I don’t think this ban on plastic shopping bags has been working out the way anyone thought it would.
The plastic shopping bag ban – I should explain for those of you who live outside of New Jersey and also in certain areas of New York – is a law that says that supermarkets are no longer allowed to put your groceries in plastic bags. Except for all the groceries that are already packaged in plastic bags. Also, they can give out produce bags. Also, they can sell you a box of plastic garbage bags or zip-loc bags, or even grocery bags if you ask. But none of those can be built into the price of the groceries. Even though the price of groceries have since gone up by like a third, and they can just throw the price of grocery bags in there and no one will know the difference because no one can figure out a third in their head down to the penny, the government will know.
Anyway, that’s the law in New Jersey, where I live. I don’t know the deal with New York.
But here’s how it’s going in New Jersey: Basically, it’s been about nine months since the ban has started, and I still cannot remember to bring bags into the store. Mind you, I don’t forget to bring bags to the store – they’re sitting in my car – but that doesn’t mean that I remember to get them out of the car before I’m in the store with several groceries in my cart. The only way I remember them is if, as I’m getting a shopping cart, I see someone carrying bags into the store, and I’m like, “Into the store?” and then I remember. And I run back to the car.
In fact, my kids know that if they come to the supermarket with me, they will be asked to run out and get bags.
But if there’s no kid, I usually just put them into my cart loose and put them in the bags when I get to the car, so that I have something to carry them into the house in and then leave the bags in the house near my front door until Moshiach comes.
And if I’m walking to a store from my house, there’s no way I’m remembering to bring any of the bags that I keep near the front door for just that reason. I am borrowing a shopping cart and pushing it home.
And I can’t be the only one who’s doing this, because all the stores have started printing cloth bags that look just like the old plastic bags they used to give out but are more expensive to produce.
At first the stores were charging for these bags. That way, in case you’d forgotten yours in the car, you could buy what you needed and have them for next time! In your car.
“Hello, I’m going to forget next time. I’ve clearly proven that.”
That was the non-Jewish stores. With the Jewish stores, sometimes they’d just give me all the bags I needed, and sometimes they’d say, “Do you want a bag?” and I’d say yes, and they’d stuff everything into the one bag and I’d find a charge for the bag on my receipt, which was ten feet long.
Then there was one store that said, “If you buy $25 worth of stuff, we’ll give you a free bag!” So I bought $100 worth of stuff, and I said, “Where are my 4 free bags?” And they said, “You get one.” So I said, “But I have 4 bags’ worth of groceries. I didn’t bring anything in with me.” Should I go out of the store and get my bags from the car? Once I’m doing that, why don’t I check out 4 times and get 4 bags that way? Also, as it turns out, the free bag they gave out had freebies in it, so the bag itself was needed for those.
But of course, they were going to make sure we had bags. First of all, they want us to buy more than just whatever we can carry out of the store in our arms. They also don’t want people borrowing shopping carts, because those are way more expensive to produce. And take longer to dissolve in the wild.
Also, Jewish stores want their bags floating around out there because it’s advertising. Every time you walk to shul on Shabbos with a bag on your hat, people go, “Hey, Glatt Mart is still open?” Though now no one’s wearing them on their hats because cloth bags are not waterproof.
The way this should have been done was that the government should have encouraged the stores to give us money back if we showed up with our own bags. I would remember every time. Charging for bags is not the same, because I’m just going to walk out with my arms full. I’m not buying bags, except that one time, by accident.
Also, the awkward thing was that the government got rid of bags, but they didn’t get rid of baggers. So this guy’s just standing there judging you. “These are your bags?” Or, in my case, “Where are your bags? I want to fill them.” And I say, “I forgot.” So he’s just putting the items in my cart. Carefully. I guess if he wasn’t there, I would just arm-sweep it all in. He’s doing it in a smart order, with the heavy things on the bottom. And I’m thinking, “As soon as I get to my car, all of this is going to end up in the reverse order of what you’re doing here.”
So now we’ve reached a point where the Jewish stores are printing their own cloth bags, but not particularly good cloth bags, because apparently people aren’t bringing them back anyway. People don’t learn when you help them, apparently. At least I don’t.
These are not cloth bags. They feel like the hot dogs of cloth bags. It’s like they took whatever falls on the floor when you make something out of cloth and then they scrape it up and turn it into a bag. They’re like lint bags. They’re giving out bags made out of the same material that used to be used for face masks. All this extra face-mask material that manufacturers have no idea what to do with.
But they’re free. And we’re all going to Jewish stores now because they throw in free bags, and the only downside is that everything else is more expensive.
The non-Jewish stores have not yet caught on.
Maybe they had to raise their prices a little to pay for the bags, but you know what? Everyone’s been raising their prices anyway, so we don’t know what is because of the bags. Is that why prices have gone up?
So we keep accumulating more and more of these bags.
And now, in our house, we have a big bag of decent cloth bags near the front door when you walk in in the hopes that we will remember to bring them out when we go places, but it’s somewhere in the entranceway that our guests won’t automatically see it, so we don’t actually see it on our way out either. We also have troves and troves of plastic bags that we collected right when the ban was announced. We have boxes of them in our basement. I don’t know what the long-term plan is – to die before we run out? As soon as they announced the law, we started saving them. Suddenly we’re not allowed to use the plastic bags, so we can use them later, after the ban kicks in. But now that it’s kicked in, we’re not really allowed to use them, either. We used to peel vegetables into a plastic bag; now it’s onto a paper plate. Somebody came to our house for Shabbos and changed their baby, and they asked for a plastic bag, and my wife said, “Um… Can I give you a produce bag?”
Those are see-through.
But yeah, we’ve been taking extra produce bags, so we’re saving a lot of plastic, apparently. Especially since meat leaks through the cloth bags that we need to keep forever. All I need is to start washing my cloth bags and hanging them in the laundry room so they don’t shrink and become totally unusable.
So now, instead of plastic bag full of other plastic bags, like our grandparents used to have, we have cloth bags, and we have plastic bags, and we have produce bags, and we also have a separate bin of these new trashy cloth bags with store names on them – and they’re no good for actual trash, because they leak – but they have to be kept separate from the good cloth bags because the ones without store names are considerably better for shopping. In theory.
And then we have two bags going -- one for each car -- of bags that came in from the car with groceries that are supposed to go back out to the car that I keep forgetting to bring out, and if I do remember I will still forget to bring them into the store. Or they’ll all end up in the same car. And the one time I will remember at the store, I’ll open the back of my car and realize that all the good ones are in the house. Because each car has maybe one really, really good bag that holds a lot, and is made of like parachute material, and that’s the one that gets used and left at home. Though when it’s in the car, all the other bags are stored in it because it’s the biggest. And all the ones we store in it get to flying around the car every time I open the window.
I am just swimming in bags. I feel like the environment.