I am not an “I am not a plastic bag”

Mind you, this is not to say that I am a plastic bag.

But I have to share some silliness that’s come to my attention regarding the whole shopping bag debate. Since posting a few times about my own battles against plastic shopping bags, my blog has gotten a surprising number of search engine hits for the phrase “I am not a plastic bag.” Seeing as I live under a rock, I’d missed all the public hooha on the topic, and so the phrase seemed more than a little bizarre to me. Were there individuals out there suffering from identity crises whereby they needed to affirm their own non-plastic-bag status? bag_100×110.jpg

As it turns out, a whole bunch of people, though they are not themselves plastic bags, think that they need to buy a high-fashion accessory in order to avoid using wasteful plastic bags.

Designer Anya Hindmarch has designed a bag, the “I am not a plastic bag” bag. This is a bag, which is not a plastic bag, that advertises its non-plastic bagness through the words “I am not a plastic bag,” which are emblazened across the bag, which, as it turns out, is not plastic. They are not only not plastic, but apparently they are all the rage. Check out this bit from the FAQ page:

How can I buy I’m Not A Plastic Bag?
We have been overwhelmed by the success of this project. The UK limited edition brown bags have now completely sold out in the UK.

Apparently, folks are even selling these bags on ebay for oodles of money. There have been scandalous exposés decrying that the bags, though not plastic, are not produced especially ethically, nor are they produced in a particularly environmentally friendly way.

What I find more disturbing is that this buying frenzy not only smacks of unneccessary consumerism, but also smacks of a fad.

I’m not alone in these worries. As supporting evidence that the frenzy is about a fashion fad rather than reflecting conservationist intentions, one commenter on this blog post wrote:

my daughter has one and she loves it she takes it everywhere with her but surprise surprise not one person has commented on it which has really upset her

Ugh. I mean, why avoid using plastic bags if no one is even going to compliment you on your high-fashion anti-plastic-bag accessories?

While I applaud celebrities and other influential figures (who are likely not plastic bags) attempting to spread conscience and consciousness about environmental and social issues, does it really have to boil down to just another product?

8 thoughts on “I am not an “I am not a plastic bag”

  1. I’m happy to use plastic shopping bags – can’t see what the fuss is about. They’re light weight and efficient and have many second uses. If I did not get plastic bags with my shopping I would have to buy bags as bin liners, to take the dog for a walk (2 – 3 bags a day) and for many other uses.

    I think I use them responsibly – If they don’t end up in litter thay can do no harm.

    Bags don’t litter themselves – why not fine the litterer?

    Gerard, Sydney, Australia

  2. Hi, Gerard–

    Thanks for your comment. It’s good that you use plastic bags responsibly. However, your story is not a typical one, at least in the US. Here, people typically receive dozens of plastic bags in a week, and most people do not reuse them at all. Nor do most bags get recycled. People here tend to buy bin liners, and among the things that fill them up each week is a big fat wad of plastic shopping bags. If I were to go to my local grocery store without bringing bags (and this happens when I forget to bring them), I can end up with over 30 plastic bags for a cart of groceries if I let the bagger have free reign. They tend to double bag heavy items, pack other bags light, and even put large items into additional bags, even though these items could be easily carried without a bag .

    As far as the litter goes, it’s true that individuals should be held responsible. I don’t have a solution for that. It always surprises me that people litter. Plastic bags certainly aren’t the only items that people discard irresponsibly. However, they end up as a particularly visible and widespread form of litter, since they don’t stay put.

    As far as doing no harm outside of being litter, that point is debatable. I’m sorry I don’t have a great reference handy for you, but these National Geographic sites have overviews of some pros and cons of plastic shopping bags. One argument against them is that they are not biodegradable:

    Some experts say that they harm the environment. Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down. As they break down, they release poisonous materials into the water and soil.

    One possible improvement to this problem would be to see an increase in the manufacture and use of biodegradable plastic bags.

    Plastic bags are not the only offenders for wastefulness or negative environmental impact, nor certainly are they the worst offenders. The point, for me at least, is that reducing their use by not accepting bags in excess of what you will use is an easy way to reduce waste, and one which, if everybody participated, could have a huge impact.

  3. KC-
    I have no clue. (I live under a rock. Sheryl Crow, who I believe is not herself a plastic bag, doesn’t live under the rock with me, so I’m not able to ask her.) But if you find out, I’d be intersted.

  4. does it really have to boil down to just another product?

    Yes, definitely. This is American we’re talking about. By the way, where can I trade in my Support the Troops bumper sticker for one of those fashionable bags?

    I vaguely remember that some grocery stores were using biodegradable plastic bags a couple of years ago. I wonder whatever happened with that?

  5. the sheryl crow thing is a joke since she was credited with announcing some prime environmental-friendly ideas such as having a shirt with a sleeve you can use to wipe your face while eating and then tuck back in after you’re done eating (instead of using a napkin) and 2) using only one square (a la Elaine on Seinfeld) of toilet paper when using the potty. Rosie O’Donnell retorted that her ass was way too big for one square.

  6. bs-
    Sadly, this silliness is happening on both sides of the Atlantic. And I don’t know what happened with the biodegradable plastic grocery bag thing. I’ve read that they are expensive. But if stores needed to fork out fewer of them, perhaps the cost would wash out.

    Ah, thank you for explaining. (Sorry to make you explain a joke, which can be a daunting task.) Anyhow, those sound like some winners of ideas. And here I’d just been using the front of my shirt to wipe me face. But wait, Rosie who? Sein-what? Are these friends of yours?

  7. Why do the supermarkets not charge people for plastic bags? As they are surely the biggest culprits for plastic bag waste. If they all clubbed together to agree a price, say 3p each for one of those crappy supermarket thin bags, as its a rip of and going to mount up every-time people do their shopping, they will be more inclined to take reusable bags with them shopping. Obviously with the profit they’ll be making selling the bags they do sell for 3p they can put this into environmental causes to make up for it. Surely this would get the message across pretty quickly. I think this approach works quite well in Australia.
    If I don’t remember to take bags with me to Tesco then I always buy those ‘bags for life’ 10p each and I reuse them as you wouldn’t throw one of those beauties away, they’re good bags! And you get more shopping in them, ideal if you’ve only got 2 hands. Same with high street plastic bags, I wouldn’t throw one of those away either, in fact I know a lot of people who save them and have a special drawer full of ‘good’ plastic bags to reuse. The biggest culprits are the shops that sell those crappy thin bags that you can’t (or won’t) reuse, they should be banned!!

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