BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)

Hi All- Kerry Here from The Simple Year 1.  We seem to have misplaced this year’s blogger (actually we sort of know where she is, but she hasn’t been available to post, we hope to hear more about her project later).  In the meantime, I hope you will indulge me and some of the other past writers as we post here about our ongoing simple living. 


This week our municipality of Anchorage, Alaska has banned plastic grocery bags. They have been talking about it a year or more and even extended the deadline for compliance a few months so that area businesses with warehouses of bags wouldn’t lose money.

While I’m not terribly concerned about them losing their money (sorry Walmart), I thought that sounded like an OK idea largely because if stores already had them it seemed like they would just have to throw them away in bulk rather than spread it out. I guess if they’ve already been made and delivered, might as well diffuse the littering.

So, this week was finally “Go Time”. Murder and mayhem aside, this is quite a controversial issue, according to  hundreds of comments on the local news outlets social media pages.  Using complex data analytics (I read ALL the comments…twice), I have determined that there are three main objections.

1. It might be inconvenient
2. They might have to pay for a paper bag if they forget theirs
3. The government is overreaching.

(Incidentally, there is also the, full-of-righteous-indignation-about-everything-and-want-to-complain, folk, but, I can’t offer a rational opinion on that)

It may not surprise you that I am firmly in the “Pro Bag Ban” camp. So, I have a response to the above concerns, but first I would like to tell you a story. Sit back.

In 2005 we lived in Monterey, California not far from the county dump. I know there are those that prefer the more modern and politically correct term, landfill, but I will stick with the colloquial. In any case, at the dump, they had a store they called Last Chance Mercantile.

Last Chance was a reuse store that sold items either donated or salvaged. It was enormous and really had a remarkable selection of things people were throwing away. Of note, I bought the desk chair that I am sitting on now, there.

One day as I was approaching the dump, it was particularly windy day. The kind of blustery day that turns umbrellas inside out and snatches hats right off of heads. For those of you that don’t have firsthand dump knowledge. I should mention that most of them have a large berm around the outside. There is some sort of engineering reason for this, but I don’t know what it is. I do, however, know that it hides thing, usually.
But that day as I approached, whipping violently and high above the berm were hundred, or maybe thousands of what looked like floating jellyfish. It took me a bit to realize they were actually those thin plastic grocery bags.
It was chilling to me. All those bags that had been manufactured and used for one short trip from a shop to someone’s home now flying, floating or buried forever.

It was one of those moments that necessitate action. I vowed that was the last time that I would use one of those bags.

But, of course it wasn’t.

Because there were so many times that I forgot my bags. And, I would pick convenience and take the thin slippery jelly fish bags. And I would try to make myself feel better because I would reuse them for lunches or dog waste. Let’s face it, all this does is make it take slightly longer for those bags to be the part of the namesake “filling” at the landfill, for eternity. I mean that isn’t even hyperbole. It is actually forever.

Years have passed and I have gotten better about remembering my reusable bags. I also try not to buy so much stuff at one time (I live near stores, so that is easier for me than other Alaskans admittedly).
As far as government overreach, I am certainly not perfect so I am actually thrilled that the ability to “cheat” and take the plastic bag has been taken away from me. Now stores will have a “paper bag for purchase” option and while that probably is not as good as bringing my own reusable, it is a bit more guilt free for me in a pinch. I guess I view it as our elected officials fulfilling the duty to protect.

As far as inconvenience and price…I guess you got me there. But, I can tell you it does get easier once you do it a few times. And if you want a free reusable bag, you can make ones that mimic the size and shape of the little grocery bags out an old t-shirt. Here is a link to a pretty good (and short) tutorial.

I know that plastic bags are just a tiny part of the problem…but they are part of the problem.  So, I’m willing to be a bit more complex to beat back the plastic storm, if even only a bit.

Anchorage: The calm before the bag ban storm