Plastic Bags

kittysmith(z9Houston)September 1, 2007

I'm reverting to my old, better, more eco-friendly, recycling ways and have resurrected my canvas shopping bags that have lingered forgotten in a drawer for YEARS. My DIL gave me a neat insulated bag from Whole Foods for cold stuff, too, and I'm bringing my own small paper bags to put produce into. I want to get some string bags for produce soon. I cause confusion (and amusement)at the regular grocery stores...the sackers get a panicky look and always manage to sneak a few things into plastic bags while I'm paying! But, I do go to one store regularly and am trying to use the same checker. I also started sacking my groceries as I shop, then they can unpack them one at a time, scan the food, then know which bag the items should go into. I'm happy to sack my own groceries, too. I'm sure we'll eventually get the routine down and they'll stop looking at me like I'm handing them live snakes...

I'm wrapping my sandwiches for lunch in wax paper(just like Mom used to) and rinsing out/reusing whatever bags I can. I'm still using tall kitchen can bags, especially for the massive amounts of kitty litter we have to dispose of, but am going to buy some that are made of cornstarch that I saw online.

We're doing a much better job of reducing other plastic in our household: buying things like mayo in glass rather than plastic etc., and no more water bottles for work. I'll take an insulated water bottle to refill.

I'm so glad I found the Green Forum; it's great to give and share ideas and get encouragement!

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calliope(6)

the sackers get a panicky look and always manage to sneak a few things into plastic bags while I'm paying!.........they'll stop looking at me like I'm handing them live snakes...

Oh my, I got a good laugh out of that one! You've described it very accurately. They do look panicked when you whip out your own bags, or tell them that item really doesn't even need a bag.Their eyes dart around to see if a supervisor is going to get mad at them for not doing it the way they are shown, I guess. They also know they can't stand there watching whilst you bag your own, by preference. And actually I don't think that is a bad idea and go to one store where you do. That's the way it's normally done in Europe.

Why would a gallon of milk need a bag of its own? They get it if you let them.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2007 at 9:59AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Grrr! The gallon of milk reminded me. My pet peeve is when they put a plastic, handled, bottle of milk in a bag. Last night I stopped to pick up a few things at the store. The man in front of me had one gallon of milk. Absolutely nothing else. I stood there with my reusable bags in my hand and my mouth hanging open as the cashier asked the man (a hearty, hale, healthy man, btw) if he wanted his milk in a bag. Not only did the many say yes, but could the cashier double-bag it? I wanted to whack both of them in the head with my reusable bags!

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   September 1, 2007 at 7:57PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Getting cashiers to use my reusable bags is not easy, you have to be kind of pushy sometimes. I asked a cashier to please use my own bags which are large and hold at least 25lbs. She put two tiny items in one bag and then reached for the plastic bags. I had to insist that she put everything in the bag and tell her it was ok and that it would all fit and not break like the plastic ones. She was pretty annoyed.

Before I got reusable bags I always tried to not waste the plastic bags if I didn't need it. Some people seem to think they are "entitled" to a crappy plastic bag with purchase whether they need it or not. A while back I was working as a cashier and someone bought just a small t-shirt. I noticed they were carrying a nice almost empty paper bag with handles from a purchase at Marshall Fields. I asked if they needed another bag or if they just wanted to use their other bag. With the look I got from them you would of thought I had asked them for a kidney or something. They insisted on a bag and then took the crappy plastic bag with the t-shirt in it and shoved it into the other bag and went on their way.

I wish more places just let me bag my own things. Very few places seem to do that. I always start bagging myself at the grocery store if there is no bagger, but one always comes running over and insist on taking over. At other times when there aren't baggers and I do bag, the cashiers act like I am a saint or something. Apparently there are able bodied people that will stand and watch while the grocery store cashier rings everything up, and then stand and watch them bag everything as well. All whilst helpfully pointing out specifically how they want everything bagged.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 2:22AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

LOL, yeah, I've seen those people who just stand there and watch the cashier scan all their items, and then stand there and watch them bag. Personally, I consider pretty lazy and also rude when an able-bodied person does it.

