To the editor:
As Damariscotta voters consider banning plastic bags, it might be good to remember why plastic bags came into such universal usage in the first place. Not many cashiers ask “paper or plastic?” at the grocery store these days, but as stores and consumers transitioned to plastic over the last few decades, it used to be a common question. I came to prefer plastic bags because of all the uses we found for them and the fact that it took fewer trips to get all the groceries into the house in bad weather.
Today, we’re big believers in using reusable tote bags when we go to the grocery store. But even then, the bag packers add a layer of sanitary and moisture protection around meats, produce, and frozen items before they put them in the bag by wrapping them in plastic.
How did plastic bags win the competition with paper? Simple. By being better, faster, and cheaper. Retailers shell out a fraction of a cent for a plastic bag, while a paper bag costs around a nickel. That impacts the prices you and I pay for groceries. And thousands of them can be stored at the cash registers, ready for use. Imagine the space it takes to store thousands of paper bags, in stores and in homes. And plastic weighs less and takes up less space on the trucks that deliver them to the stores.
But all that pales in comparison to the second and third uses we have found for plastic bags in our daily lives. We wrap wet swimwear in them on beach days. On road trips, they help us manage the trash we seem to accumulate without trying. They’re a lifesaver for disposing of diapers, cat litter, and cleaning out the refrigerator. We wrap last week’s chicken carcass in plastic. Stinky jobs all, handled by something that doesn’t cost us a cent. Use a paper bag instead? No thanks! I’ll take plastic!