Image by Somewhat Frank
via FlickrThat's the standard question when you check out at the store, at least at the grocery store. Other stores don't give you a choice - just plastic, unless you buy some of their re-usable shopping bags.
When I have a choice I usually go with paper. They load into the back of my van better, and I can send them out with my recycling when I get too many of them. Those plastic bags just seem to multiply and take over. I recycle them by using them as trash bags in all the trash cans in the house, except for the kitchen trash. Kitchen trash needs a real trash bag. Still, we always end up with more plastic bags than we can ever use, mostly because you don't have to buy much to get a ton of bags. Sometimes I wonder if the cashiers are allowed to put more than three or four items in a bag. One shopping trips gains me about 20 new plastic bags, or so it seems.
I hate to throw them away if I can possibly use them, but there's just no way to use all those bags. I always forget that I can take them with me when I go shopping and recycle them there. Why aren't you reminding me? I am going to have to make more of an effort to remember, because more and more of these bags aren't fit to use a second time. At least at Walmart, where I bought quite a few things yesterday, the quality of the plastic bags has been drastically reduced. At least half of the bags had holes or rips in them by the time I got home. Now either I bag all those holey bags up so I can take them with me next time, or I throw them away. Throwing them away seems wrong, but I don't have the confidence that I'll remember to take them with me, either.
I'm guessing that the plastic bag quality has been reduced either in an effort to save the stores some money, or it's their way of encouraging shoppers to purchase and start using the re-usable bags. At about $1 a bag, they're not a bad idea. I bet I could get more than the standard three or four items (OK, I'm exaggerating. Sue me) in each bag, so I wouldn't need 20. The problem I have is, again, the remembering. I bought one of those bags from Walgreens. It's a really nice bag. I keep it in the van. I've never remembered to take it back into the store with me to bag my purchases, so I'm still collecting plastic bags from Walgreens, too.