I try to avoid the whole issue by going to the self-check-outs. I can scan and bag my own groceries and not have to worry about beating the cashier to it!

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 9:21PM
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wandam1(zone 9 - S. TX)

A friend who works at Home Depot gave me a shopping bag - orange with the words 'Home Depot' on it - that is so cool. The top of it stretches out with attachments that hook onto the sides of the shopping basket, holding the bag in a large rectangle shape that takes up about half the cart. It doesn't fit correctly (keeps slipping off) on my grocery store carts, but it's still a neat bag. It holds a lot - when I remember to take it with me. I am new at this!

But the other day I was at Walmart without the bag, and when I saw the checker turning the bag carrosel (sp!) to a new bag with only a couple of small items in the previous bag, I asked her if she could use as few bags as possible. She complied with no problem, 'rewinding' the carasel (spx2!) to add the rest of the items to the three bags she had used already.

Neither Walmart nor our supermarket has the self-scanning checkouts. But our supermarket (HEB) will usually ask if we want larger items in bags or not.

The plastic bags I do get, I take to the Goodwill Store where they are glad to get them. Otherwise they have to buy plastic bags to use.
Wanda in South Texas

Here is a link that might be useful: The Bee Hive

    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 10:32PM
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kittysmith(z9Houston)

The Fiesta store doesn't have the self-check lanes yet, either. When I went shopping yesterday, it went a little more smoothly until the sacker (Isidra) saw the checker trying to put something in plastic and practically yelled, "Aiiieee, noooo Vickie!" We all laughed.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2007 at 8:06AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I forgot to add that my DH always brings home groceries in plastic (which really bugs me because he knows how I hate it!). So, for those that do find their way into my house, I try to recycle them. I either literally recycle them at some of the bag deposits they have at grocery stores, bring them to the thrift store, as wandam above does, or bring them to the library where I work, and we use them for patrons who have lots of materials to check out. The only time I put a plastic bag in the garbage is when I actually use one as a garbage bag.

I wonder how San Francisco is making out with their bag ban?

Dee

    Bookmark   September 3, 2007 at 12:52PM
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tclynx

kittysmith,
(Just a side note about the kitty litter, look into feline pine. I've not actually used it since I haven't had a cat since the product came out in our area. But I plan on trying it if/when we do get a cat again. I like that the spent litter is compostable.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 5:36PM
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ohiomom

I take my cloth bags to the grocer and farmers markets ... never had a problem (yet).

I buy condiments/jams etc in glass bottles only. Some I recycle and others I use to store dry beans, rice, brown sugar or whatever else I want to keep fresh.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 8:55PM
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kittysmith(z9Houston)

I do use Feline Pine, but oh my is it expensive. We have six cats! I can't compost it because there's too much and my dogs would dig it up. I am trying to find a source where I can buy pine pellets in bulk (but bagged, not by truckload). Some feed stores sell them for bedding or stove fuel at a much cheaper price, but I haven't found any in Houston yet. I'm on a mission!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 10:24AM
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mayalena(6 - MetroWest Boston)

So how do you bag your produce? You know...the head of lettuce, the bunch of apples, etc.? String or little paper bags wouldn't keep greens damp/fresh in the fridge, would they? I always use canvas on my way out of the store, and I try to re-use those plastic produce bags as long as I can -- but I still end up taking a bunch to recycling each week. I'd love to eliminate them altogether. Has SF banned those too?
Thanks!
ML

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 5:57AM
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kittysmith(z9Houston)

I find that damp paper towels wrapped around lettuce in the crisper work fine. At the store, I put sopping wet lettuce in my one insulated cold bag on top of everything else. Drip, drip. Produce like apples and potatoes I put either in a canvas bag or in little paper bags that I bring from home. That's all they used to offer at the store...ok, years ago! ;>)
I'm having more trouble divorcing myself from using baggies when I pack my lunch. A sandwich is no trouble, I wrap that in wax paper but if I have chips or crackers, I end up wrapping them loosely in a paper towel. I can use my old small Tupperware -style containers for small things like that, since they are re-usuable and will be around forever (literally...) Any other suggestions?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 12:48PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

kittysmith, funny you should bring up the topic of sandwich bags - I was thinking about starting a thread about them! My kids just started taking their lunch to school instead of buying, which is great, but I also don't know how to get around the plastic baggies completely. Is it better to buy plastic containers which you can re-use but will be around forever? I don't know... I do try to rinse out and re-use the baggies if possible - my husband just loves that! He thinks I am the queen of saving garbage and it gets to him, lol!

