Saturday, May 2, 2009

Breaking the bag habit

Up until recently I thought that “compostable” and “biodegradable” meant pretty much the same thing and was delighted to see biodegradable bags popping up at various retailers. As it turns out these bags aren’t great after all. In fact they’re a full step backwards – a bit of a hoax courtesy of the bio-bag manufacturers. These biodegradable bags (marked Degradable, Biodegradable or Oxo-biodegradable) aren’t suitable for the blue bins or the compost bin.

They can’t go in the blue bins since they can cause items made from recycled plastic, like “wood” decking, to degrade. And they’re no better in the compost pile since all they do is break down into tiny bits of plastic. So it turns out the trash is the only place for them.

To minimize the confusion, biodegradable bags that you line your compost bin with must also be marked compostable.

Recycling is great but avoidance is better…
If you’re not in the habit of bringing your own bags to the grocery store, that’s the best place to start. It’s the simplest too. Just leave a pile of bags in your car and try to remember to bring them into the store with you.

If you’re already into the grocery store routine here are a few more ways to break the bag habit:
· When you buy something say no to a bag. Can the item fit in your purse or can you carry it home/to the car without a bag?

· If you have a few items and one is really big, ask the clerk to put the smaller items in a small bag and just carry the larger item.

· Better yet keep a bag in your purse (or coat pocket). My favourite birthday gift last year was an Envirosax reusable shopping bag ( It’s a sturdy polyester bag that folds up into nothing but fits just about anything. These bags are chic, cheery and surprisingly strong (they can carry up to 44 pounds of stuff). Plus they’re waterproof. Cost: $8.99.

· I discovered a local woman who makes a great variety of reusable bags, including produce bags (so you don’t have to use the plastic bags on a roll) and reusable snack bags. To find out more visit

Using plastic bags is a habit but so is not using plastic bags. To live a little greener it’s just a matter of swapping one habit for another.

A version of this article was previously published in KV Style (


Unknown said...

I take my own bag, Bridget! (Just so you know.) Same one every day. And, when I get grocery bags, I reuse them as garbage bags. I did love using a basket always in France. Everyone does that and it's really quite fun to carry. You get attached to a real market basket...I think you should create a line...

beth said...

oh thanks heavens...i just went and double chcecked my "compost" bags...phew...they ARE "compostable"! Great posts!!