The Plague of the Plastic Grocery Bag

the plague of the plastic grocery bag | ladybug daydreams

If there’s something I really dislike, it’s a plastic grocery bag (any single use plastic, really, but especially grocery bags). I know they have their purpose, but they’re horrifying nonetheless. They can easily take over your house, and you always seem to get more of them than you can possibly reuse when you go to the store. And because they’re so inexpensive for the stores to purchase, they use them willy-nilly for every little thing. There’s very little impetus for the employees to worry about filling a bag because it doesn’t matter to them. I don’t know if the stores still train their employees in how to bag groceries, but I suspect not based on the bags they place in my cart. (When I was training as a grocery cashier back in 2001, filling a bag properly was part of what we were tested on before we were allowed to begin work.) Not only do they not fill the bags completely when you buy several things, but they often don’t even give you the option of refusing a bag for just one or two items like they did when I worked in the industry.

I’ve always been kind of frustrated with the situation surrounding the bags, especially after a trip to “Junk Mountain” (aka the local landfill) we took a few years back, but it’s always been more an irritation rather than something overly outrageous. There was a situation this week that really pushed this issue over the top for me, though. We were at the grocery store buying just a couple of things for dinner (it was between big shopping trips, which we do at a less expensive store). We had three items – five if you count each zucchini separately. The cashier used four grocery bags for our three items. I wish I was kidding. Granted, some of the items were on the heavier side (a five-pound bag of rice), but not so heavy that they required their own bag. And definitely not heavy enough to require double bagging (which is how we ended up with four bags for three items). That kind of wastefulness just reeks of a pandemic.

I know there’s not much I can do about this problem (outside of using my own reusable bags, which I always remember for our bigger trips and rarely remember for the smaller ones, unfortunately). But maybe through my little corner of the internet, I can raise just a smidge of awareness. It’s not much, but it’s something. So before you move on from here today, I want to offer a few statistics. Maybe these will help you (and me) remember to bring those reusable bags for even the smallest of shopping trips.

  • Each year, the United States uses 30 billion plastic bags. That amount of consumption requires 12 million barrels of oil.
  • Worldwide, it’s estimated that over 500 billion plastic bags are used annually. This means there are almost 1 million bags used every minute.
  • Four out of five shopping bags used in the US is plastic.
  • Plastic bags cause over 100,000 marine life deaths each year when the animals mistake them for food.
  • The average family accumulates 60 bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
  • Each reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate 1,000 (or more) plastic bags over its lifetime.
  • It is estimated that only 3% of plastic grocery bags is recycled.
  • A sturdy, reusable bag only needs to be used 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than 11 plastic bags.


For more information, you can also visit This is a good source for information on the destructiveness of plastic bags and water bottles, and also options for helping you to reduce your use of these items. They also have pages learning to create a zero-waste home (something we’ve strived for in the past, but seems impossible, at least in our current location) and they sell a lot of reusable products.

Another option for reusable things for around the house is something I’ve read a few times over on The Frugal Girl (here’s the direct link to the specific post). It’s called the Mighty Fix, offered by Mighty Nest, and for $10 a month, they send you one eco-friendly item that’s more than $10 in value with free shipping. I’ve yet to try it, but the idea really appeals to me. In addition to this subscription service, you can buy just the things you want from Mighty Nest as well.

Now that I’ve been up on my soapbox for a while, let me leave you with a laugh. While the following comics are about the same topic I’ve discussed today, it’s a much lighter take on the situation. Special thanks to my husband for allowing me to share his creative work today.

shopping bag strips(Casey and Kyle copyright 2016 Will Robertson)


ladybug-signature-3 copy


  1. I noticed this excessive bagging also. No thanks, we don’t need a bag for our bag of potatoes. πŸ˜‰ Many of the low-cost places we shop are pretty good about not over-bagging, but sometimes we get the bag-happy packers or checkers. That’s one thing we like about Aldi–NO bags!

    We reuse our bags as garbage bags in the van, where we spend a lot of time since we travel full-time. Still, we end up throwing many away. Thanks for the ideas you share–the marine animals thank you, too!

    I laughed too hard at the comics. πŸ™‚
    Christy, The Simple Homemaker recently posted…Save Money on Groceries and Earn $5My Profile

    • Wendy

      We do our weekly shopping at a place where you have to bag your own groceries; they’re the cheapest around. So when we go there, it’s not a problem (no Aldi’s here on the west coast). The problem comes when we have to go to one of the local places because I forgot something. They’re obsessive with overbagging. I reuse my plastic bags in the bathroom to hold our cloth diapers and wipes between washings, but I don’t need 4+ bags per trip for that use.

      Glad you enjoyed the comics πŸ™‚

  2. where i live (in Ontario) most places make you pay for your grocery bags, it’s only 5 cents, but it’s enough to cause me to refuse the bags.

    I bring my own, or better yet, have fold-able bins in my vehicle into which I place the grocery items. Works out much better. It’s actually to the point where I often don’t have a bag when I need one. πŸ™‚

    In lieu of getting a bag, the store has stickers that they will place on random items to show that you have purchased them.
    annette @ A net in Time recently posted…Review: The Giant SmugglersMy Profile

    • Wendy

      Some cities here in the States have instituted a “no bags allowed” policy or “bags cost extra,” but not where I am. It would definitely be an incentive for more people to use cloth bags!

  3. I’ve got a lot of reusable bags. I try to keep some of them in the back of the car, but if I forget, I’ll have them use paper bags, and then those get reused to hold our recyclables.
    You’re right, some stores don’t train their baggers at all πŸ™

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