I also wonder how folks deal with leftovers. Even if I put them in a glass or stainless steel bowl, I still have to cover with something - plastic wrap, foil, etc. Any other options?

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 2:06PM
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mayalena(6 - MetroWest Boston)

Well -- for lunches here I use wax baggies for sandwiches. I think they mostly dissolve, tho maybe not entirely. I also use tons of ziploc boxes for freezing, leftovers, lunches. I reuse them forever -- and they have recycle symbols on them, so I hope I can recycle them when/if they get holes in them...???
I'd love to hear from more folks on produce bagging techniques that avoid plastic....
Thanks!
ML

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 8:50PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Well, I got a nice surprise the other morning. When I brought in my morning paper, I noticed that the long, narrow plastic bag which it was in, which had always been #4 plastic, was a #2! Yay! Now I can recycle them at least.

Dee

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 8:52AM
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ohiomom

Dee

I know how you feel. Plastics are a part of our lives in one way or another. (Computers, TV's, cars etc) Knowing that I can at least recycle them helps ... I have a few small containers for DH's lunch, they are rubbermaid and still holding up.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 10:40AM
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kittysmith(z9Houston)

Boy, I had completely forgotten about wax paper sandwich bags. I've just been using the roll, but the bags would come in handy. I'll check at the store.
DiggerDee, I'm going to check my newspaper plastic when I get home to see what # they are.
Butcher's paper is good for wrapping things, especially meat, in to freeze.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 12:53PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

If I may, I'd like to extend the plastic lunch bag thing a bit. I've been looking into starting to can my own foods, and in the meantime, want to do some freezing. It seems every where I look for how-to info promotes plastic - either plastic zip-lock bags, or using a machine to vacuum-seal plastic bags. Sometimes it's discouraging that no matter how self-sufficient or sustainable you try to be, you just can't seem to avoid those darn plastics! Oh well, I guess the answer for me for this particular situation is to be ready to can by next harvest season! At least with canning I can use re-usable glass jars.

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 6:04PM
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ohiomom

Dee

I have come to the same conclusion, I must learn how to can. My freezer is stocked with seasonal produce, all in plastic bags. Of course I can recycle them, but I still would prefer to can. OTOH, we are still stuck with TV's, Cars, Computers and numerous other items made of plastic.

OM

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 7:20PM
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tclynx

We try to avoid the plastic bags but those that do slip into the house, I believe should be use at least a couple more times before being sent to a landfill. (We don't throw much, perhaps a light can full per month, since we garden and compost so non recyclable plastic, foam, and foil are just about the only things that go in the trash.)

Anyway, I've taken to wraping sandwiches in the produce bags, bread bags, even plastic grocery bags. This way I can use the smaller lunch box. I've found that the plastic containers take up too much space when I need to pack two meals worth into one lunch bag.

Other things I do with the plastic grocery sacks, use them as padding when I ship things.

I've heard of people making whitefly sticky traps with the yellow newspaper bags. All you need to do is coat them with something greasy or sticky!

Perhaps we can't get away from plastics entirely but we can do our best to cut down on em.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 8:06PM
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bry84(England)

A good alternative to plastic lunch bags is a margarine or ice cream container. I try to mostly buy margarine in foil wrapped blocks, and ice cream in card wrapped blocks, but certain types only come in plastic tubs.

However, they are excellent reusable containers for storing and freezing food, as well as packed lunches. Great for giving away food too as you don't have to ask for them back. I never have to buy plastic wrap or bags, and very little tin foil too. Some products come in good strong containers that will last for many uses. I have margarine tubs that have lasted over ten years, in fact these disposable plastic tubs have outlived some expensive bought plastic food containers!

