please empty your brain below

I agree with some of your sentiment DG, especially regarding carrying those bag-for-life type bags speculatively in your pocket. The irony is that the regular "free" plastic bags can be scrunched up so small that they *will* fit in your jacket pocket or bag or whatever, so they are eminently more recyclable that the supposed planet-friendly ones. I have a car, but I rarely use it for shopping trips; a family of four could very easily walk down to the supermarket/high-street-shops with freebie plastic bags in pockets and carry the stuff home no problem.

If I carried a manbag with me everywhere I went then yes, I could have a few placcybags stashed at the bottom. But I don't.

Poacher's coats, that's the answer.

Coop bags biodegrade in a year. If you leave them in the house too long they turn into white powder.

Yet another symptom of a hysterical crusade though. Supermarket bags are targetted because they are easy and obvious, not because they form an important proportion of waste and banning them will have a significant effect on the environment in any way.

And I am a car using person with boxes in the car. When I load the shopping straight into the trolly they assistants always try to foist plastic bags onto me 'so that security will know you have paid'. Hmm what about the receipt then?

This has been a problem in France for years, but there are ways around it.

Most people - except for obviously stylish and well groomed geezers - carry train bomber style backpacks. These do well for impromptu shopping trips.

My main annoyance with the free plastic bags is how frequently they stop the trains running when they get wrapped around the wires. It may be that legislation has to be introduced to punish the sensible because too many are stupid and lazy.....

Our local supermarket (in Israel BTW) has bags so flimsy you can't always find one strong enough to get to the car, let alone home. And our government (always with an eye open for a good deal) want to introduce a "green tax" of 1 shekel (about 12p) per bag! Bet you they'll take it even if the bag splits on you (wait.... can't they take double if it splits into two?)

Our new central European friends will know all about keeping a string bag in their pockets because they would never know if there may have been a shipment of sugar or whatever so they will be able to join the queue. Always be prepared for the unexpected even if it is only the last of the Sevilles down the market. I call them babushka bags because grannies always had one handy.

I've noticed how in many shops the kindly "would you like a bag" has morphed into a terse "do you NEED a bag".(Er, yes, I've just paid £89.99 for something and would like to get it home undamaged, thanks.)

I totally agree with the sentiment. If you generally aren't thinking of shopping, why carry a bag?
Admittedly, I usually have a backpack with me (to keep my camera in), and inside that I have an 'onya' bag ( They're made of parachute silk, so they are strong, and pack up to something smaller than a fist. Great for a bit of impromptu shopping.

you might, I suppose, need a carrier bag to take your impromptu groceries home in. what you don't need is a bag to carry your (already packaged) sandwich back to your office.

I try and take a recycled bag shopping when I know I'm going shopping (be it jute bag or just handful of carrier bags) but when I do impromptu shopping I simply try and use as few bags as possible.

And yet again the Evil T£$Sco find a way to add thousands/millions of pounds to their ever-growing profits by not supplying plastic bags while all the time wrapping it up as a green and environmentally friendly initiative.

They still do plastic bags in Sainsbury's... and they have days every now and again where they *give* away bags for life.

Other supermarkets (and other food shops) are available...

While people put up with T£$co's ways, they will continue to exploit. There is only one answer. Boycot T£$co.

I'm old enough to remember before plastic bags, and it's never occurred to me not to have my own shopping bags for the weekly shop. Yes, it's called planning.

And yes, there have been times when I didn't have my own bag with me and needed one of the shop's, but is it really such a hardship to go back to the days of carrying your own string bag around with you (assuming you could get one in the first place - now there's a business opportunity waiting to be snapped up)?

Steven - every time I go in Waterstones I have the same problem. Now I'm a bit arsey with my books, and like them to always be in perfect condition. But the people at Waterstones always make me feel like an animal killer for wanting one...

What bugs the arse off me is when shop assistants put my goods into a carrier bag without thinking I might not actually want it. Each time I'm the lucky recipient of the "you're off your rocker, sunshine" look as I assert that I don't actually need a carrier bag and I'll use one that I brought with me, thank you very much. (Co-op on Askew Road W12, I'm looking at you...)

FWIW I don't drive a car. It's easy if you carry a rucksack to put a couple of spare bags into it. No more thought required.

