My Cat Isn’t on Board with Your Plastic Bag Ban
When “eco-friendly” means more trash, rethink your plan
I can’t believe I did it, the thing I’d vowed to eschew for as long as I could possibly manage. I clicked over to Amazon and begrudgingly placed an order. For a box of 350 plastic grocery bags. My cats made me do it.
I shouldn’t have needed more. It felt ridiculous — I had going-on 19 tons of grocery bags sitting in my house. But since last year, when my city passed a flimsy-plastic-bag moratorium, everything had changed. My grocery store (“We recognize that plastic waste is a problem, and we think it’s important to be part of the solution” — irony alert) stopped handing out the thin plastic bags you see floating in the wind and started bagging my delectables in something altogether different… and worse.
These new bags were sturdier, to be sure. The plastic didn’t have the random holes at the bottom so common in the previous offerings. In fact, they were so sturdy, according to the message printed on each, they could be reused “at least” 125 times! Who thought this was a good idea? Aside from the whole Covid thing discouraging any kind of reuse in public places, who is going to bring tattered hobo bags back and forth 125 times?
If I’m being honest, mine are completely gross after the first trip home. They sit in the trunk of the car and — I swear I don’t know how this happens — collect strands of hair, blades of dead grass, random lint and every other gross thing in there (yeah, I’ve seen dead mini bugs). I’m supposed to bring these magnets of nature-that-has-seen-better-days back to the store? Oh, I see… it’s there in the message. I’m supposed to wash each bag, inside and out, apparently, with warm soapy water and let them dry after every use.
Maybe I can fit that in right after I deep-clean my coffee pot, scrub down the dryer lint trap, replace the air and water filters, and change out my baking soda (fridge and freezer!). In other words, it’s not gonna happen. Seriously, do they think I have a special room in my house set aside to let a dozen grocery bags dry out for hours on end? And how much water (and, in the end, energy) is that using? Should I finish the insane process off with a generous dousing of DTDMAC-laden anti-static spray while I’m at it, to keep the dead bugs in the trunk?
The new bags are clearly destined for the trashcan (which, bulky as they are, is a terrible choice when you pay by the bag to dump your trash, regardless of the environmental concerns). They’re probably just as likely to end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (“the thriving community of plastic”) as the old bags. At best they’ll make it to the in-store recycling bin, which is where I bring mine. I doubt most people make the effort though — I never see anyone else hauling them back into the store. When I cart my bags back, I get a workout, believe me. There must be enough plastic in these puppies to supply a lifetime of raw material for the old-style bags. In fact, they probably take the bags I return to the store, recycle them into flimsy plastic bags, then sell them to all the chumps who now need something new to collect their cat litter in.
Speaking of, the crux of the issue: the old-style flimsy bags were put to good post-grocery use around my house, and I’ve heard the same from other cat owners. The bags are perfect for collecting cat litter. Sure, they sometimes have a few holes in the bottom, but usually nothing a tiny bit of Scotch tape can’t handle. They’re sturdy enough to sit there open on the floor while you hold one handle and scoop with the other, or even better, they wrap nicely around a wastebasket while you do some heavy-duty litterbox cleaning. They also (and herein lies the magic of their flimsiness), close up completely, either by tying the handles around one another, or twisting the whole bag around and tying the top in a knot.
The new bags can do none of this. They won’t wrap nicely around a wastebasket (and even if you lack cats, this was another helpful use), and they sure as hell won’t easily close, keeping cat smells and spills contained. In short, unlike the multi-functional old-style grocery bags, these new thick bags use 27-times the material and are completely useless once you’ve unpacked your groceries. Yay for saving the environment!
Venturing out to the suburbs (still a flimsy-bag land of plenty) before submitting to Amazon, I made a last ditch offer to buy a clump of bags directly from the Dollar Tree check-out (willing to pay over a dollar!), but that was a no-go. So, here we are: they replaced the reusable and versatile plastic bags we all loved with terrible ones that use way more plastic and will never be reused. Oh, and to top it off, we still need bags, so we’re forced to shell out for them. In the end, when you think you have a genius idea to help “save the environment,” sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone. My cats don’t actually care, but I’ll thank you for it.