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Posted on Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Dave!Years ago I was with my mother at the check-out lane of our local market, and heard the bag-boy say those classic words for the very first time: "paper or plastic?" It was memorable to me because my mother had thought they were asking if she was paying with cash (paper) or credit card (plastic). Once they explained that they were actually asking whether she wanted a paper or plastic BAG, my mother ended up sticking with the paper sack because it was all she knew. It didn't help that the plastic bags were so thin and flimsy that they looked as if they would fall apart on the way to the car.

And she was not alone.

Nobody wanted the plastic bags.

Every time I went to the store I heard "paper or plastic" again and again, but noticed that the paper sack was always chosen. This must have been depressing to the store, because the plastic sacks were so much cheaper, yet they sat there unused. But one day we went back to the market and there was a display at the checkout counter. They had a plastic bag filled with the heaviest of groceries being suspended from a hook. It was made even more impressive by the fact that they had slashed holes in the bag with groceries poking out everywhere... but it still did not break. So, even though they looked a more fragile than the paper option, the plastic was actually quite a bit tougher.

After that, everybody started asking for the miraculous plastic bags that could effortlessly hold lots of crap (and had convenient handles built-in). Sure there were people who still didn't want the "new-fangled bags" but they were in the minority, because everywhere you looked shoppers were walking around with plastic. The future of shopping had arrived.

Besides, they're fantastically useful. I'll bet there are a million things you can do with plastic shopping bags!

Grocery Bag Bonnet

Grocery Bag Toilet

Paper bag manufacturers tried to compete by adding handles, water-proof coating, and other stuff... but it was too late. Plastic had won the war, and there was no going back. Soon it was increasingly rare to see any paper bags at a grocery store. Why bother when everybody is going to want plastic anyway?

It was then that paper bag fans (and manufacturers, I'd imagine) started getting upset. "PLASTIC BAGS ARE BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!" they would scream. At least they did until studies were released that said plastic bags had a slightly less damaging effect on the environment (surprise!)... but it didn't matter much because BOTH paper and plastic were ultimately a bad thing (environmentally speaking). The best solution is to re-use a cloth bag over and over again (no surprise there). Sadly, hardly anybody bothers to do this. After all, what would they put their garbage in if they didn't get their plastic grocery bags? In Ireland you have to pay a fee every time you use a plastic bag... maybe if that happened here, people would come up with a more eco-friendly solution. Oh well.

Flash-forward to today and paper bags are making a kind of comeback. Upscale markets are using them again not because they are cheaper or better for the environment... but because they're "cool." I suppose the "perceived ecological friendliness" of paper must be a factor as well, which I find kind of funny.

Especially today when I was in line behind some Birkenstock-wearing hippy bitch at the grocery check-out.

"DON'T YOU HAVE PAPER BAGS?!? PLASTIC IS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!! she bellowed. The cashier apologized but, alas, he had no paper bags. "WELL THAT'S JUST GREAT!" she yells... her face scrunched into an eternal scowl. She then collected her shopping (which included a gallon of milk in a plastic jug, and various other environmentally-hostile containers) and went stomping out the door...


I guess in this case "hippy" stands for "hypocritical?"

Sigh. Maybe it's the rain, but I really want to bitch-slap just about everybody today.

Categories: DaveLife 2006, DaveToons 2006Click To It: Permalink


  1. Naomi says:

    Paper and plastic both ARE bad for the environment… that’s why I take a hollowed out spotted-owl to cart my groceries with.

  2. diane says:

    Oh MAN! Rain bonnet Dave might be my new favorite Lil’ Dave ever. I don’t now why, maybe because he just really not pleased to be wearing it? Maybe it’s lack of sleep–I couldn’t stop laughing.
    Anyway, as a pet owner and friend of other pet owners, I value the plastic bag for its marvelous use in cleaning up animal doo-doo. Plus those plastic doggie poo bags with the little bones all over them are really kind of cute…

  3. kapgar says:

    I had a girl on my floor my sophomore year in college who made a plastic bag outfit. She wore it the whole day (on the floor only, mind you). I took pictures. I should find them. You’d dig it.

  4. The Chad says:

    I’m all for the plastic so I dont have to buy as many dog crapper bags, or small garbage bags for my other trash bins.

