The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
December 6, 2007

I’m tired of all these *$%^# plastic bags!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s confession time again. I am sick and tired of washing out plastic bags. To get them really clean, you have to scrub and rinse all four sides. And then they take forever to dry, even with this handy Bag-e-Wash plastic bag dryer.

The thing is, in my August 28 post, I said one of the Fake Plastic Fish guidelines was to “reuse existing plastic as many times as possible before throwing it away or recycling it.”

And to make matters worse, in my September 17 post, I bragged about how “some of my best friends are plastic bags,” discussing all the handy things that we can do with them instead of tossing them out for recycling. That was the infamous “tea party” post.

And while I still don’t believe that plastic bags are evil, I can’t say they’re my best friends anymore either. I procrastinate washing them out because it’s tedious work (and uses a lot of water, too), and then I end up with a sinkful taunting me every time I come into the kitchen. That’s not so friendly, is it?

I’m ready to take all the plastic bags I have left to the Safeway recycling bin and be done with them once and for all. In a comment on the plastic bag tea party post, Rejin asked, “Doesn’t it prolong our dependence on plastic (bags) if we get creative about how to use them?” Maybe she’s right. Or maybe I’m just lazy. I’m already not the best dish washer in the world. And some people, like another reader, Axelle, are so good about washing out their bags that they actually take the time to dry them with a towel before hanging them neatly in the closet!

So what’s my point here? We can’t all be saints and preserve every last resource on earth. I’m going to give myself a break; take those bags to be recycled; and get on with using organic cotton eco-bags for everything from produce to dry bulk goods. They are so easy to pop into the washing machine. And I think that tossing a few cotton bags in with the rest of the laundry once a week probably uses a lot less water and energy than hand-washing plastic bags.

So what about keeping bread fresh? That’s my main concern. And I may have a solution, although I haven’t tried it yet. Greta Christina wrote a post on her blog about keeping artisanal bread fresh. Here are the steps:

  1. When you cut the bread, store it cut side down on a wooden cutting board.
  2. Cover it snugly with a cotton cloth (a dishtowel is fine).
  3. Once a night before you go to bed, sprinkle a few drops of water on the towel.

I’ll experiment with this method and see how it goes. Or I may keep just a couple of plastic bags around until I’m comfortable I can keep bread fresh for a few days without them.

I’m really tired and grumpy today. Good thing I’m leaving Thursday night for a weekend meditation retreat. We’ll have a special guest-post from Michael, a.k.a. Terrible Person, writing from the husband’s perspective, Friday morning. Hope you’ll enjoy it. I’ll be back again Sunday night to tally the mountains of plastic I dragged out this week. It’s going to be a doozy.
 

23 comments
Condo Blues
Condo Blues

When I have dirty plastic ziplock bags I turn them inside out and wash them in the top rack of my dishwasher. I don't worry about them melting because I air dry the dishes after the wash cycle. Having zip locks are a marital compromise. But we don't use them very often because for the most part we started using containers for those refrigerated things instead.When I bake fresh bread I keep it fresh using a cake dome. Its size allows for double duty - bread AND cake!

Robin
Robin

Hi, Just found your blog and you've done some amazing things. I am also on a mission to have zero plastic and zero waste in my home. A few suggestions on the bread. You can ask your local market or bakery if you can buy in bulk (take home in a cloth shopping bag) then put directly into the freezer WITHOUT any bags - it's fine. Defrost bread when needed. Another tip, for day old bread try quickly running it under the tap, once it's wet place in the oven on 350 for ten minutes and you'll have fresh tasting bread. Re: the bags. When simplifying my home, I found I had so many extra linens - especially pillow cases. I gave to a friend and she sewed them into small and large bags for bulk shopping. The ones at the health food stores are quite expensive, so this saves and reuses at the same time. Thank you.Robin

Anonymous
Anonymous

BeckiI meant to add my name.the comment I made is under anonymous of 61208.I came across your website looking for a plastic bag crochet pattern.I'm glad I found you. Thanks for your work.I, too, will do my best to become more "green" conscious.God bless

