March 11, 2020

Questioning Proposed Legislation to Ban Paper Bags Along with Single-Use Plastic

To the Editor:

The legislature is said to be planning to prohibit the use of plastic or paper checkout bags. Because of infirmities of age affecting both me and my wife, we have been getting our groceries delivered weekly by McCaffrey’s for several years, typically in four to six paper bags. If we have to provide our own non-disposable bags, in the simplest sequence I can picture McCaffrey’s would provide a cubby for our bags, and on our delivery days the shopper/delivery person would retrieve our bags and give them to a checker/bagger to use for our order when it is ready.

At delivery, the McCaffrey’s rep stands by while we empty the bags, and then takes them back to be returned to our cubby. All this assumes that McCaffrey’s decides to keep providing a delivery service under such constraints. It seems doubtful that they will, whereupon our option is to find someone who will shop for us each week, preferably at a time convenient for us and at a cost comparable to what McCaffrey’s now charges.

I am puzzled by the inchoate enthusiasm among some activists that lumps paper bags with plastic as to their environmental impact. Paper bags are biodegradable, and because of their durability and utility they are hardly ever truly single-use. Pictures of plastic debris fouling reefs and beaches and open ocean rarely, if ever, feature used paper shopping bags.

There is another potential environmental negative to requiring shoppers to bring their own bags. If under the new regime the typical shopper fails to bring and remember to keep bringing six or more personal bags, he or she is going to make a lot of extra shopping trips. The number of trips, and the number of miles driven, is inversely proportional to the number of bags shoppers faithfully carry. The adverse environmental effects of multiple car trips almost certainly outweigh those of retailers’ continuing to provide paper bags.

John Strother
Grover Avenue