    I hate any and all hippies. Even yuppies irritate the shit out of me.

  5. Jeff says:

    We keep a stack of those cardboard grocery boxes in our trunk and use them at the grocery store. They hold a ton, are easy to carry and last about a hundred years. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good way yet to not use plastic bags for our garbage.

  6. ms. sizzle says:

    i just hate how i don’t have anywhere to put the damn plastic bags. and how when i carry my goods in them they all kind of crunch together in the middle. i always want to bring my own bags but then i forget. ha ha. nice huh!?

    bitch slap everyone. do it!

  7. Mooselet says:

    I actually have reusable cloth bags… AND I use them! At least for my major shopping trip. I even have two cooler style bags for the cold stuff. I still get the plastic ones for those “couple of items” trips, and when I get too many I drop them off at the grocery store in the plastic bag recycling bin.

    When I was a kid, we used to use the paper bags to cover our school books with. I miss those.

  8. nancycle says:

    *leaves you a cup of green tea and walks out of the room*

  9. kilax says:

    In Rome, the charge for the bags too, so everyone totes little bags or pulls their own little cart with them. I got quite used to it – I took my sack there and filled it up, then used it again the next time.

  10. Bre says:

    When I studied abroad in Ireland, the fee was 35 cents per plastic bag, and as poor college students who had more important things to do with our money (like hit the pubs!) we just got into the habit of not using them. Now I have a pop up basket type thing that lives in my car and travels to the grocery store with me. If I have a really huge shopping trip to make I’ll bring some of my thousand tote bags as well, but I never really need them. All in all, I suppose it’s not a bad habit to be in!

  11. We actually choose from our two grocery stores here in town by the bags that they use. We like the little handled paper bags because they’re the perfect size for holding our (mandatory) recycling. When it gets full, the whole thing goes to the recycling bin except the aluminum cans and glass bottles which we save in a bin to themselves because, WTF? I’m being charged for recycling, I’m not giving you the things that I can earn money back from. We take the cans and glass bottles to the recycling center about twice a year and get our $50 which doesn’t pay for my (mandatory) recycling, but at least the money grubbing whores aren’t getting it.

    /rant on recycling.

    Anyway, what I dislike at the grocery is when they put like two things in a bag. Really, just shove it in another one, people. And they want to put everything in a bag including the milk jugs or other bulky items. I’d rather bag it myself so the grocery store flunkies don’t put air freshener spray with my organic apples or somesuch. Annoying.

    lalalala…I’m done spamming.

  12. Kapha says:

    lol, Naomi! 😀

  13. Laurence says:

    France does not know the paper bag. We have to pay for a plastic bag since 5 years. But this bag is biodegradable, exchangeable and recyclabe.
    Before, we distributed the plastic bag (galore) which last 400 years (and it is not a joke ! It is the reality) . It is still distributed but it is rare!!!

    PS. It’s incredible how much rain can have consequences on our psychisms!!! 😀
    PPS. Rain Bonnet Lil’Dave is funny !!! It adds a touch of class !!! 😉
    It is not so far of the reality… I already saw it!!!
    PPS. With two plastic bags, we can also cover the shoes… And I already saw it too !!! 😀
    (we live on a odd planet, isn’t it ?)

  14. undisciplined says:

    Eek! Lil’ Dave in a rain bonnet! Ultra cute. It also scrapes up a childhood memory/trauma. Back in the day, (when most kids weren’t chauffeured to and from school by their parents) I always took the bus to school. If I didn’t have an umbrella for whatever reason, my mother would insist that I tie a grocery bag on my head. Now if it was really pouring, there was always the kitchen trash bag poncho. Sigh…you think I would have kept better track of my umbrellas, not used them in mock swordfights, or jabbed friends in the back with the auto button.

  15. serap says:

    We don’t have paper bags in England either, but where I live the council recycles our plastic bags for free (and they collect from the house). I do take a couple of cloth bags and a special ‘cool’ bag shopping with me though, just so I only take a minimal amount of plastic bags. Hippies can be so self-righteous sometimes, it really pisses me off. Bitch slap away… its raining in London too 🙁

  16. Bram says:

    Hey, In the Nethenlands you have to pay for plastic bags too. Nearly everyone I know has a couple favourite cloth bags they use over and again. My sister has this ultra-bright color bag which makes me feel like the biggest idiot when carry it around. But the pay-for-your-bags system really works. Actually in the Netherlands you have to pay around $1 for large soda bottles as well. You get that $1 back when you return them to the shop. Another great system!

