Plastic Bag Alternatives & IKEA


Suddenly, everywhere I look I see more and more retailers selling their version of the plastic-bag-alternative.  Peir One has interesting designs on theirs.  Method soaps is selling cute hobo-style printed canvas bags with catchy pro-green sayings.

Even IKEA has gotten into the act.  I visited the store last Friday – yeah, black Friday – and when it came time to check out I discovered their ingenius idea to pressure customers into avoiding the plastic bag game. 

IKEA is charging $0.05 per plastic bag!

The alternative is to not use them, or to buy one of their own plastic bag alternatives at $0.59 / bag and reuse the silly thing. 

Here’s my take: I sorta like the idea of pressuring people to be more conscious of their plastic bag consumption by having them pay for it.  I like the idea of more retailers offering plastic bag alternatives.  But I really dont like the proposal that normal plastic bags cant be reused or have a second life.  I also dont like the side by side proposal that a more-sturdily-built plastic bag (which is IKEA’s alternative, a bag of plastic weave with cotton handles) is any better than the original bags we’ve all grown up with.  Okay, so perhaps it was made from recycled plastic, but its still plastic! 

There’s plenty of second life uses for plastic bags, just a few:

  • Pick up after yer dog!!  (A huge step in the right direction for water quality and a better use for those bags.  Really you should use paper, but we’ll take what we can get.)
  • Use them to line waste baskets instead of buying small sized liners. 
  • Knit them together into elaborate and stylish rain ponchos.
  • Recycle them!  My local Publix, Target, and even Wal-Mart all recycle the plastic bags. 
  • Bring them back to the store and re-use them! 

To be honest, all of this seems a little confusing to me.  My family has been re-using paper grocery store bags over and over for my entire life.  Now, we did it because Pathmark in Delaware would credit your order with a few pennies for each re-used bag, and my family needed to conserve every penny those days. 

Even now, my parents use cotton and cloth bags to carry home groceries and try to avoid the plastic monsters as much as possible.  But, it isnt always easy to do.  Its well and fine to purchase these alternative bags, but will we use them?  Will our society remember to pack one of these tiny bags into our backpacks and take it with us on our daily treks through life? 

Or are they just going to be one more thing to consume and constantly re-purchase as we forget to bring them to the market and the home furnishing store?