Paper, plastic, or both.Asked if grocery bags really matter or if too much fuss is being made about them, shoppers on the Consumer Network panel had a lot to say:
1. Bags do matter.
2. Bag choices do too.
3. How stores handle the bag issue colors their perception of the store.
4. The bagging process needs improving.
5. Having a choice of bags is now expected.
6. Stores that only provide plastic bags are losers.
7. Incentives to bring reusable bags are appreciated and effective.
8. The bag issue may be controlled by lobbyists and/or whichever industry is spending the most money.
9. Some shoppers have developed new sorting categories for bagging their own groceries.
10. Routinely using paper bags inside plastic bags satisfies some shoppers but alienates others (even when they recognize that the stores or baggers are trying to be helpful).
In their own words:
* "Pathmark is a good example of bad. They only have plastic.no paper. I won't do a big shopping there because of that."
* "ShopRite is good. They usually ask how you want your groceries packed. Wegmans is also good."
* "Walmart is especially bad. No choice and every item put in its own plastic bag. Not green at all."
* "I am appalled by stores that routinely put paper bags inside plastic. It provides handles for the paper bags and lets the plastic bags stand up in the car trunk, but it's such a wasteful solution."
* "The bag issue is important to me when I shop. I'd be happy with just paper bags at stores if they had handles. I'd be happy with just plastic bags if they insulated against the heat and didn't fall over and spill everything out of them. I get 'paper in plastic' whenever I can. They are easy to carry, the paper insulates, and they stand up in my car. I reuse them as my trash bags so if I didn't have them, I'd buy plastic trash bags anyway!"
* "I have some cloth bags, but I almost always forget to bring them. For small orders, a paper bag would probably be best ... or no bag at all!"
* "Stores should charge $1 per plastic bag (does everyone realize they are made from OIL?).... Bring your own bag into the store, as folks do throughout Europe."
* "Bags are an absolutely critical issue for our environment, Europe has known this for years, we are so Stone Age in the US on some issues."
* "Yes, the bag issue is important because of the negative impact the bags have on our environment. People should get in the habit of carrying a cloth bag tucked in their purse, back pack or brief case. Many stores now offer cloth or reusable bags at a nominal cost. Most professional meetings also give you a cloth bag on registering. I have so many that I routinely give them to family & friends. It is also useful to carry several in the trunk of your car to take into the grocery store. I like to pack my own groceries because I can sort them by freezer, frig, back-up & kitchen."
* "Most any store I go to offer a choice, but they have yet to make it easy on the checkout clerks. They have no good way to hold the bags as they are bagging the groceries. Current bag holders for the plastic bags don't work. Our local Reasors chain of stores (Tulsa, Oklahoma) gives us five cents for every bag we bring in ourselves. The incentive helps you to remember to bring in your own bags."
* "I do think the bag issue is important. I recycle my old bags but I don't think many people do that. If they made it harder to get the disposable bags, or we had to pay for them, I might remember to take my canvas bags in to use which I usually forget! UGH!! I don't know of any stores who do not offer both plastic and paper."
* "Apparently the paper lobby is winning. Depends on which lobbyists finance the most Congressmen."
* "After you see a wild animal with his or her leg or neck caught in a plastic bag handle, you might never accept or use a plastic bag again. This also applies to those little paper bags with string handles."
* "We know plastic bags don't biodegrade, and one can see net pix of piles of the things floating in water and cluttering the landscape." Once plastic bags get wet ("sweaty" orange juice bottle?) they smell bad and you can't reuse them for much except garbage. Heck, you can't even use them for garbage sometimes because they mysteriously develop holes. Not only that, plastic bags are innately annoying. You used to be able to fit quite a few relatively light weight items in one of those large paper grocery bags. Now you're doing good to squish three or four items in one of the plastic bags. So there you go, instead of being responsible for reducing, reusing, and recycling a few paper bags, you're stuck dealing with several plastic bags (some of which smell horrible and have developed mysterious holes)."
* "The issue is important, but most merchants will continue to use plastic until paper bags are cheaper. So communities might consider just placing a special tax on the plastics to even things up."
* "Yes, I do think it's a problem. I see so many bags blowing along the roads. What a waste to use them one time. I have been using reusable bags for years and they are great - also much sturdier than the flimsy store ones. J can usually get most of my groceries in two or three and not have them rip and spill everything out halfway into the house. My only problem is trying to convince the checkout people that I really don't want ANY of their bags - not to wrap meat packages in (I throw my reusable bags in the wash quite often), not for my eggs (I have not had one break yet!!) and no, I don't want anything separated by plastic bags. It drives me crazy to see people going out of the store with everything in a separate bag or just two or three items in them. I am in Europe often and reusable bags are very common there. Most stores charge if you want a plastic bag."
The comment about Walmart being plastic-only suggests that bag choices do more to make stores look green thaftpackaging standards and light bulbs.