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Avoiding Plastic When Grocery Shopping

Learn how to go grocery shopping and stock your kitchen without buying any plastic products.

| May 2018

  • There are many different reusable shopping bags options available, from reusable plastic bags to washable cotton shopping bags.
    Photo by Pixabay/PhotoMIX-Company
  • “Life Without Plastic” by Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha shows that it is possible to live a life without plastic.
    Photo courtesy of Page Street Publishing

Life Without Plastic (Page Street Publishing, 2017) by Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha creates awareness for readers about living a life without plastic. Plamondon and Sinha walk through their personal plastic use, and share alternatives and replacements to help reduce the plastic in your life. The following excerpt is their favorite tips for using less plastic in your kitchen and on your trips to the grocery store.

Ten years ago, in our local grocery store in Wakefield, Quebec, you would rarely see someone bring their own reusable bags. Now you rarely see someone NOT bringing reusable bags. It took some time, but the new habit has started to take hold and what was once perceived as normal behavior has completely reversed. The same applies to many other little habits you might want to start integrating into your daily routine. It’s the example that you set for others that creates change in your community and beyond.

Choosing the Right Grocery Bags

Make sure you always have a bag with you when you go grocery shopping, whether it’s in your handbag, your backpack, in the glove compartment or trunk of your car or attached to your key chain; even a secondhand plastic bag will do just fine. It’s better than no bag at all, and you save a bag from going to the landfill. If, however, you want to go a step further and invest in the purchase of reusable bags, you might want to consider a few important factors.


Ideally, you want to prioritize materials that close the loop of the bag’s life cycle and go back to the Earth, and are not just recycled into a lower quality item (i.e., down-cycled). Cotton, jute and hemp are all natural materials that can be composted back into the Earth.

Durability and Repairability

Not only will a reusable bag be a solid long-term investment, but its durability and repairability are also determining factors in how soon it will end up in a landfill. Can you repair a hole that forms at the bottom of the bag? If the bag is made of plastic, it will be harder to repair. A cotton canvas bag is easy to repair with a needle and thread or a sewing machine.

To ensure your bag is durable and solid, inspect the pressure areas. Seams are more likely to break at the top of the handles and at the bottom of the bag. Are these seams reinforced? Is the design flawed because of where the seams are positioned? Over time, seams located at high pressure points will weaken and may give out due to the pressure of constantly supporting the bag and its contents.

3/22/2019 1:49:10 PM

I see you have reposted this article again. Pointt taken on reusable bags to carry your food home, though frequent washing is a must. If not the plastic bag still shines for cleanliness. Trying to get a store to use your containers is never going to go forward as their use could bring contamination in from the "street" to their clean areas and they can not afford the contamination possibility. As stated before, if you are responsible with a plastic bag it presents no more threat than a cloth bag. Its irresponsible actions that are the biggest harm.

7/4/2018 10:11:12 AM

jon6/4/2018 is hitting the nail right on the head. it's people who are not responsible citizens all over the globe who create all this trash. Recycling should be a nationwide requirement, esp all the water bottles that get tossed out, put a deposit on them. I have used a water filter on our kitchen counter for years. I cringe every time a new disposable item hits the market, people are getting lazier by the minute

6/4/2018 10:06:49 AM

Plastic bags are not the problem, people and there irresponsible habits are. Towns also need to take the lead in providing responsible means for disposal. In my town we collect them at our recycle center and at one point we had a market for them. That has dried up but we still collect some for our Food Pantry to use. The rest are put in with our trash. The trash goes to a waste to energy plant were the trash from 73 towns generates a continuous 11 megawatts of power, The plant has incredible protections from emitting pollution to the atmosphere and all that goes up the stack is waste steam. The majority of the aweful pollution in the form of plastic in the oceans comes from shipping, natural disasters that sweep it out to sea and third world countries that still use the ocean for a dumping ground. You should all work with you towns and cities to develop real solutions to your trash. In our town recycling is mandatory and we collect, bundle and sell all of our recyclable products and provide means to recycle many other things that would be considered waste such as, waste wood to bio mass for furnaces, garden debris to wonderful compost, electronics to a firm that recovers the precious metals and so on. It can be done but it may take a generation. It needs to start in the schools, because it is the kids that will change their parents.



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