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Paper or Plastic? Why I Choose the Unpopular Choice

by Nicole of "Tiny Steps Mommy"
Photo by: Shutterstock

I usually try to avoid controversial topics. I have friends and readers on both side of the aisle and don’t like alienating anyone, but I can’t keep silent on this particular subject any longer. I simply have to speak up and admit to something that may be unpopular.

Okay, here it goes…I like my groceries double bagged, and not with the brown paper kind. I do not use reusable bags and I have been known to ask the cashier to – gulp! – bag the milk.

No, I am not trying to destroy the planet. I believe in recycling, and I do think climate change is real. I also realize there has been a movement away from using plastic. Currently, 26 states and Washington, DC, are so intent on eliminating the use of bags that they charge a per bag tax. In DC and Maryland, it costs you five cents per plastic bag. Virginia has considered imposing a bag tax a few times, but none of the measures have passed. The most recent proposed legislation, which did not pass, would have cost shoppers in my state about 20 cents per plastic bag.

I am not a bad person. It’s just that without plastic bags, I would be at a loss. You see, my life involves poop. A LOT of poop. I could open a factory. Please don’t visualize this because it’s pretty gross.

Plastic bags are what make it possible for me to do my job. How else would I send the outfits sodden by explosive blow-outs and missed runs to the potty, home to my daycare parents? How else would I dispose of the toxic packages that cannot simply be thrown in the trashcan or diaper champ directly?

I’m also pretty sure my parents would be upset if I attempted to send a head-to-toe covered onesie home in a cute reusable bag. A brown paper bag could work, if only it would contain the smell and absorb the liquid. Yes, we are talking about clothes that sometimes drip. Plastic bags are an essential supply, not ever to be wasted in my home. And when I get low on bags, I start to plan my next trip to the store.

Yesterday, I realized I was completely out of plastic ba…I mean bananas and bread, so I made a quick trip to the store. I had about 10 items in my cart and stood in the express line. The woman behind me had about the same amount and brought three re-usable bags with her. I could feel the judgment as I asked for plastic, and even MORE judgment when I asked the cashier to double bag everything. The cashier was more than happy to oblige since she apparently gets points for every bag she uses (not sure how that works). I felt the stares of the lady behind me, so I simply tossed out, “I need the bags. I run a daycare,” as if she even cared or understood. Usually, I don’t care what others think, but offering an excuse at that moment made me feel better and a little more justified.

But really, I should not feel guilty. I do not waste my bags. My in-house recycling program is top-notch. It is re-purposing at its best. And what is my alternative? Paying for special scented bags sold at high-end baby stores for disposing of diapers. That to me is a waste of money and resources. In my daycare we change more than 25 diapers a day, five days a week, so buying special-purposed bags is not practical. But neither is paying 20 cents per bag at the grocery store if a bag tax is imposed. I could justify five cents, but 20 cents?

I am all for common-sense initiatives meant to help the environment, but I understand why this did not pass. And I’m glad, at least for now, I can continue to keep my poop factory contained.

Do you support a bag tax? If so, what amount are you willing to pay? Do you have any suggestions for what I can use instead of plastic bags?

Nicole Dash is a writer, mother of four, and childcare business owner living in the suburbs of Washington, DC. She is the creator of Tiny Steps Mommy – a blog about family, life and caring for children – yours and mine.

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