Plastic-free Me: Bring Your Own Bag

An easy way to reduce your plastic waste is to take your own reusable bags to the shops and blah blah blah….

Heard it all before?

I had too and each time I read this tip, I polished my halo. Until (Plastic Free) July 2013 when I paid a little more attention and realised that just because I have a huge collection of reusable shopping bags at home, it only counts if I actually use them for each shopping trip.

I did use my bags most of the time but occasionally I would forget to put them in the car and other times I would forget to transfer them from the car to my trolley. Easily done and understandable with small children competing for my attention, but not really good enough…

So I sorted it out and then another thing began to bother me. Even when I took my own bags, I still used small plastic bags for fruit and veg. I don’t use many as an organic veg box is delivered weekly to my door but every little bit of plastic counts surely?

I turned to Twitter with my dilemma and Onya bags were recommended which were just what I was looking for (you get 5 net bags in each pouch shown in the picture)

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These are lightweight (so don’t show up on the scales) and they are easy to view the items through when it comes to paying.

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I wondered if the sales assistants might have a problem with me using them but no one has ever commented so perhaps they are used by others too.

As you may know from my post on cloth hankies, I’m not in any way handy with a needle or thread but I reckon that this type of bag could be made quite easily at no cost by upcycling old material (tights? net curtains?) You could therefore avoid participating further in this consumer-crazy world, if you are that way inclined.

Also (and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this) I didn’t really consider using cloth bags for shopping outwith the supermarket. I’m not sure why. Did I perhaps think it would be odd to put non-food items in my own bag? Does it make them harder to return?

I decided that I didn’t care if it was odd and concluded that if you have a receipt you’ll be able to return goods so I started to take my own bag out in town. At first, it was a bit of a farce! No matter how large the bag I brought was and whether I was holding it when I paid, I kept forgetting to use it. Often by the time I realised that I had a redundant bag in my hand, the shop assistant would be bidding me a cheery goodbye and I felt I’d missed my moment…

Finally I have broken this habit but have discovered that even when I inform the assistant of the presence of my own ‘carrying equipment’ they are also often hypnotised into using plastic bags on automatic pilot! This can lead to unpacking and repacking but has sometimes facilitated a little blether about plastic waste and the state of the environment – a silver lining which, I feel, compensates for that particular cloud.

The bags I generally use are the ones I’ve had since reusable bags started becoming the norm, mostly bought from the supermarket.

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These are great for food shopping (although since I’ve become less enamoured with supermarkets I try to avoid showing off the bags with shop logos emblazoned on them). Sometimes I take the smaller bags out when clothes shopping. The bags I like best for this purpose are those that fold down into tiny pouches and clip to my bag, meaning there’s always one when I need it. Here’s a picture of mine, again from Onya bags.

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I’ve started to use the smaller cloth bags for transporting dirty wellie boots, buckets, spades and used kids’ drinking cups home after days out. When I used plastic bags for this purpose I would end up throwing the bag out because it was soiled. Now I just wash the cloth bags and save the plastic bags which are now a rare commodity in our household!

As I was saying……

An easy way to reduce your plastic waste is to take your own reusable bags to the shops!


10 thoughts on “Plastic-free Me: Bring Your Own Bag

  1. Here in Wales, there’s no such thing as a free plastic bag, so shop assistants ALWAYS ask if you want one. This is a great prompt – I have got used to carrying one or two around in my handbag and now I never forget to use them. I even made a shop assistant deduct the bag charge the other day when I noticed that she had assumed I needed the bag from the shop although I did have one of my own… it may only be 5p, but it’s also another plastic bag entering the environment.

      • It does seem to have worked here – lots of people now have a stock of shopping bags… just as I remember from my childhood! Even so, when I visit a supermarket I still see people with trollies stuffed with flimsy plastic bags that they must have paid for, it’s so sad. And this brings to mind the fact that in the past supermarkets used to have piles of boxes by the checkouts – a great example of reuse that you hardly ever see now.

      • It wasn’t that long ago that a generation had it about right re plastic use. Now it’s so out of control it’s hard to see if there’s any going back…

  2. I agree with The Snail of Happiness. The carrier bag charge we have here means that the assistant has to ask if you want a bag so you don’t accidentally end up with a bag even though you’ve brought your own. It does become habit. When we were in Scotland last month I nearly shouted at the shop assistant when she automatically put my shopping in a carrier bag. I did redeem myself by explaining about the charge and how I carry cloth bags in my handbag. She was quite impressed but did state that “it’ll never catch on in Scotland” Once people have to pay 5p a time it quickly will!!!!

    Excellent post again. I love the little cloth bags for fruit and veg. May need to invest/make some x

      • It will. 5p a bag isn’t much but think how many bags you use when you do your big shop. Times that by 5p and it starts mounting up. Then all the little trips to the shops. It starts getting annoying. Then people will start putting a bag in their handbag!!

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