Thursday, April 22, 2004

Happy Earth Day, Wal-Mart 

Since today is Earth Day, I'd like to say a bit about recycling. Particularly, Wal-Mart's ignorant stance on it.

Wal-Mart recycles plastic bags. Good for them. Recycling lessens the ammount of trash dumped into landfills and it expends less energy than creating products from scratch.

You know what expends even less energy than recycling? Not using those products in the first place!

I don't need 34 plastic bags every time I buy groceries. Nevertheless, the cashiers at Wal-Mart (and many other retail establishments, but Wal-Mart is the worst) seem to feel the need to use as many bags as possible.

Consider the following list of groceries:
1 hand of bananas
1 loaf of bread
1 box of cereal
1 carton of orange juice
1 gallon of milk
1 3-pack of paper towels
1 bottle of dishwashing soap

Wal-Mart will give you between six and eight plastic bags for these seven items. The milk is "too heavy" to share a bag — in fact, they might even need to double bag it. The bread will "get squished" if anything else touches it. Same goes for the bananas (though maybe they'll get thrown in with the bread). The orange juice can't touch anything else because it's cold. The paper towels will fill up a bag on their own. And God forbid you allow soap anywhere near food! That leaves the cereal for its own bag, too.

Wal-Mart has latched onto a single element of the "reuse, reduce, recycle" mantra and seems to think that this absolves them of the other two. Whenever I complain to them that their excessive use of plastic is wasteful, I'm told that I can recycle the bags in a bin at the entrance. But I souldn't have to recycle them. I don't need them in the first place.

Here's how I'd bag the same list. Orange juice, cereal, soap, bread and bananas in one bag. No bags for the milk or paper towels. Look at that — one bag! The soap is not going to leak. If, by some freak accident, it does, the other items are already sealed in their own protective packaging. Milk does not need its own bag. The jug already has a handle, and a plastic bag doesn't suddenly make it lighter to carry. In fact, no item that will fill an entire bag on its own needs a bag. It's all going to my car inside a shopping cart anyway — I don't have to worry about carrying it.

Do your part. The next time you're buying groceries, tell the cashier or bagger that you want as few bags as possible. Most likely, they will ignore your request. At that point, proceed to hold up their line by rebagging everything and giving them back the unnecessary plastic.