Hay’s Daze: Better bring a bundle of brand new bags

If you’ve been a bit bagged lately, you’re not alone. And this time I don’t mean “bagged” as in tired, wasted, or generally having as much energy as a wet noodle. I mean ‘bag’ as in the thing you carry your groceries and other stuff in. And the question is: are you carrying around a bundle of bags these days? I know I am.

However, I’m a slow learner, I guess. Over the last year or so, about fifteen times now I’ve gone to get groceries and wobble-wheeled my cart full of over-priced comestibles and consumables to the grocery store till, piled stuff on the little moving sidewalk and been asked, “Do you need any bags?” And that’s when I slam my forehead with the palm of my hand. And if I remember that I have a whole heap of cloth bags out in the car for exactly that purpose I apologize and run out to the car to get them whilst the people in the lineup behind me grunt and groan grumpily. I hate to admit I’ve had to pay for plastic bags so often I could have purchased something completely out of reach, like, say a couple of nice t-bone steaks for the barbeque.

When the Better Half gets groceries or when we shop together she always has a big cloth bag full of other cloth bags at the ready. I, for one, just can’t seem to get used to lugging around one or two personal bags of my very own when I go shopping. But I’d better get used to it – there will be no more single-use plastic checkout bags by next Christmas.

This got me looking up stuff. I’m sure you’re dying to know that the modern-day plastic bag was invented in 1965 by a Swedish engineer known as Sten Gustaf Thulin because that’s his name. Ironically, Sten created the plastic bag to help the environment! Everyone used paper bags then and we all know that too many paper bags cause too many trees to be chopped down.

By 1976 plastic bags were being tested in stores, but they bombed on account of clerks didn’t like the way they stuck together. After about ten years of people going nuts trying to open clingy plastic bags 75% of the supermarkets offered plastic bags as an option to their customers. Of course, this was after major grocery chains suddenly discovered the plastic bags were much cheaper that paper bags.

By 1988 40% of all grocery bags were made from plastic which made retailers richer and made consumers happier on account of the plastic bags had – you guess it – colorful advertising on the sides! Kidding, it was actually because the bags had handles. And those dumb old paper bags apparently didn’t have handles until the 90s.

1999 – plastic bags were booming. The industry was on fire, so to speak. But then, by the early 2000s the boom became a burp and the fire began to melt all that plastic. In the US of Eh? single-use PBs were first banned in San Francisco in 2007. By 2014 entire states were ditching them and by 2019 they were about as popular as a bacon barbeque in a nudist colony.

And then, wouldn’t you know, covid happened and as you may remember, everything went upside down. SUPBs saw a resurgence because anything reusable was about as sanitary as nudist colony.

But now, the ban is back, December 2023 is the date for prohibition. Just remember what I like to call the 8 Bs: Better Bring Better Bags Before Being Banned Bagless. In fact, soul man James Brown’s funky tune could be our theme song: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”!

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to harleyhay1@hotmail.com.

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