First of all, happy birthday to mf :)
*yes, I'm super thick-skinned :p*
Not too long ago, there was an article on My Paper on recycling bags, about how so many retailers were giving away recycling bags to encourage people to start using them instead of plastic bags. It commented that it might not be very environmentally friendly given the large number of recycling bags being given away. I couldn't agree more!
Think we tend to overdo things. It is a good thing to encourage people not to use so many plastic bags. But if in place of plastic bags, retailers start to give away recycling bags indiscriminately, it becomes pointless.. I wonder how many people actually bring a recycling bag with them when they go shopping - they are more likely to collect yet another recycling bag from the next retailer! So consumers end up with 10s of recycling bags..
Shouldn't the first step be trying not to use any shopping bag at all? Just stuff small items into our own bags and reserve shopping bags for bulk items. And if you know you are going to do serious grocery shopping, BYOB - I miss my days of going to Sainsbury's and Tesco with my ugly crap-blue (oh yes, the colour exists) backpack holding just my wallet and filling it with meatballs and broccoli and orange juice and milk, before walking home looking like a turtle about to land on its shell any time :p Oh, and it is easier to carry the same amount of things in a backpack on your pack than in four plastic bags in two hands!
I am not totally against using plastic bags cos sometimes they are really necessary. But we can exercise discretion, e.g. tell the cashier to pack everything into one bag, and do you really need a bag for that bottle of water you're going to drink immediately? Or a small bag to hold the even smaller bag of earrings?
And on discretion, I think retailers should also educate its staff on packing shopping bags. The other day, I was queueing at Fairprice and saw how the auntie packed the groceries for the customer in front. She packed all the food nicely into one plastic bag - good, cos I have seen some people packing things very loosely hence using more bags. But she proceeded to put the single non-food item - a packet of sanitary pads - into a smaller plastic bag before packing it with the big bag, and - worse - she put the big bag into another bag!
I was disgusted. Would sanitary pads contaminate the food? Would the plastic bag really fall apart holding nothing more than vegetables and instant noodles?? It was so frustrating!!!!
So, giving out recycling bags is not a solution. Encouraging people - consumers and retailers - to exercise discretion in using plastic bags can be. And it's the little things that help too..
A summary of small things we all can do:
1) Hand carry things like mineral water, packet rice - without a bag; small items can go into own bag
2) BYOB for shopping
3) Recycle plastic bags - save them and (ask your mother to) give them to the aunties in the wet market, line dustbins
4) Recycle paper bags too - they can make nice carriers for presents
5) Tell cashier that you don't mind having sanitary pads next to instant noodles