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Bagging It

Marjorie Kondrack

IT’S BEEN A YEAR since New Jersey banned all plastic bags from grocery stores, and yet I’m still wandering into our local store without my reusable bags. You would think I’d have gotten the memo by now.

I used to keep the bags in the trunk of my car—but out of sight, out of mind. As a visual reminder, I now keep them inside my car on the passenger side. But they might as well still be in the trunk. Maybe I should hang them around my neck.

While walking through the parking lot during my last food shopping venture, I saw another shopper heading in the direction of the store, bogged down with bags, which reminded me that I’d forgotten mine—again.

I’m on line at the checkout when I notice the shopper ahead of me has a neatly folded, organized pile of reusable bags. They’re uniform in size, color and pattern, with the logo on the bag matching the store we’re shopping at. Meanwhile, I have a motley wad of bags in various sizes, shapes, colors and patterns—some with a psychedelic melange—and almost all of which were freebies from various sources.

I have bags with logos from three different supermarkets in my area. I feel a little sheepish when I hand over some of the bags at checkout in the Wegmans food store, while trying to hide my bag with the Aldi store logo emblazoned on it.

One of my bags announces, “Surely Not Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting,” which would leave you completely lost unless you’re old enough to remember the song. I also have a bag with a New York attitude that reads, “You Got a Problem With That?” And from the Sopranos: “Fughgeddaboudit.” My logic is that, if others think I’m a thug, it might keep the crazies away. I’ve met with a few of those in store parking lots and need all the help I can get, since I’m a small lady and can’t run too fast, making me an easy catch.

Meanwhile, I was reading an article about reusable bags being bacteria ridden, with instructions on how to wash them after each use. There are people who think they’ll die from E. coli if their meat touches their cereal. Some say bag the ban, but it looks like we’re stuck with it. And we’ve created another problem: Grocery delivery services have switched to heavy-duty reusable bags. Their customers complain about having a glut of these bags piled high in their garage, leaving no room for their cars.

An added problem: We now have to go out to buy small plastic bags to replace the ones that we used to get from the grocery store, and which then had a second life as liners for small trash cans. It’s possible to purchase eco-friendly, biodegradable plastic grocery bags from Amazon. But is it okay to use them at the grocery store? They look kind of small and flimsy—more like the size people use when they walk their dog.

It took a while to master the self-service checkout machine, where it helps to be ambidextrous. But since we must now scan, provide our own bags, bag our own food items and deal with processing payment, we ought to receive some compensation. How about a small discount or at least a free reusable bag? And it makes me wonder: Whatever happened to the bag boy? I think he now patrols the self-checkout area.

Today, we have a different ecological problem to ponder. What are we to do with the discarded face masks I see littering the landscape? As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “It’s always something—if it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

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