Plastic Shame

U.S. shoppers, it seems, are allowed to use countless plastic bags to carry groceries from the grocery store, to their cars, without being subjected to shaming from the grocery store staff.  

While I appreciate having someone put the groceries into the bags, a task that is left to the shopper in the UK, I feel huge pangs of guilt for walking out of the store with about ten plastic bags, knowing that I have a stash of about fifty and growing at home.  Those bags will sit in landfills for eternity, or perhaps drown a sea turtle, just because I couldn’t be bothered to bring 15 canvas bags. 

In London a few months ago, a photo of a family carrying groceries in plastic bags was splashed across the front page of a tabloid with the the headline: “Will we ever end our addiction to plastic?!”

I tried to hide my plastic bags when I walked down the street in London.  When I forgot to bring my canvas bags with me when I wound up in our local London grocery store, I would apologize to the cashier, who would nod solemnly, as though to say: “We won’t kick you out today, but I can’t promise you’ll be allowed in next time.”  

Our local London Whole Foods completely stopped using plastic bags, and offered a 5p discount to customers who didn’t use the paper bag. 

They do have a recycling bin for plastic bags at our new local grocery store.  But it’s a strange feeling to be able to take limitless plastic bags, without a disapproving cashier stare.  I am a bit nostalgic for the London cashiers who expected me to be a non-abuser of plastic.

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