I already mentioned the chimney starter…

A memorable phrase of the early 1990s was “paper or plastic”. While the phrase is usually remembered as a joke, the mere fact that shoppers were offered a choice offers insight into the public’s reaction to the new plastic bags. For a few years, a sizable portion of shoppers would opt for classic paper bags. Obviously, something about the plastic was undesirable. Indeed, plastic bags had numerous complaints – they are weak, they do not hold as much, and they spill their contents easier in the back of a car.

Considering the complaints from 20 years ago, why are plastic bags now ubiquitous in much of the United States?

Reusable bags cloth bags offer several advantages:

1) They are stronger;
2) They hold more;
3) They hold their contents better (less flimsy);
4) Many stores offer a discount for using your own bags. My local store offers 5 cents per bag. Assuming I fill 5 bags per week, that equates to 25 cents savings per week, and 13 dollars per year. Good bags should last many years, so at 2-3 dollars per bag, they pay for themselves quickly.

At the same time, they keep plastic out of the landfill and save energy and resources. The only disadvantage is you have to remember to bring them. If you can remember your wallet, you can remember a few bags. Here is another example of a “green” item that works better and costs less in the long run. So why isn’t everyone using them?

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