LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: The problem with plastic (and reusable) bags.

Photo by luce_beaulieu | flickr.comThe other day, I went to a local bookstore to buy some required readings for a class. After searching through the shelves for the right books, and after a long wait in line, I was ready to check out. As I was swiping my card and entering the numbers into the machine, something happened that made me think. Once I was done, the cashier had already put my bags into a reusable bag (free of charge), and handed them to me. And to be honest, it was the last thing I wanted her to do.

Plastic bags are a horrible idea (and our latest post shows exactly why that is). Reusable bags are an innovative way to deter people from using bags that certainly won't degrade in a landfill, and cause more harm than good to our environment. But I don't want to be handed a resuable bag, for free, when cashing out of a store.

First of all, I have a knapsack. My friend, who I was with, had a knapsack. So why not ask me if I can put it in there first? I'll respond first with a more optomistic approach and say that it might have just been the cashier, who either forgot or wasn't asking like the other cashiers. But honestly, this slip-up could be because of the fact that it's a reusable bag, and since they make us feel better by using one and NOT a plastic bag, maybe there's no need to ask the question. 

An even better answer ties in what was on the bag - advertisements. Some company paid money to get this bags into consumer hands, and since they obviously paid more to get them made, they want to ensure they're out in public.

Reusable bags are turning into the new plastic bag. And it's not a good thing. Materials are tougher than plastic bags, which in many cases, will make them even harder to degrade. The idea is that we will use them over and over again - and I'm sure that the reduction of plastic bags in landfills is significant - but we won't be doing ourselves any favours in 20 years by handing out tough, durable, reusable bags for free today.

We have to ensure that reusable bags won't accumulate in houses, like plastic bags often do. It's up to the consumer to make these responsible decisions and actions. I can't stress enough the importance of taking a resuable bag with you wherever you go, to avoid having to take another bag of any kind. We won't beat the problem of bags in landfills with reusable bags; we'll beat it by remembering to bring bags on our travels.