Now that California voters have approved the statewide plastic bag ban; many consumers are now faced with the task of selecting and using an alternative method to transport their purchases home. All of these alternative methods are costlier, time consuming, and more inconvenient than the store provided paper or plastic carryout bags previously supplied through indirect cost.
Bag options available to the shopper are as follows:
- Use No Bags. In past surveys, about 42% of shoppers chose this option. Either carrying their groceries in their arms or putting them back in the shopping cart to transport their purchases back to the car.
- Use Your Own Plastic Bags. Use those plastic grocery bags you have stashed away and when they are gone, purchase your own plastic T-shirt bags. You can purchase a box of 1000 T-shirt carryout bags for between $10 and $25 either from a local distributor or from an internet store and are available in white or neon colors. Keep a box in each car you own and you will always have bags with you when you shop. Estimated yearly cost is about $45.
- Use Store-Provided Paper or Plastic Reusable Bags. This option will cost you a minimum of 10-cents per bag. Estimated yearly cost is about $78. By reusing these bags a few times for shopping, you can cut down your out-of-pocket cost.
- Bring and Use Your Own Reusable Bags. A wide variety of reusable bags are available for purchase from cloth to bags made from non-woven polypropylene and similar materials. Estimated yearly cost is between $250 and $300. The estimated cost not only includes your out-of-pocket cost to purchase and replace bags, but also includes the value of your time to manage and wash reusable bags.
- Bring and Use Your Own Collapsible Crate. Several types of collapsible crates or baskets are available that can be used to transport your groceries to your home.
Some additional tips:
- As a shopper, under state law, you can bring your own bag or basket of any type and use them for carrying your groceries home. You can even purchase your own plastic bags, even the ones that the environmental community and state legislators want to ban.
- Some shoppers who have used reusable bags will tell you “It is easy! It isn’t so hard!” However, before you allow yourself to be persuaded by their arguments, you should read the article titled “Using Reusable Bags Not That Easy” which identifies and addresses the difficulties and pitfalls of using reusable bags and then make up your own mind. (Williams & van Leeuwen, 2014)
- Some reusable bag users will tell you they never wash their bags. These shoppers may not have read the article entitled “Bacterial and Viral Health Hazards of Reusable Shopping Bags” which provides a more sober perspective. (van Leeuwen, Bacterial and Viral Health Hazards of Reusable Shopping Bags, 2013)
- Some shoppers will tell you that reusable bags are great and hold more than those flimsy plastic bags. While it is true that reusable bags hold more, we recommend that you read the article entitled “Reusable Bags and Ergonomic Issues” for a more realistic perspective. (van Leeuwen, Reusable Bags and Ergonomic Issues, 2013)
- If you decide to purchase your own T-Shirt bags, bring some extra to give away. You might just make someone’s day.
If you are interested in learning more about the methodology we used to evaluate annual costs of the different bag type options, we encourage you to read the article entitled “Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers”. This article discusses that calculating the annual cost of different bag types is much more than just estimating the number of bags used per year and multiply that by the cost per bag. In the case of reusable bags, there is a commitment of personal time to manage bags (fold them, inspect them, put them back in the car, etc.), washing bags and related utility costs. We calculate the cost of your personal time to handle and wash bags at $12 per hour as the value of your personal time. (van Leeuwen & Williams, Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers, 2013)
If you are shopper who doesn’t like having to pay 10-cents for a store-provided paper or plastic reusable bag, there are two articles we encourage you to read: The first article is entitled “Paper Bag Fee Setting a Bad Precedent” which discusses the issue of a government entity specifying a minimum price for a product sold by a private business. (van Leeuwen, Paper Bag Fee – Setting A Bad Precedent, 2014) The second article discusses shoppers who are exempt from paying that bag fee and is entitled “Plastic Bag Ban Creates New Welfare Benefit”. This article discusses how both local bag bans and the statewide bag ban creates two classes of shoppers; one class has to pay for store-provided paper and plastic bags and the other class gets them for free. (van Leeuwen, Plastic Bag Ban Creates New Welfare Benefit, 2013)
In the face of the statewide plastic bag ban, you as a shopper have to determine which bag option works best for you and your family.
van Leeuwen, A. (2013, June 2). Bacterial and Viral Health Hazards of Reusable Shopping Bags. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/bacterial-and-viral-health-hazards-of-reusable-shopping-bags_rev_1.pdf
van Leeuwen, A. (2013, May 3). Plastic Bag Ban Creates New Welfare Benefit. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/plastic-bag-ban-creates-new-welfare-benefit.pdf
van Leeuwen, A. (2013, June 23). Reusable Bags and Ergonomic Issues. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/reusable-bags-and-ergonomic-issues.pdf
van Leeuwen, A. (2014, January 27). Paper Bag Fee – Setting A Bad Precedent. Retrieved from Fight the Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/paper-bag-fee-setting-a-bad-precedent.pdf
van Leeuwen, A., & Williams, D. (2013, June 5). Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/plasticbagalternativesmuchmorecostlytoconsumers.pdf
Williams, D., & van Leeuwen, A. (2014, February 10). Using Reusable Bags: It’s Not That Easy. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/using-reusablebagsnotthateasy.pdf