Updated: Sep 28, 2020
A few years back my family and I took a short 6 month stint to Kinsale, Ireland. To live abroad was an amazing experience for all of us, and not only did we enjoy the lifestyle, gorgeous scenery, gracious people, decadent food, we also became a bit more worldly and learned a thing or two along the way.
Which brings me to my grocery bag story as it relates to the industry I am in; plastics. We lived in town and only had the need for one car which my husband used to get to and from work. I didn't mind at all and rather preferred walking to driving on the left side of the narrow roads. I loved to walk everywhere and learned my way around the quirky winding cobble streets of the charming town in no time. One aspect of the European lifestyle, which I embraced and miss terribly, was the daily gathering of all your fresh foods for your meals that day. I would go to the open air market if I needed more 'rocket' or Greek olives - which were the prettiest green and tasted almost like flowers - or I would pick up fresh cod at the fish market, etc. You get the gist.
Once a week I would make my way to the grocery store which was approximately a mile away, rain or shine, to pick up the basics. The first time I did my shopping and was checking out, the cashier asked me for my grocery bags. I didn't have any so she proceeded to pull out 4 large heavy weight plastic bags charging about $.35 for each if I remember correctly. I was surprised to be charged and thought it was a little high for a plastic bag but I got the feeling by the cashier's reaction, I really should have brought some bags with me. I never forgot them since. In fact these 4 bags got me through 6 months of shopping. They went with me to and from - not only the grocery store - but the farmers market, fish market, excursions to the mall, I even packed our shoes in them for our trek home.
These bags were indestructible. It was the best $1.40 I spent during our stay. Then it occurred to me, because I had spent money on them, it gave them value and because they were so well made I continued to keep using them. The plastic grocery bags I am accustomed to here in the U.S. are flimsy and barely get me to my front door.
When I was finally done, and only because they looked and literally had been to Ireland and back, I dropped them off in the recycling bin at the grocery store. I actually felt a little pang as we had had some times together.
Here is what I learned. The energy expended and expense to make these bags was minimal compared to most reusable bags and paper bags. Because the consumer has to pay for their bags they now have value. As a result the number of the flimsier plastic grocery bags has been largely reduced, minimizing the risk that they will be tossed away potentially entering the environment. And the hope is that the consumer is responsible and recycles their well made plastic bag at the end of its useful life by bringing them to a participating grocery store. Plus the consumer purchased the bags so the grocer recoups the cost, fantastic business model.
Although plastic, the well made grocery bag is better for the environment, the consumer and the grocer.