The water-proof seal I get from the snap-on lid also keeps the smell 100% under control.

  23. I’m not sure about in the USA but here in Ireland our recycling centers / waste collection services accept plastic bags for recycling so when we use ziplock bags etc. and they reach the end of life we pop them into the recycling.

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