Using plastic grocery bags is one of those things, like flying around on jet planes, that probably should never have been allowed to become part of the habits of contemporary life. New York State wants to try to ban the bags again, as part of newly re-re-inaugurated governor Andrew Cuomo’s Randomly Taking Action on Things He Ignored for Two Terms Tour, but for now they remain part of the burden of convenience and disgust everyone totes around with themselves all the time.
Except! There is something inconvenient and extra-disgusting about the bags, lately. Have you noticed? There are these things, these little oblong slips of bag-stuff, that ride along with the plastic bags for a while, then break away and maybe stick to your hands, maybe blow off in a puff of wind. These:
“Where do they come from?” is not the right question, because they come from the plastic bags, but the question is why they are coming from the bags now. What other problem did the bag-designers think they were solving that led to this new problem of the plastic bits?
It seems like they come from the cutouts where the bags hang on their bag-dispensing racks. Here is one that is still calving from the bag handle:
Have the racks been redesigned to make the hanging points more fragile, or to put the extra bits closer to where you grab the handle? Are thinner, less individually wasteful bags easier to tear?
The executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a branch of the Plastics Industry Association that advocates for plastic bags, did not return a phone call or an email, with photographs, asking about the bag technology.
So, in the absence of industry clarification, we’re left with these tiny little bits of hellishness, from the very programmatic kind of hell where you are punished for your shame, yet presumably also from the savagely indifferent kind of hell where marine creatures are punished for nothing at all they ever did.
Because even if you are a scrupulous reuser of your single-use plastic bags—as trashbags, shoe totes, whatever secondary convenience they may take care of—and even if you are an obsessive anti-litterbug, those little plastic scraps get away from you. They break loose and stick to you when you’re not trying to hold them, and when you are trying to hold them, they flutter away. You would never, personally, let a whole empty bag get away from you and get stuck in a tree, but there’s no chasing down the bag-bits; besides, your hands are still full of grocery bags.