  17. diane says:

    KG–so it’s not a local thing!! I go ape-shit when the clerk/bagger puts two things in a bag, or like, gives me a bag just for the bread or whatever. I will actually stand there and consolidate things at the checkout just to be a brat.
    Although that doesn’t happen as much since I became a Peapod regular…granted, they use plastic bags but they are giant, super durable and very reusable!

  18. Rick says:

    Ever try to suffocate a baby with a paper bag? Just doesn’t work very well.

  19. Hilly says:

    In the words of Eric Cartman, “Goddamned Hippies!”. I like the paper bags with the handles at the upscale markets only because I like to reuse them to take my lunch or various crap to work blah blah. If I lived where it rained a ton though, I would only get plastic!

  20. delmer says:

    Just the other day I saw a plastic bag with a list of alternative uses on the side. There was the dog-poop use, using it to line small trash cans, keeping your weed fresh, a condom for the gifted, and several others that slip my mind. There were 10 suggestions (I think) in all.

  21. MRKisThatKid says:

    A couple of months ago Tesco’s (our most popular supermarket) started using biodegradable polythene for their plastic bags.

    Dunno how much they help but they sound fancy.

  22. F2B says:

    Oh, it’s not the rain Dave. Someone really DOES need bitch slapped.

  23. Kapha says:

    Lil’ Dave looks like he’s heading out into space expecting rain. 🙂

  24. Troy says:

    In the area of Ontario I live we put the plastic bags in with the paper recycling. I would imagine they are sorted out at the recycling station. So I don’t feel too bad about using them.

  25. Rabbit says:

    Wait, you people get a choice? My supermarket bags your stuff in plastic, no options given.

  26. There are a good number of bars in my neighborhood (that’s why Bad Monkey comes to visit)…and the homeless collect the cans out of the dumpsters for recycling. I stopped taking our cans to the center, and when one of those little plastic bags is full, I hang in on the fence post out front. I figure they should get the money for it, at least. And no dumpster diving.

  27. RW says:

    The whole country is getting pussified.

    Why, just the other day someone tried to tell me cigars AREN’T a vegetable.


    the idiot.

  28. Mrs RW says:

    Who knew this was a world-wide controversy? Doesn’t it seem like we’re one big, happy family since we all have the same problem? Ah-ha! The solution to wars: give every country in the world plastic bags — then we can all share our stories of paper versus plastic and grow closer…

  29. Wayne Hall says:

    I love the little hard-plastic plastic bag container we mounted on our wall that you can shove thousands upon thousands of the bags in, so you can re-use and re-use ad nauseum. Especially if you’re nauseous. Stick ’em in at the top and pull ’em out one at a tim from the bottom. One of the greatest inventions in use at our house, because it keeps our former plastic-bag-containing cabinet free of those pesky environmentally-dangerous plastic bags.

  30. karla says:

    I use those canvas shopping bags. I buy funny ones wherever I travel and use them as attitude bags. My favorite one says in German, “Meine Leute waren am Rhein und alles sie mitgebracht haben ist diese schiesse tasche”.

    Means, “My People were on the Rhein and all they brought was this shit bag”.

    It makes me laugh.

    My other favorite is from a brewery in the UK. BEER!

  31. Belinda says:

    Alex and I usually grocery-shop together, and at the end, it’s a race to the checkout to try and be the one to answer the “paper or plastic?” question, because we DO NOT AGREE on this issue.

    Alex prefers the plastic bags, because with the handles, he is strong enough to carry, oh, I don’t know, SEVENTEEN BAGS AT ONCE, and can usually get the whole haul into the house in a couple of trips.

    Me, I want the nice, roomy paper sacks, because they each hold SO much more, and are easier for me to carry. And then, since I’m the one that does the unloading of the groceries, I like having the empty paper sacks to use as stand-alone trash receptacles as I unpackage things and clean out any excess items from the fridge to make room for the new stuff.

    I seriously lurve the whole “instant trash-can” aspect of a good paper sack.

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