Plastic Bags: Going Out in Europe

Old Feb 19th, 2008, 12:23 PM
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Plastic Bags: Going Out in Europe

On my recent trip i noticed a huge acceleration in the banning or limiting of plastic bags for merchandise in supermarkets.

In Italy they give them out but charge about 8 cents a bag and only give them out if you ask.

"Gusto" or something sounding like it was barked at me several times by cashiers before i got a clue that this meant "wanta a plastic bag?"

In Holland the Albert Heijn supermarkets seemed to give out no bags

In France though many smaller supermarkets in Paris dished them out freely my local Carrefour in Saran where i often stay simply had none - no bags unless you bought their durable re-usable fabric or heavy plastic bag - which most French were using. (though i did learn an end-around manouver by some where they nabbed thin plastic bags from the produce area and then stuffed a few goods into them at the checkout)

As i usually had my daypack with me it was no problem but if not i guess you have to buy the re-usable bag if buying more than you can carry.

England was out of tune and plastic bags were still widely used and abused there and free. I did buy a nice fabric Tesco's green bag to bring home however - very nice bag.

Though i did not go to Ireland i read they charge about 30 cents a bag i think.

Seeing how Europeans are disposing of plastic bags has made me resolve to at home try to avoid using or at least abusing plastic bags and go the green route with my Tesco's green bag.
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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 12:56 PM
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Same here (DC). At my grocery either you either get paper (free) or (they prefer) you bring your reusable bag yourself. No plastic.
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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 01:04 PM
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No plan in Texas that I've seen to do away w/ the plastic....I always bring my canvas bags anyway.
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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 01:06 PM
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bardo - is that some DC law or just something stores all do voluntarily

most stores i go to want you to use plastic rather than paper because they're much cheaper i believe

Of course in Europe i've never ever seen paper bags in supermarkets - only plastic

Oh well at least in DC you don't have to suffer thru the 'plastic or paper' question

and say ' plastic inside double bag paper as i've seen some demand
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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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I shop at Raleys a local market here in Sacramento. If you bring your own bags they give you 5 cents back for each bag.
I learned while in Prague that you had to pay extra to get a bag, this was the easiest way to learn recycling.
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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 01:28 PM
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Albert Heijn have never given away bags. Nor to my knowledge have any Dutch supermarkets.
You still get thin plastic ones for the loose veg at AH, plus more and more food seems to be in PET packages, which is fine as they are recycled here. The Hoogvliet chain of supermarkets has paper bags for the loose veg. I wish AH did too. My local farm shop has paperbags and you can buy lovely wicker baskets from them.
I can't remember the name of it but there is a town in England that has completely banned plastic bags.
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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 01:30 PM
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They charge for bags in Denmark. Knowing that it is to encourage reuse, I throw them out, preferably in a park or other public green space. Or in some body of water.
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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 01:49 PM
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I used to bring my canvas bags with me several years ago but for some reason slacked off for a few years.

I recently started using my canvas bags again. The supermarket I usually shop at gives an eight-cent credit for each bag you bring in.

There has been some talk about eliminating plastic bags here (here is Madison, Wisconsin) but I'm not sure how far that's gotten. Whole Foods is discontinuing plastic and will only offer paper bags as soon as their stock of plastic runs out. Don't know if this is just our local store or if it's chain-wide.
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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 01:52 PM
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Ikea is charging 5 cents a bag now, too. I haven't been there in several months but don't think there was a charge before. I had my own permanent (or supposed to be) bag with me though so saved a whole nickel - I always carry one now.

A clerk in a bulk store told me their bags for chocolate chips, nuts, etc were biodegradeable so maybe the fruit and vegetable bags are in large chains. I try not to take them anyway - I'm not sure why people put things like bananas in fruit/veg bags - it seems wasteful but I've seen people put boxes into those bags - guess they want them at home for other uses.

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Old Feb 19th, 2008, 03:02 PM
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< Don't know if this is our local store, or chain-wide > [re Whole Foods]

It's chain-wide and they've already started using only paper in some stores in TX.
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 04:31 AM
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What goes around...

I can just about remember when greengrocers and chip shops used old newspapers to wrap things in (am I imagining actually taking our old newspapers to the local greengrocer?).

