Tuesday, July 22, 2008

They Retired My Brown Bag & Still Gave Me the Rebate

Is there an expiration date on a brown paper bag? I'm not sure, but a cashier at a local market decided that my brown paper bag needed to be permanently checked out. To save money, I often bring my own paper bags to the store. The payoff: I receive a 10-cent, per-bag rebate. On a typical shopping trip, I've saved 10 to 30 cents by providing my own bags. I wrote about bag rebates in this post: Saving 10 Cents at the Grocery Store.

One bag had been through the checkout line several times. Signs of wear-and-tear were obvious. One of the paper handles was ripped and the bag was so worn that the paper felt like soft cotton. On the bag's final trip, the cashier shook her head and the lady behind me studied my bag with admiration.

"Now that's recycling," she announced, while laughing.

The cashier retired the bag, threw it into the trash and bagged my items in a new, crisp brown bag. The best part: I still received the dime rebate. But the whole episode made me think about the process of recycling. These are my questions:

1) How long can you recycle an item before the process becomes a) gross, b) unsafe or c)pointless?

2) Do aesthetics matter? Should the physical appearance of a shopping bag, bottle or container be a factor in our efforts to repeatedly use an item?

3) Should we care about public opinion? My beat-up paper bag could be viewed by others as either ridiculous or as a badge of honor. But why did I care about the cashier's opinion? Did it really matter that other people in line laughed at me?



Nicole said...

Not to be a stickler...but what you are doing is re-using the bag, not recycling it. Recycling is what happens when they take that bag and turn it into some other paper product. :)

Good for you for reusing your paper bags. I see so many out on trash day!? Since I have cloth bags for grocery shopping I rarely get paper bags anymore and when I do they inevitably end up being a recycling container.

Leah Ingram said...

I commend you for reusing your paper bag so many times that you had to retire it. I'm wondering though: how many times did you use that paper bag and get that 10-cent rebate? Might it have been worth it in the long run to spend $.99 on a cloth reusable bag that won't wear out? Then you wouldn't have created any trash at all.

By the way, where do you shop that you get a 10-cent rebate for reusing bags? The best I can do in my parts is at Shop Rite, which gives me five cents for using reusable bags. You get three cents only for reusing plastic or paper bags.

granola*girl* said...

Why not use cloth bags? You can be thrifty and green at the same time.