They also help me reduce packaging waste in other ways, for example I buy the large bottles of tomato paste that use less packaging per unit of contents, use some and freeze the rest for later in a spare container. Saves money too.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 5:08PM
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calliope(6)

Mayalena, check your fridge to see if you don't have a humidity control for your crispers. If my produce is not cut into, like a cabbage or head of lettuce, I don't bag them. Actually, apples should not be bagged, they give off ethylene and stuffing them in plastic bags means the ethylene is going to ripen them quickly. Many pre-bagged fruits in stores use the bags with little holes in them to allow ethylene to escape!

I did go out and buy a lettuce crisper for those head I have cut into. It'll live in my kitchen for decades and I don't consider that a waste. They weren't meant to be disposable.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 12:15AM
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burntplants(8/9TX)

diggerdee--
I use sandwich wraps for my kids. reuseableIbags.com has them (they call them something cute, but look under "lunch stuff")

Does anyone has any advice for freezing stuff?

I confess, freezer bags are hard for me to give up--but I've been trying tupperware wrapper in foil. Then reusing the foil til it falls apart, at which point it goes into the recycling bin.

BTW--beware of "freezing foil" (or whatever they call it)--it's plastic liner (!) foil--impossible to recycle!

Vicky's blog!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 11:56AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Thanks for telling me about those, burntplants. I took a quick look at the website. They seem to be made of cotton, with a layer of PEVA - ????? I don't know what PEVA is, so could you give me a bit more information on them, from your personal experience?

Thanks,
Dee

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 7:25PM
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sylvia55

Hi from the UK. We also have problems with plastic bags - I think in Ireland they have been banned in shops - good idea. Most supermarkets here are now selling "bags for life" which do last longer which is a good step. I always take a bag of bags shopping - along with my 91 year old mother (I don't mean to apply she is a bag!) who also takes her own. We notice that not many people do this! A few far seeing small towns in the UK have banned plastic bags from shops on a voluntary basis - lets hope this trend continues. I do try to make sure I have bags in my car & purse in case I am caught short.
On a positive notes in the last few months I have noticed that in most shops the assistant now asks if you want a bag rather than thrusting it on you.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 6:25PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Looks like Annapolis wimped out!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Annapolis bags the ban

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 1:46PM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

For covering a bowl in the fridge, use a plate instead of plastic. Then you can stack something on the plate. You can also use a pot lid, but that limits your stacking options.

It's easier not to be forced to put produce in a plastic bag if you shop at a food coop. They generally won't freak out if your single rutabaga or squash is not bagged. Although I still have to preemptively tell them not to put the glass milk bottle with the handle in a bag ("It has its own handle" I say brightly).

For things like potatoes or fruit, I bring recycled plastic bags from home. I buy a lot of apples at at local orchard, and they are packed in paper bags.

At the self check out stations, you still have to watch for store personnel swooping down before you've finished your transaction. So I put my reusable bag at the bagging area before starting checkout and they get that fine.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 10:29AM
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buffburd(z5 NY)

Anne,

Your food co-op has milk in glass bottles? Cool!

Kyle

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 11:30AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

What a shock I got the other day!! My DH, the one who always gets plastic instead of paper, and whom I'm always following around when he comes home from shopping, taking the plastic bags out of the garbage so I can recycle them - well, this same guy came up to me the other day and asked if I could get him a few reusable bags for him to use! He wants to keep them in his car for when he stops at the supermarket. He was concerned because he had made a couple of trips that day and had used at least seven bags, he said, and he thought that was too much!

When I recovered my senses and my ability to speak, I of course readily agreed to get him a few! I picked them up today and will throw them in his car as soon as he gets home. Who says you can't teach an old dog....

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 2:31PM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

That's _local_ _organic_ milk in bottles... How many folks remember having a milkman? and getting nonhomegenized milk and taking the cream off the top for coffee?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 9:42PM
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aok27502

Can anyone tell me, can you put other types of plastic bags in the grocery store bag collection? I am cleaning deep recesses of my house, and have come across some bags from stores other than grocery. They're more shiny and thicker, is it OK to put them the recycle box?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 12:25PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Most of the stores around me only take bags that are marked #2.

