10 Commandments of Reusable Bag Use

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No one said your reusable bags have to match, either. (Photo: Tim Samoff [CC BY-ND 2.0]/Flickr)

I’m surprised that I’ve had so much to say about reusable bags lately. Really, it seems like I should just be able to say, "Reusable bags are good. Use them," but it turns out there’s a bit more to the story.

When I read all the comments on a previous post, there were two that surprised me, and they both came from supermarket checkers.

GoFaster58 had this to say:

As a bagger for a large grocery store in Texas, all of the reuseable bags are the pits. They are hard to bag, they take longer to bag leading to longer lines and longer times at the checkout. People hand or throw them at the bagger. They're all wadded up inside one bag. They come in so many sizes it's difficult to use them. I've found them with dead bugs, live ants, used condoms, trash and even lost credit cards in them. If people only had respect for those of us who have to put up with their nastiness, it would help. The industry needs to use only one size and one type of bag. Bags the same size as paper bags and that fold out square like a paper bag would be preferred. People think they're doing the world a favor with their recyclable bags but they sure don't do me any favors.

Audrey added this information:

As a cashier (of a large national grocery chain) I have a quota for how many items I scan per hour. The people who bring in their own bags drive my coworkers and I crazy ! It's time consuming ... people never bring as many reusable bags as they need, and when you tell them youre going to have to use plastic bags for the remaining groceries they freak out like you just killed a baby polar bear and they want you to remove the items and stack them back inside the reusable bag like a game of Tetris to "make it work." Get off your high horse people! Use the plastic bags if need be and bring them back for recycling! EVERY chain store offers plastic bag recycling.

Seems as if those of us who carry reusable bags need to follow a few rules of etiquette for our own good and to help the cashiers and baggers who fill our bags.

I’ve created the 10 commandments of reusable bag use at the grocery store and elsewhere.

  1. Empty bags completely after use.
  2. Wash all bags regularly, after every use if necessary.
  3. Use bags that are easy for the cashier to fill.
  4. Place your reusable bags at the front of your grocery order on the conveyer belt so the cashier knows you have them and want them to be used. Don’t freak when the cashier starts putting your groceries in plastic bags if you haven’t let her know you have reusables.
  5. Separate all bags so the cashier can easily grab each one as needed.
  6. Open bags that fold up into themselves while you are waiting in line. Don’t make the cashier wait for you to open them or worse, make the cashier open them.
  7. Let the cashier know how you want your order handled if you don’t have enough reusable bags. Realize it’s your fault for not bringing enough and politely say something like “I’d like the remaining groceries to be put in paper bags, please.”
  8. Remember when you bring reusable bags that many cashiers see you as a representative of all environmentalists. Being on your “high horse” can turn people off wanting to do good.
  9. Show respect to your cashier by saying please and thank-you, helping to bag, smiling, and staying off your cell phone while she is waiting on you.
  10. Never put a used condom in your reusable bag.