These rectangular canvas bags at the grocery stores to replace plastic and paper.

I am curious about the history of these rectangular canvas bags at the grocery stores to replace plastic and paper.

I’ve a net bag from Europe, was one used to bring things home from the market.

The net bag is lighter and fit into a pocket more easily than the canvas bags. It has lasted a long time and is easy to clean. I have seen net bags in old European and Japanese movies.

Who, when, where was it decided that we should all rush out and buy the more cumbersome rectangular canvas bags?

Eco nuts - reuse > new plastic waste each trip.

Those bags are cheaper to make than the nets used in europe. Americans want to recycle but dont’ want to pay to do it. If they have to pay they want to pay as little as possible.

The makers of said cumbersome rectangular canvas bags, of course.

Another factor in the decision is that Americans, in far higher numbers than Europeans, do larger, less frequent grocery shopping trips and do them in cars. So the “fits in a pocket” advantage of the net bags isn’t really that big a deal for most American consumers. You aren’t, after all, going to shove ten or more of those bags into your pocket in order to do a week or month’s worth of shopping.

I have yet to go to a store, even those promoting “cumbersome rectangular canvas bags”, that would not let you bring whatever sort of bag you desire to use. I have brought in reused plastic and paper bags (even those printed with a rival store’s name and logo), stuffed things into a backpack, used cardboard boxes, and probably some other stuff I haven’t thought of. The canvas box-bags are trendy, not mandated.

A rectangular bag mimics a paper bag and provides more structure for your groceries. Those net bags just blob all over willy-nilly. Plus the rectangular bag allows for logos and advertising on the sides which could be seen as an advantage.

Net bags show that you are “green” only on your return trip. Cumbersome square canvas bags advertise this fact as you walk to and from the store.

Or non-eco nuts live in a city where plastic bags are being phased out.

In Europe, people do crazy things like stop at the market on the way home and buy fresh foods - imagine! In North America, people go out and buy two weeks worth of food all at once. The rectangular bags are about the right size for three cartons of milk to stand up beside each other. Mesh bags, wile great for pocket stuffing, snag on things like door latches and ice scrapers which is why the canvas ones are more popular here where people will be throwing them into car trunks.

My SO and I mostly use our bike paniers, and we are also crazy types who prefer to stop at the market on the way home from work. But for the big mondo trips when we plan aon buying tons at once, we use those big Ikea tarp bags.

I’ve started to see stuffable nylon bags with a matching pouch. Sometimes the pouch is sewn onto the bag so you can’t lose it.
I also have a bunch of polypropylene bags, and some made of woven bamboo. No matter what the bag’s made of, Trader Joe’s will give you a raffle ticket.

People buy those bags?

It does nothing to explain the bags’ popularity overall, but at a lot of the computer or security industry trade shows I go to, quite a few vendors have switched from plastic or paper sacks to fabric totes. As a result, I’ve got probably 30 of the things all for free.

It makes for interesting chit-chat at the checkout - sacks from the likes of Drive Savers and Oracle help break the monotony of blank bags or bags with that store’s name on them.

In Australia, at least, supermarkets sell reuseable bags that best fit their bagging station/techniques. The squarish canvasish (I think they’re actually woven plastic) ones sit open nicely on the metal bagging stand. Some also have hooks which attach to the stand to help them stay open.

Canvas bags?

All I see are bags made from recycled plastic. Some stores produce their own bags from other materials. The best bags are those from Home Depot. They are very large, made of nylon and cost a dollar. If you can stand the bright orange color and company logo, they are the best I’ve found so far.

Well, the reason I use the canvas ones is that they get handed out all over the place, so we’ve got like a dozen of them with various logos. I’ve never even seen a net one for purchase (not that I’ve looked), but the ready availability of canvas means it wins.

