I recently learned that most recycling facilities refuse to accept plastic grocery bags. I decided to do a quick research on the reasoning behind this apparently nonsensical idea.
Well, it turns out the problem is two-fold.
First, most bags are NOT made of material that is readily recyclable. I believe that the Walmart bags that inevitably scurry along the the sides of the road in my area ARE recyclable as they have a big old "2" in the recycle triangle. My small-town recycler is very limited and only accept plastic marked 1 and 2, so it sounds like we should be good to go to getting these things out of the landfill and into the recycling program, right?
Wrong. The other reason that nearly all recyclers refuse the bags is because they are so thin and filmy, they get tangled in the machinery. The handles catch on the conveyer belts and they just cause so many problems that there are virtually no programs that accept them. (There are, however, specialty places that take them and remake them into a fake lumber which is beneficial.)
So, of course, the logical step is to follow in San Francisco's ecological footsteps and stop using the bags altogether. During my web prowl for ideas, I came upon a blog called QueerCents.com with a couple of great ideas.
Most folks mentioned how great canvas bags are. Yeah. They're good. But I grew up in the era where the only "bigger is better" thing involves television screens. When it comes to toting around stuff, I want thin, small, and lightweight. My mom solved that problem nearly 20 years ago.
She decided to make grocery bags out of "rip-stop nylon" (also known as "parachute material") which is incredibly strong and also, obviously, extremely lightweight. She made them just a smidge larger than a standard plastic Walmart bag, and when they aren't being used, they fold up so that six of them take up as much room (and even less weight) than a standard paperback book.
See all these yummy things? The next picture shows where I stuffed the bag to the brim with all that stuff from my cupboard. And hey, no teasing about the Poptarts. I have teenagers and they have their dietary requirements.
Ironically, the Walmart bag could only fit about half of the stuff that my bag held yet they were nearly the same size. Hmm.
Now, "rip-stop nylon" isn't cheap (about $8 a yard), but considering that places are selling thick, heavy, bulky canvas bags for nearly $10 apiece and mom can sell these for half that price, it's a pretty cool deal. And remember, these bags have been used and abused for nearly 20 years. Canvas can't hold a candle to that.
She's only made them for us, but heck, I think she should sell these suckers. They're better than anything else on the market.