Our regular recycling program takes #1 and #2 plastics, but I always found the plastic bags that the collectors had left behind in my bin. I finally called to ask why they did not take them since they are #2, and I was told that the bags get wrapped around and caught up in the recycling machinery - which leads me to wonder how they recycle the bags at all...

Your best bet is to probably check with your local collector of bags to see just what they will take.

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 7:24PM
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jadedgardener(z3, ND)

The reusable sandwich wraps refered to are called wrap-n-mats. I have several and love them, the kids think they are great too.

Someone asked about PEVA. PEVA is similar to pvc, but pvc is made with chorine, which is linked to many environmental health concerns. Peva is made without chlorine and is thought to be a better solution, though it is still a synthetic product.

I enjoyed reading about everyones experiences at the grocery, using their own bags. I love the Kroger and Scott's stores near me, they give me a credit for bringing my own bags and have no problem using them. Wal-mart is always a battle. They constantly look for the barcode and give me blank looks when I try to explain that these are mine and are re-usable shopping bags. Most of the time I try to be patient, but sometimes it's downright annoying. lol

Here is a link that might be useful: wrap-n-mat

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 2:10PM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

Thanks for the wrap-n-mat link.

I have started experimenting recently with saying I don't need a bag for one or two items, and even telling the bagger (when I didn't have my own bags with me)that I'd like to use the fewest bags possible, and have got a lot of favorable reactions. Baggers actually said it's a good idea.

Among the many negative stories you hear about Walmart is that their employees are very regimented - they may be more fearful about doing things differently, like appearing not to ring up every item in your cart. The way around it may be to get Walmart to produce and sell their own brand of reusable bags. If they started that, it could have a huge effect.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 11:01AM
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laurenk88_pa

My Walmart has been accommodating when I bring my bags, and most cashiers are very willing to put as much stuff in as few bags as possible. They are even selling reusable bags as well.

If you have a Trader Joe's around you, they have a raffle if you buy one of their reusable bags, or bring bags to reuse. I'm not sure how long it will last, but you get a ticket, and a chance to win another reuseable bag with $25 worth of groceries inside it! Pretty cool idea.

I get a $0.02 discount per bag I use at my local store.

Dee, I had to laugh about your story about your husband wanting bags...my mom called me one day all excited..."you won't believe what I've done...I bought those reuseable bags at the grocery store, and I love them", then at Christmas she and my aunt kept telling me the "green things" they had done this holiday season. I was very proud of them, but the best was the baffled look on my cousins faces, like why are they telling you that! (I'm active in my church's global warming group, which my mom and aunt are always hearing about)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 6:27PM
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neesie(4)

Great thread. I've been re-using bags for years and have had many a cashier/bagger give me funny looks. But now I look around and occaisionally see other people bringing their own bags. Hurrah!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 6:19PM
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californian

Costco and Sams Club don't give you plastic bags. A lot of supermarkets in California are starting to sell reusable bags for a nominal price, usually around a dollar.
On the subject of bagging milk, I think that is one thing that should be bagged. The reason is it is a large cold object, and moisture will condense on it making the outside of the bottle wet, making your carpet in your trunk wet or the carpet at the bottom of the steps wet if you set the jug down while unloading your car. Being wet, any dirt from the car floor or carpet will stick to the bottle and be transferred into your refrigerator.
And I hate these self scan checkouts, nothing but trouble.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 7:42PM
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alabamanicole(7b)

"Can anyone tell me, can you put other types of plastic bags in the grocery store bag collection?"

This is an old question, but...

The answer is sometimes. Most plastic grocery store-type bags are #2 but some are #4. Some bag recycling drops at stores will accept either. Publix, for example, accepts and recycles all (both) plastic bags.

Locally, one of our big box home improvement stores has a bin in all the area stores which collects bags. These are re-used at the dog parks for poop collection versus having new bags there. Myself, I use biodegradable doggie bags (#7 polylactic), but reusing is better than just landfilling, especially if you have a bag you can't recycle locally.

(Just to clarify, not all #7 is biodegradeable. It's just a generic catch-all code for everything that's not #1-#6.)

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 1:20PM
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