Plus, I generally use my backpack + milk crate bolted to my bike to pick up stuff on the way home - the only time I bring a bag at all is if I’m going out shopping for lotsa stuff, and I can fit plenty of canvas bags in an empty backpack, so portability isn’t usually an issue. I suppose I could see using a net one if I had it, but I don’t, and the canvas ones aren’t inconvenient enough to make me go get a net bag.

I’ve actually purchased higher-quality rectangular bags (better than the cheapies the grocery store has for sale). I also own some net bags.

The net bags are indeed easy to compact and shove in a pocket.

However, if you’re loading up on a big grocery run, they’re a PITA for the poor cashiers filling the bags (or for me, if I’m doing self-service checkout). The canvas (or recycled soda bottle or recycled cotton or whatever) bags are as noted a LOT easier for a big grocery run.

The one thing the string bags are great for is something like a farmers’ market. I can make purchases at one stall, put the straps over my shoulder (mine have loooong straps), and have my hands free for the next stall.

Shameless plug for the place I got mine:

The cheapie ones the grocery sells are of some sort of pressed fiber which seems to tear a bit too easily (and the seams come undone). I guess you get what you pay for. Our store used to have nice, very heavy-duty plastic-coated mesh bags for sale - haven’t seen them in years but we have some of those that are older than the kids.

Oh - and compactness isn’t a huge issue since I like most suburbanites go grocery shopping with a car, and the bags live in the car. I’ve actually even gotten to the point where I remember to bring them into the store with me (formerly a huge failing of mine). Reusablebags does have some very compact non-string bags; I can’t comment on how well they work with standing up while you’re filling them.

I much prefer the recycled plastic stand-up bags, if that’s what they are, to the canvas and net bags. They look like plastic-coated canvas, and my favorite has both long and short handles. I always have a spare nylon bag with me, too, but it isn’t self-supporting. Plus, how do you keep your small items from falling through the holes of the net bags?

I find that if I don’t get disposable/recyclable store bags every now and then, then I don’t have any to use for garbage. I’m not going to buy a box of wastebasket liners. It feels very wrong to ask for store bags for this purpose.

A lot of good observation in the above posts:

Disclosure: I try to be very “green” and am a firm believer in recycling.

Now the problem. I question whether the reusable canvas bags being sold in America are really “green”. It seems that the amount of material used in the production of the bags is much greater than the production of the “one-time” plastic bags. So that begs the question as to how many times you must use a reusable bag to gain a net advantage over the plastic bags? Is it 50 times, 100 times? I would like to see some research.

Of course, the underlying problem is that Americans aren’t in the habit of using reusable bags. Have you ever seen one that was worn out? To make it effective you have to immediately put them back in your car and remember to take them into the store. Just buying them (to soothe your conscience), forgetting them and storing them away does no good. These are ingrained habits that must be modified. When that happens there will be a net value.

In the big cities, people that walk and take mass transit are used to picking up things on the run. Carrying reusable bags is not either a habit or practical. A city like New York would love to outlaw one-time plastic bags but is that practical to the lifestyle of the residents that are otherwise waste conscious? There lies the problem.

Wegman’s has three bags for sale for about $1 each - red (tomato), green (peas)m and purple (grapes) - they’re very attractive, the store claims they sell so many they can hardly keep them in stock, and I plan on buying some as soon as I scrape up $3. The weird thing is: I never see anyone using them in the store. What are people doing with the bags? Using them for totes to the beach?

You forgot to mention: Easing their conscience?

Gotta store your carbon offsets in something. :stuck_out_tongue:

I use my reusable bags for all kinds of things - hauling stuff to my mom’s house, taking things to work, etc. I just forget to put them back in the car to take to the grocery store. I slap my forehead every time I walk into Publix and see the “don’t forget your bags!” sign. I do have some of the nylon stuffable ones (the best bags, IMHO - they crush down into their little pouches, have some give so they’re more comfortable to carry, and can go over your shoulder) in my purse but I even forget about them sometimes in the grocery store. I do use them for everything else in the world, though.