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Plastic or Canvas?
Every Friday my syndicated family column goes out to a million people in various newspapers. Here's this week's, about my dilemma with plastic bags! I suppose this is somewhat appropriate today, when the U.S. Congress is voting on Cap and Trade!

Once upon a time, people would happily gather up their steak bones, used Kleenex, and slimy meat wrappers into plastic garbage bags the night before the garbage truck made its rounds. Then these happy people would happily deposit their garbage bags on the curb.

That all changed the day that municipalities started demanding $1 per bag. No longer could you discard of a half-full garbage bag. You had to get your money’s worth, even if that meant stinking up the garage by leaving the garbage an extra week. After all, if you threw away a bag that was only 82% full, you wasted a whole eighteen cents. Instead, you’d stuff and stuff and stuff until you could stuff no more.

Then cities started charging $2. Some even demanded clear bags to ensure you weren’t sticking Campbell’s soup cans where they must not go. Garbage was serious business.

The effect is still rippling out. Last month my favourite grocery store stopped handing out plastic bags for free. Instead of warning customers, though, they made an “exciting announcement!” They wanted to save the planet, and they would do this by requiring you to pay for bags. Isn’t that grand?

It certainly is environmentally friendly, though grocery stores congratulating themselves on their civic mindedness as they inconvenience us goes a little far. And I do know that we all should be using canvas bags. I even bought green boxes a decade ago. They’re ever so handy to carry things upstairs and downstairs, or to lug books in, or to use as alternate suitcases when you’re camping. I even use them to separate my recyclables into four different categories! In fact, they’re so handy that they never remain in my car so that I would have them when I’m grocery shopping. Come to think of it, I have the identical problem with those pesky canvas bags. They’re always everywhere but at the checkout counter.

Nevertheless, that’s not even my main problem. I’m all for stopping excessive landfill, but shortly after we started using these reusable shopping bags, like good Canadian citizens are supposed to do, I went to change the garbage in my kitchen and I didn’t have a plastic bag to line the can afterwards. What are you supposed to do with all the soggy leftover Cheerios? With the gooey stuff that sticks to the bottom of the roaster? With the dried egg that remains on the frying pan because my youngest daughter forgot to spray it before she scrambled? You can’t throw that directly into the can! You need a bag.

I could, of course, just buy packages of kitchen catchers, but that seems like too big a leap. And thus I arrived at the modern dilemma: those plastic grocery bags we were once given actually served a purpose. They didn’t travel solo to a landfill; they carried my wet trash. And I still need that plastic.

So I went to my grocery store, deliberately leaving the canvas bags behind. When the cashier asked, “Would you like bags today?”, I proudly replied, “Why yes, I would!”. Every head turned in my direction with horror. But I didn’t care. I wheeled my groceries out, plastic bags and all, with my head held high. I have soggy Cheerios that need a home, and these bags fit the bill. When they’re filled up, my husband will stuff and stuff and stuff our garbage into our jumbo garbage bag, and affix our $2 sticker to it. Times may have changed, but garbage is still garbage. And I still need a place to put it.

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UPDATE: Everybody's asking me what kitchen catchers are! Sorry! I thought everyone knew. Glad Kitchen Catchers: heavy duty plastic bags just for your kitchen.

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At 8:31 AM , Anonymous Bekah Ferguson said…

haha Yeah, I can relate. A few months back we bought a whole bunch of sturdy canvas bags but the problem is that we almost always forget them in the van when we go to the grocery store and don't remember till the checkout line, so we end up with plastic bags after all. :P It's frustrating but after a lifetime of plastic bags, it's gonna take a lot of retraining to use canvas. :P

But when I see video footage of the plastic landfill site the size of Texas in the middle of ocean, I feel inspired all over again to avoid plastic.... they need to come up with a decomposable kitchen garbage bag - something similar to those compost bags, you know?


At 8:53 AM , Blogger Melanie said…

So, I gotta ask - what are kitchen catchers?


At 1:42 PM , Anonymous Prodigal said…

I have canvas but I don't always use them, because I use the plastic bags for miscellaneous or messy trash like cat litter.

What are kitchen catchers?


At 1:44 PM , Blogger Kat G said…

There are other options:

1. Buy biodegradable bags. Concerned about the sizes? They make biodegradeable dog poop bags. Those are great for the small stuff.

2. Freeze your icky stuff. Use a large coffee can and just shove all the ick in there. Freeze it. And then send it out as an ice block of gross on garbage day. You'd think this would be a pain. It isn't. It's also a great way to handle compostables when you are too lazy to put it out that evening.

I hate driving down the Tucson, AZ roads and seeing bags caught on cactus and I wish they'd all go away. Also, they are damaging to animals.

Sack up (hee!) and start trying to be more flexible and creative in your garbaging needs!


At 1:50 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


I'm liking your coffee can idea! We don't have a lot of coffee cans, but we do have ice cream containers. We could freeze stuff in there.



At 3:28 PM , Blogger Kat G said…

Even better! Those tubs are perfect! Will likely be investing in at tub of vanilla for the spousal unit so I can get rid of my can!

See? Social networking does work! LOL!


At 6:44 AM , Blogger Lauren said…

So glad to know I'm not the only one who uses those canvas bags for everything but groceries... we moved a couple of months ago and they were very handy for moving all of our DVDs. I keep thinking if I buy extra I might actually leave them in the car, but it never happens...

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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