The plastic bag drought one year later

My still unempty bag of plastic bags

It’s Earth Day, and it’s been a year since major grocery stores decided to charge five cents a bag in an effort to rid this planet of the lightweight plastic menace. (Though subsequent events have shown that dedication to be not so absolute.)

I was worried when I switched from the plastic bags to my green bin that I would have a problem with one of my main uses for plastic bags: garbage containment. Like many people I imagine, the plastic grocery bags become garbage can liners, which are then tied up and thrown in the big garbage can to head to the curb. Without this source of bags, what would I put my garbage in? I still get the occasional plastic bag from non-grocery purchases, but not enough to satisfy that habit, I thought.

As it turns out, it wasn’t so much of a problem. I just started using other types of plastic bags to store my garbage: 4L milk bags, Subway sandwich bags, bread bags, bags from take-out purchases (though I usually decline them when offered).

The only difference is that these bags are smaller, which means they need to be changed more often and they won’t fit into the large kitchen garbage can. I have them hanging off a doorknob until I can think of something better.

Even then, the number coming in is larger than the number going out. Rather than needing a new source for plastic bags, I need to find a way to reduce their consumption even further.

13 thoughts on “The plastic bag drought one year later

  1. Monica B

    You Sir, just addressed such a niche routine of our era in such a human train of thought.

    I too have embarked on the very same routine train through chore-ville, and although I haven’t found a suitable solution to share, I have these reflections to contribute:

    Do you also prioritize certain trash cans destined for bags prior to others?
    Kitchen and Bathroom always at the top of the list?

    I get my groceries delivered. Deliveries come in either in those rough and tough storage tubs or in re purposed cardboard bulk-produce boxes. I get mine from one that deliveries in the cardboard boxes which then become the trash containers for “dry” waste pending a new influx of trash bags.

  2. jeremy

    We have sorted out the shopping bag situation. We have several of them (cloth bags) for shopping. Here at our building they recycle cans, paper and cardboard in large bins in the basement. We still have to buy garbage bags for the kitchen, our bathroom trash is kept in a small can (bag) from either jean coutu or something like it. It is very rare that we have to buy a green bag from Provigo. I don’t see the difference from using store bought bags in landfill versus the store’s bags. We are still using plastic either way.


  3. Margo

    Brings up a thought that occurred to me a few years ago. My family has always used plastic shopping bags as garbage bags. We NEVER threw them out in the garbage (why would you when they are recyclable!) but instead would save them to reuse them as garbage bags.

    But why has it become socially unacceptable to accept plastic bags, but is totally acceptable to purchase a box of them for garbage use? Really, for some of us, it comes out to the same thing. (For those who don’t reuse them though, I 100% agree with not taking them when offered). I, however, take advantage of “free garbage bags” (the odd time that they are offered nowadays) since I reuse, and cut down consumption on other items.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t think it’s “socially unacceptable” to accept plastic bags. I think the problem is when people expect to get plastic bags for free and then simply dispose of them after 20 minutes of use.

      I don’t buy garbage bags because I don’t need them. If other people do, then go ahead and buy them, but at least you’re paying for your consumption.

      1. princess iveylocks

        Margo, I agree with you: there is a social stigma toward carrying plastic bags.

        Although I’ve reused durable bags for several years (as a byproduct of biking/busing everywhere and
        shopping at No Frills in Ontario), I now go out of my way to accumulate plastic bags for my rubbish and cat litter disposal. I’m not going to pay for enormous garbage bags when I have zero storage space and have to dispose on a daily basis!

        Also, the major supermarket chains knowingly reduced the quality and thickness of their bags a few years ago, requiring everyone who carries items more than ten feet to request a double-bag, which ups the plastic count and shreds the bags, making them useless. Very environmentally conscious…

        What bothers me the most, though, is the bottom-feeder stores that hop on the “environmental” bandwagon without specifying where, exactly, the $0.05 profit is directed. Zellers/HBC is a prime example of this.

  4. Seth

    I used to throw out my small, kitchen trash bags into a garbage-bag-lined can outside. Then I realized that when I finally put the large bag out for pickup, it was like the garbage was double-bagged – in the kitchen bag, and in the large bag. So now I put small kitchen bags into a can that’s not lined with a bag. It gets picked up ok, and I never have to use big garbage bags now.

  5. Maria Gatti

    I don’t quite get this – do you have one of those old-fashioned garbage bins? (The kind that used to be galvanized steel, and now is more often Rubbermaid plastic). Do you have to take this down the stairs to toss your rubbish, or is there one for your building? If so, how do you make sure les vidangeurs/éboueurs put the lid back on the bin?

    Bathroom trash bin is VERY small. Most bathroom stuff is either recycled or flushed, with a few radioactive exceptions.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I live in a small apartment block. Outside there are large plastic garbage bins. Once one of my small garbage bags is full, I tie it off and throw it in the bin downstairs. The bin is pulled to the curb on garbage day.

      1. Maria Gatti

        Gotcha. I thought you lived in a triplex (from the views from your windows) but I know the kind of small block you mean, as found in Villeray.

        Friends in Toronto say even CAT LITTER is recycled there.

        1. Marc

          Same thing for Halton Region, west of Toronto. About the only thing they don’t accept is, as you put it, “radioactive” bathroom waste. They chose an approach of carrot before the stick. Whereas here, it’s all stick – see the $600+ tickets given out to those who put the recyling out a couple hours early.

  6. malstain

    Not to get more politically correct than thou, but I’ve found that composting cuts down a lot on the amount of garbage I produce, thus requiring fewer bags.

  7. Jimmy S.

    Why aren’t stores using recycled biodegradable bags?
    I never get that type from the grocery stores, but I did get one from a paint store in the West Island.

    If they’re going to charge us a nickel, they should order the more expensive biodegradable bags!

    P.S. I use my plastic bags as kitchen garbage bags, since I live in a condo complex with a garbage chute. No need to buy bags yet, as there’s still plenty of stores that provide them free of cost.


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