Anonymous
Anonymous

I came across this website 'cause I was looking for crochet items made from plastic bags. I have enjoyed reading what you've done and hopefully I can become more "Green" conscious.Thank you for your work. God bless you.

clif
clif

Hey! Everyone is letting you off the hook! You MUST continue to use/reuse bags or you can no longer be our no-plastic waste hero!Seriously, my big thing is using things until they are worn out. I look at a plastic bottle or bag and think of what the pioneers on their way west in Conestoga wagons would have paid to have just ONE of them to take along...and we throw them out by the millions.I reuse plastic bags until they develop holes and can no longer hold water. I dry them by hanging them from little clips next to the kitchen sink area. See my photo of it at I clean them first with a soapy sponge, rinse them and hang them up. It's no big deal.

clif
clif

Hey! Everyone is letting you off the hook! You MUST continue to use/reuse bags or you can no longer be our no-plastic waste hero!Seriously, my big thing is using things until they are worn out. I look at a plastic bottle or bag and think of what the pioneers on their way west in Conestoga wagons would have paid to have just ONE of them to take along...and we throw them out by the millions.I reuse plastic bags until they develop holes and can no longer hold water. I dry them by hanging them from little clips next to the kitchen sink area. See my photo of it at http://cbplace.com/bags.jpgI clean them first with a soapy sponge, rinse them and hang them up. It's no big deal.

emily
emily

Beth, you don't need to buy a breadbox or use a plastic bag. Just keep it in the oven! When I buy bread it often comes in a paper bag, so I wrap it up in that again, and place it cut-side-down on a baking sheet in the oven. This keeps the counter free of clutter, too. (Obviously, I take it out when I bake).I'm new to your blog, and still have to get info from your other posts...

Lyn Bear
Lyn Bear

Hi Beth,Wonderful blog.Co-op America suggests Bag-e-Wash. Bag-e-Wash has a website.

Rejin L
Rejin L

Ryan, I agree with you about reusing bags at the grocery store. And Beth, I'm with you in reusing what we have rather than landfilling it. Until you come up against the disposablity built into the product (that is, its not made to be washed easily, and starts looking like trash, or shreds pretty quickly.)It is "creative re-use" that I have a real problem with, because I think some people use that to excuse sticking with disposables. Its the "But I do recycle my bags by picking up dog crap" argument, and obviously thats not recycling. Its creating more dependency on an unsustainable product.There is a video posted on the C3 Blog ) that is kind of scary: how to make stronger plastic by ironing bags to fuse them together. Wouldn't that release toxic fumes?

Rejin L
Rejin L

Ryan, I agree with you about reusing bags at the grocery store. And Beth, I'm with you in reusing what we have rather than landfilling it. Until you come up against the disposablity built into the product (that is, its not made to be washed easily, and starts looking like trash, or shreds pretty quickly.)It is "creative re-use" that I have a real problem with, because I think some people use that to excuse sticking with disposables. Its the "But I do recycle my bags by picking up dog crap" argument, and obviously thats not recycling. Its creating more dependency on an unsustainable product.There is a video posted on the C3 Blog (http://c3.newdream.org/blog/) that is kind of scary: how to make stronger plastic by ironing bags to fuse them together. Wouldn't that release toxic fumes?

axelle
axelle

I USED to wash out each plastic bag when it looked dirty, dry it with a dish towel, fold it in half, press out all the air, and put it back in my big plastic carry-all. However, if the dishtowel had already been used and was damp and therefore not at all clean and dry, then those bags weren't no longer clean and certainly not dry. Just think, I was pressing them flat so no air could get in, and then storing them in a dark space. Stink. Poor, innocent plastic bags. But now I rinse them, shake them, and clip 'em together with a clothespin and hang them any old place and forget about them until they're dry on one side. I turn them inside-out and do the same and voila, dry and unstinking plastic bags. I do this IMMEDIATELY upon putting away groceries; otherwise they breed and multiply and I go nuts like everyone else. Dealing with unwanted plastic provokes a lot of guilt. Mindy nailed it in the first paragraph of her respose. Beth, you've inspired meto make big changes and they're not easy, but I can't go back to the old ways.

