I use plastic bags but I want them banned

Why do I keep using plastic grocery bags? Dear nanny state — please ban them.

'On this one issue, I want the government to take my choice away'

Amanda Marcotte says she can't stop herself from using plastic bags, much as she knows she should. (Submitted by Amanda Marcotte)

This piece was originally published on Oct. 15, 2018.

I've seen the videos of the titanic island of plastic waste floating in the ocean. I see grocery bags festooned on trees and shrubs each spring. I know they choke birds and other wildlife. Why do I keep using plastic grocery bags? 

Right now, there is a disgusting nest of the white bags in the dark corners of my pantry.

Dear nanny state — please ban them. 

'The consequences are so far removed'

I have cloth reusable bags, including a beautiful overpriced one I bought at one of those home marketing parties. It is even monogrammed in purple.

But I get to the cashier at the grocery store and they ask, "Do you need bags?"

I forget my reusable bags. Every. Darn. Time. I may not even remember to put them in the car in the first place.

Single use plastic needs to go the way of the dinosaur or else other species — including us — might follow suit.- Amanda Marcotte

The thinking part of me knows I am making a mess for municipalities. I am killing sea turtles, plasticizing our beautiful blue oceans and choking fish and birds. But the consequences are so far removed from my daily experience. The convenience is here and now.

I would never litter. I get mad when I see people throw stuff out their car windows. Well, guess where my nest of plastic bags ends up?

Plastic bags find their way into waterways and oceans, an image that was highly motivational during the course of our challenge. (Shutterstock / Rich Carey)

What is wrong with me? Habits are hard to break. Or maybe I am just a suburban jerk? It turns out lots of other Canadians have the same problem I do. In this country, we take home 55 million plastic bags a week or three billion per year, at least according to a 2008 Parliament of Canada report.

I hate the nanny state. I love choice. But on this one issue, I want the government to take my choice away. Single use plastic needs to go the way of the dinosaur or else other species — including us — might follow suit. Banning plastic grocery bags seems to be a great place to start because alternatives are already in place.

A few bans already in place

We already have models of how it works elsewhere. Leaf Rapids, a town in northwest Manitoba, was the first Canadian municipality to ban single-use plastic bags when they did it more than 10 years ago. Montreal made the leap six months ago and debate about a bag ban is heating up at city hall in Toronto and Winnipeg.

It seems much of the rest of the country is stuck in the first stage of phasing out plastic bags and we can't leap over the next hurdle. 

It's time to ban the bags or come up with some other way to reduce their use. Selfish suburbanites like me are not going to get the message otherwise. Charging five cents is absolutely no barrier to me buying bags.

I almost hope I get hate mail from environmentalists, or they pelt me with compost. Maybe that will get me to finally make a change. 

Our land, our waterways, our oceans — yes, even my pantry — will be all the cleaner if we start somewhere and finally do something about plastic shopping bags.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ


Amanda Marcotte is a writer, journalist, and mom from Saskatchewan. She also pops up from time to time as a sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan School of Journalism.


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