Carrier bags do come in handy as bin-bags though. Thanks to my wormery and our local comprehensive recycling collection, we only get through a couple a week. I tie them together for the binmen instead of putting them into the big black plastic sacks. It makes no sense to use yet more plastic in such cases.

There. A little change here and there and la vida verde suddenly becomes a practical reality for lots of people, rather than the sole preserve of the yoghurt-weaver. And it all started with reusing the odd carrier.

It's not just a few plastic bags, though. Around 1.3 trillion are manufactured annually and it takes an estimated 2\\% of the world’s oil production to make them. You say you recycle bags - but does that mean you use them to line your bin and they then go straight to landfill? Reusing is far better than recycling, in any case.

Yes, I get caught out sometimes too, but how organised do you really have to be to know that you intend to eat that evening? How about keeping a couple of bags at work so that you can spend five seconds at 5 o'clock wondering if you'll need to shop and, if so, taking the bags with you? Canvas bags are bulky, but cotton and string bags aren't, and you can use up those spare plastic bags until they fall apart.

Don't be so feeble. Change your routine or watch the world die around you. Actually, there's an alternative option. In Soviet Russia, when goods appeared seemingly at random on shop shelves and for a short time until they were snaffled, everyone used to carry a "perhaps bag", a string bag that took up no more space in your pocket than a hankie. Market them!

"takes an estimated 2\\% of the world’s oil production to make them"

I despair at the GCSE generation.

The joys of the disposable plastic carrier bag are that they are lightweight, and that they can be scrunched up so that they can fit into a pocket. That's why I always use them to carry things from place to place. They're also recyclable (when people can be bothered, of course).

I think the degradable bags are a good idea. At least if they end up in landfill, they will decompose within a year, rather than hundreds of years with non-degradable bags. The problem with the 'Bags For Life' is that, unlike conventional carriers, you have to buy them, and they're also heavier and more difficult to carry around. I would imagine that they would also be more difficult to dispose of and would take longer to decompose than degradable carriers.

Admittedly, however, the Bags For Life are stronger, and are useful if (like me) you always have to fiddle with carriers in order to get them open, and you always tend to buy a lot on your shopping trips. I believe we should stick with what we do now, where we have the choice of using the traditional (but degradable) plastic carrier bag, or for a small cost, the robust Bag For Life.

Iain T, I didn't do the estimation and I don't know who did - the information came from the internet. I'm too old by a long chalk for GCSEs.

Andrew H, biodegradable bags are one thing, but degradable bags should be banned outright. The “degradable” bags are identical to the original carrier bags but with extra additives, the toxic metal compound cobalt being one of them. These make the bag more brittle causing it to fragment into small pieces. No ocean is free from pollution from plastic fragments and, as they are minute, marine life can't help but ingest them.

I keep all my plastic bags and re-use them for many things : best off all, picking up dog poop!

Why aren't Waterstones (HMV,Borders and the rest) providing paper bags instead of plastic ones for a book or CD?
Why aren't supermarkets providing paper pags for fruit and veg instead of those clear plastic ones? If they're that serious this is a sweeping change that could be implemented overnight.

Plastic bags left the supermarkets here for good (January? perhaps before?) some time this year (?) and so as a family without a car we try to go to the supermarket prepared with the new bags which have been in circulation for a while now.

I often forget to buy one and so we have about 10 of the things, all from different supermarkets ....

What irks me is that I used to use the old 'free' bags to line the various little bins around the house and have about a handful left ...

It`s simple ?Paper bags if possible but if they are not suitable biodegradable plastic. If the co-op can do it so can the others. Its not bloody rocket science.

Excuse me coming back again please, DG - the 2\\% refers to all plastic wrapping, including, but not exclusively, carrier bags. That info comes from the British Plastics Federation website.

Where do you lucky people live? I still have a struggle not to be given a bag ... It's a race against time to pick up my purchase and put it in my bag before they snatch it and put it in one of theirs. Even Boots, who used to have a policy of asking, don't any more.
I understand the spontaneous shopping problem as well though. Surely there's a compromise - we've all just got so used to free carriers, but when I worked at Sainsbury's ... oooh... (agh!!) 25 years ago you bought your carrier bags; three and a half pee for a plastic one (pretty robust) or four and a half pee for a paper one (even more robust, though very few people believed it). No one complained about paying or expected to get them for free (and thruppence halfpenny in 1983 is surely equivalent to way more than 10p today?).