Ryan
Ryan

You (and a friend) commented on whether re-using something only worsens our dependence on it. The key is whether that re-use PREVENTS you from consuming something else. For example, if you re-use your plastic bag at the grocery store, that's great because your PREVENTING more new plastic bags from being used, and eventually that will trickle up to the manufacturer of bags who will ramp down their production. If you're just re-using plastic bags for the sake of not recycling them (inventing ways to use them), that doesn't do much good.

Sunny
Sunny

For those who want to store their bread, why not go to a thrift store and purchase a cake carrier or pie carrier or something along those lines. At least that way you're reusing the product.

AnnMarie
AnnMarie

I hate washing out those bags as well! I must have 20 or piled up on the kitchen counter. Twice this year, I've given up and thrown them all away. (I only recently had our grocery store start recycling bags, and I wasn't sure if these could be included but sounds like they can.) It's bread for us, too. I've been putting my wehat bread in a bread box, sometimes in a plastic bag because I wasn't sure, but I'll try the cloth now. The other problem is fruit breads--we usually have at least one around for breakfast and they have to be covered up. I don't want to buy a plastic box to put it in, but that's probably better than throwing away plastic bags. And the box goes in the dishwasher unlike the bags....

Sunny
Sunny

I had a ah ha moment last night. My mother-in-law does a lot of humanitarian sewing so people give her all kinds of fabric. I had picked some up from a friend and my husband took it out there yesterday. When I called to find out when he was coming home she told me she thought she'd make some shopping bags out of the fabric. She had seen a lady at the store with them and thought they would be a lot easier to use. Apparently she didn't have a clue that I did that too. I explained that it was wonderful and I thought it would be a great idea for her. So, for all of us that get a little tired or overwhelmed by being "good" at the store with our bags, remember someone might be watching you. My mother-in-law is the last person I thought would bring her own bags. The tide is turning! PS Guilt is useless. If washing the bags isn't your thing Beth, then put your energy where it will do the most good!

Mindy
Mindy

Beth, I discovered faksplasticfish.com a couple of weeks ago and have read most of it and I want to say you are amazing, this site is amazing, and what you have done already is amazing. Ditch the plastic bags without guilt! If perfection is our goal, we're all doomed to fail, so give yourself a break on this one.Now I have a question about bags being recycled at grocery stores. Do we know for sure what actually happens to these bags? My local stores don't seem to know...they say uh, we put them in the back and a truck comes to get them. I hate to be cynical, but are the stores pretending to recycle to take away their shoppers' guilt over the plastic bags? I and my family always use GreenBags or our bike panniers, but I bet a lot of consumers would think twice about all the plastic grocery bags they use if it weren't for that bin in the front of the store offering absolution. Here in Tucson, we can't recycle plastic bags in our home bins, so the grocery stores are the only choice for recycling them. The main reason for my suspicion is that the recycling bins disappeared for a while, and then when we started hearing about San Francisco banning plastic grocery bags, suddenly all the stores had their bins back up. Makes one wonder why they weren't recycling all along if it's so easy to do...If you've posted on this and I missed it, I apologize. Mindy

Deb G
Deb G

Have a great weekend :) I'm not very good at washing out bags either. I generally end up with 2 or 3 a month and I use them for dog/cat stuff rather than reusing. Thanks for all the recommendations you give.

Burbanmom
Burbanmom

Beth,Nobody's perfect and you've done a hell of a lot more than most people. The planet is better off for all the effort you put in and the inspiration you provide. Go ahead and recycle your bags without any guilt. (But save a couple of those really big target ones -- they come in so handy sometimes!)

Nat
Nat

Thank God im not alone on the issue of plastic bag waste, l thought l might just be nuts. I dont talk about the extent l go to with recycling anything & everything in general because l dont know anyone else who rely cares!!! I will have to google more... Glad im not alone :-) Nat