B.Y.O.B. – Bring Your Own Bag

By Bobbie Kirkhart

Amer­i­cans have nev­er paid for gro­cery bags – paper or plas­tic. Mar­kets would even dou­ble-bag on request. No charge. Hence, we were slow to observe that killing trees for unnec­es­sary paper or mak­ing plas­tic just to pol­lute oceans or fill land­fills was a bad idea. The first time I took a can­vas bag to the gro­cery store, the bag­ger proud­ly informed me that she had care­ful­ly wrapped each item in plas­tic “to pro­tect your nice bag.” So much for the environment.

Times have changed, at least in Cal­i­for­nia. Effec­tive July 1, 2015, large stores may not dis­trib­ute plas­tic car­ry­ing bags. They may sell paper bags at 10₵ or more each. One year lat­er, these laws will apply to small­er stores as well. It isn’t a big adjust­ment in the cities; Los Ange­les, like 127 oth­er Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­ni­ties, already has a sim­i­lar law in effect.

A state law is dif­fer­ent. It affects the con­ser­v­a­tive rur­al areas, where there is much less sup­port. This is the first state-wide ban in the coun­try. There are local or region­al bans in parts of 12 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., but these are most­ly on the West Coast and in the North­east. There are none in the South and few in the Mid­west. It is said, espe­cial­ly by us Cal­i­for­ni­ans, that what­ev­er Cal­i­for­nia does, the nation will soon fol­low. This may not hold. We have become polar­ized to the point that much of the coun­try sees this and oth­er envi­ron­men­tal laws as “the gov­ern­ment tak­ing over our lives.”

The dark com­e­dy, Amer­i­can Beau­ty, ends with a love­ly shot of a plas­tic bag lift­ed by the wind, cir­cling at ground lev­el, then caught up and loft­ed high, only to come down and go up and down again. In a voice-over, the lead char­ac­ter express­es his feel­ings about the movie’s trag­ic end­ing: “It’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beau­ty in the world … you have no idea what I’m talk­ing about, I’m sure, but don’t wor­ry, you will someday.”

Few peo­ple got the metaphor of flot­sam mis­tak­en for beau­ty. Don’t wor­ry; we all will someday.

Amer­i­can Beau­ty Paper Bag Final Scene:

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