I am an ardent environmentalist, but I still believe in plastic carrier bags.

Before everyone rehashes all the old chestnuts on the subject, I wrote at length about the myth of the plastic bag last year (19th December, and comment thread below the post).

More details on why the chestnuts are myths from the original article here.

A manbag is a carrier bag..isn't it?

Hey Z, sorry for the confusion. I meant biodegradable bags. We certainly don't want toxic pollutants in our bags!
check this, it can be done, as usual its a matter of cost

I gave in last week and got a material back from Sainsburys (Do want to use it now ?, asked the woman on the checkout - plastic bag in hand).

I have to agree that with planning it's easy to take it out and use it but do I really want to carry it around on the off chance I get something ? Man bag or not I do walk into the town with nothing but a jacket and Ipod most lunchtimes and some of those times the odd purchase happens that needs a placcy bag.

I do try to reuse them for shopping / rubbish bins and it's good to see more recycled bags in use at supermarkets.

In Sweden they charged for all the larger bags which means in most supermarkets there people use the small bags (the ones that ladies in supermarkets insist on wrapping the pre-wrapped boxes of fish in at the checkout in Sainsburys before they put them into the larger bags) which is amusing when they break just outside the shop...

And I fear we're all at risk of ending up with a kitchen full of thick, expensive, wasteful, un-reused reusable bags instead.

I'm with you on this one. I have more bags for life than I will ever need in this lifetime, but they all sit in my kitchen coz I hardly ever plan a visit to the supermarket and they're too bulky to carry round on the off chance that I may go to the supermarket one day. Paperbags are useless if you have to take the weekly shop home on public transport, as are biodegradeable bags that have a tendency to rip when more than 3 items are placed in them. The other day my shopping ended up on the train track when my bag ripped open as I got off the train. Not funny. Not terribly enviromentally friendly either.

i use my plastic bags for my kitchen rubbish that doesn't go to recycling land... if i wasn't doing that i would be buying garbage bags... therefore taking some bags with the weekly shop (i usually put the meat in them in case it leaks) just so i have something to put the rubbish in each week... and that's my bag cycle... ...

Simple, they should charge a few pence for plastic bags and knock a bit off food prices.


Weekend shopping I am Green, I take my bag for life, and even a hessian over the shoulder number. But Mid week I'm not going to walk home than retrace half my journey just to save the planet.

If we are making so many excuses about a tiny change in our lifestyles what's going to happen when we have to make the big changes which undoubtedly we will have to?

Sylvester... the BIG question is, "Are there going to BE 'big changes'?"

We've had a record winter, and it's global, not just local weather. There's more snow in China, the upper Americas, Russia, Greenland, etc than there has been since 1966. All of that Arctic melt-off that was supposed to have happened this past summer has been replaced in aces and spades.

Suppose the global warming people are just plain WRONG?

I thought we'll need all these plastic carriers to double-bag all our foodstuff whilst it's rotting in the dustbin when fortnightly rubbish collections come in?

Sarah - I'm with you. I can't tell you how often I get attitude from cashiers for having my own bag. Me- Yes I have my own bag. Cashier- Sigh.

And then the whole awkward dance of them handing me every item and getting all flustered because their normal routine has been altered.

For me, it is environmental, but also if I took every bag I was offered, I would have an entire closet full of old empty bags. Since I normally have bike and bike panniers with me, there is plenty of room to stash things in there without their bags.

lady in M&S just looked at me very oddly when I stuffed rolls, pate, cucumber and biscuits into my handbag to take back to office...

I also use my plastic bags for my rubbish - I don't think I've ever bought bin liners in my life. I've also never had a car, walk or take public transport everywhere, recycle everything that can be recycled, use low-energy light bulbs etc. I reckon I'm doing plenty for the environment, so can I have proper plastic bags to put my shopping in please?!!!

I have one of those nylon folding bags, which I take my lunch to work in; it then folds up small in my rucksack for my walk home. Then if I decide to buy a few items from Sains** on my way home, I whip out my little nylon bag - Voila! I also stuff food into my rucksack and always say before they start to pack, 'I've brought my own bags thank you' (I still have a cupboard full of plastic bags, which I reuse on the weekly shop.)

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