I've always used my own shopping bags, funny looks notwithstanding, and now I'm in fashion again.

It's slow but growing in the UK, mostly as a result of local initiatives:

http://www.plasticbagfree.com/

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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 04:41 AM
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In Germany, abolishing plastic bags started in 1973, during the oil crisis. Because plastic bags are made with oil, it was regarded a small contribution to oil saving.
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 04:44 AM
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Well, even more circular...

Back in the days when I was a grocer - which really wasn't that long ago - we used to get beaten up by the meeja, consumer groups and opinionated visiting Americans because we charged for plastic bags.

Now my successors are getting beaten up for doing exactly what they were all telling us to do only a few years back.

First rule of retailing: never listen to the customer. They never know what they want.
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 04:58 AM
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PatrickLondon, As a child, in the early sixties, I used to take the old newspapers to our greengrocers, and also to the local sweet shop - they would wrap your block of icecream in several layers to insulate until you got it home, by which time it was just nicely soft enough to eat.
We had a greengrocers shopping bag, lined with old paper into which we just put all the veg we bought, mud and all, and the fruit got put in paper bags on top.
The butcher would wrap everything in paper too. There would be blood oozing out by the time we got home. I'm sure there was salmonella and e-coli then too, but no one seemed too bothered about such things.
Come to that the baker would wrap the loaf in just a couple of sheets of tissue paper, which never quite covered it.
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 05:11 AM
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Yeah, this thread very much reminds me of 1973. Time warp into the past.
Producing waste is so much fun, those german governments took all the fun out of peoples lifes
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 05:54 AM
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In Switzerland, most stores have very, very tiny plastic bags available for free - sort of like a produce bag with handles. Most customers bring their own bags. You can also opt to purchase a handled paper bag for a few swiss francs.

I had gotten into the habit of bringing my own cloth bag in the US and now hear in Zurich I recycle the heavy duty bags from the various clothing stores. I also especially like the thick plastic bag from the local bookseller as it holds 6 pints of milk without breaking.

Besides the obvious environmental benefits, I like that my kitchen isn't filled with a collection of bags and that the ones I do save really get used.

I also notice most complimentary gift wrap here does not include a box - just the paper on top of the item or a sort of envelope of gift wrap for clothing items. Made Christmas morning clean-up much simpler.

g.
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 07:00 AM
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I think it's more as if bags came in and are going out again.

On my visit to London in 1979, I recall that shopping bags were not standard issue in any food market, large chain or small greengrocer. I paid for a bag at the local Sainsbury's (3p was a big hit for a student traveler then, but it was particularly sturdy) and tried to remember to carry it with me for the rest of my three-week visit.

One day I forgot my bag. I stopped at a bakery and was given two scones in one small bag, three rolls in another, a loaf of bread in another, but no large bags to consolidate it all. It was a juggling act getting back to the apartment.

Another day I bought chicken parts at a butcher shop. He packed the parts closely in a small clear plastic bag--again no larger shopping bag. I felt odd walking the streets with my "exposed" chicken.

My father was fond of telling the story of visiting family in Czechoslovakia right after WWII ended. In his honor, a young cousin was sent to the butcher to buy some precious meat. The young fellow came home carrying an unwrapped slab of meat sitting on a piece of newspaper that had been ripped to precisely the footprint of the meat--no newspaper to waste on overhang.

PalenQ, I think the Italian cashiers were saying "Busta"
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 08:03 AM
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ellenem - thanks - Busta no doubt

At our local farmers market last summer a guy selling lots of home made breads was closed down suddenly one day because his breads were just stacked on the table and not in individual bags - like often seen in Europe

but local health sleuths closed him that day and he came back the next time with breads all in their own individual wrappers - he then put the wrapped breads in a plastic bag for the customer

the health sleuths claimed flies could land on unwrapped breads, etc. Seemed foolish to me after being in Europe so much
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 08:42 AM
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>put the wrapped breads in a plastic bag for the customer
Don't they get awfully soft and fluffy? Yuck!
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Old Feb 20th, 2008, 09:01 AM
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Ah yes the health police. Makes you wonder how they think mankind survived before plastic bags were invented.
One thing I know is that there weren't all these allergies around when I was a kid exposed to naked bread, muddy potatoes and meat wrapped in paper.
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