“Hey, could you grab a Wal-Mart bag for me? I need something to put our shoes in for the trip.”
“Look at that Wal-Mart bag caught in that tree over there.”
These or similar phrases are not uncommon in our area. Whether or not you frequent Wal-Mart, I’m sure a clear image of that type of bag formed in your head, and you no doubt have seen them clinging to fences like a litterbug’s windsock. Similar to the way “Coke” has become synonymous for “soda,” or “pop,” the phrase “Wal-Mart bag” means any plastic grocery bag with handles.
It does in the American south, anyway.
Like me, perhaps you have tried to get everything in one trip by grabbing upwards of six bags with each hand, the bread bearing the brunt of your misguided machismo (or feminismo, as the case may be). Once you’ve managed your feat and emptied the bags, what do you do with them? Craft fair vendors have created tubular fabric bags, with an elastic-lined top, for storing the wispy, wad-able wonders. We have one that we have stuffed to bulging with “Wal-Mart bags” from a variety of stores including Super Target, Tom Thumb, and Albertson’s. A valuable tool for bagging poopy diapers earlier in our parental era, they still play a role in our home.
Perhaps those of you shaking your heads answer “paper,” on the rare occasion that a cashier asks your bagging preference. I’ve never seen studies on which is worse, cutting down trees for paper bags, or producing more trash with plastic bags. I know most brown paper bags are made at least partially from recycled paper, but ultimately a tree was involved. Because plastic manufacture includes petroleum products, plastic bags carry their own drawbacks besides just the litter and landfill factors. (A fascinating book I just finished, set several centuries in the future, sees mankind no longer burning petroleum for fuel, but still using it to make plastic.)
Wal-Mart, retail leader of the free world, announced recently that it will begin selling a “a recycled, reusable, washable shopping sack” for $1. It will hold at least twice the amount of today’s common plastic bag, and customers may return it to the store for recycling once it has worn too thin for use.*
If the store you frequent offered these bags, would you purchase and use them? Is this another Wal-Mart ploy to earn brownie points with those who would love to see the company shrivel and fade away?
* Source: An October 10 story in the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas.