This article could really use an update. A lot has changed in 15 years.
First, we now know more about where garbage ends up at the end of its life span. Many people are unhappy about the giant garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. Yeah, I know it’s not like a floating island, more like cloudy water infused with tiny shreds of plastic, but it’s still upsetting and the area is fricking huge. Consequently, many cities have passed laws banning single-use plastic grocery bags. I live in one of those cities.
Second, it might make you feel better to take a single-use grocery bag and use it pick up dog poop and then toss the whole thing into the trash, but consider this alternative. Buy yourself a box of pleated sandwich bags and use those to pick up the dog poop. Suppose you pick up one dog poop per day, 365 in a year. Each sandwich bag is much smaller than a grocery bag, so 365 of them into the garbage would be a lot less plastic. Yeah, you lose the smug satisfaction of getting the bags for free but you’ll get over it.
Third, there’s more options than just paper/plastic/cloth. I usually ride my bicycle to the grocery store. I go inside, put the groceries in a cart, don’t use a bag at all, wheel the cart out to my bicycle and put the groceries into my bike basket. Then when I get home I carry the groceries from my bike basket to the kitchen. Or, if I make a quick stop while driving a car and just get two or three items, I don’t need a bag or a basket. I just put the items on the passenger seat. Another option is to reuse a cardboard box. One of the grocery stores we frequent has a bin full of used cardboard boxes right near the door just for this purpose. The only time I use bags at all is if it’s a big once-a-week grocery run in my spouse’s car, and then we make sure to bring three or four cloth bags in with us.
Fourth, if you do use a plastic bag as a trash can liner, it may not be necessary to throw out the liner each time you dump the trash can. In our house, we have four small trash cans that get emptied into one big one. The four small ones don’t need four new liners every time. Strangely enough, despite living in a city where such bags are supposedly “banned”, I always seem to have a few lying around. For one thing, they still give them out at restaurants when you get food to go. Eventually, I may have to go buy a box of small trash can liners that would last me for about a year.