Under my kitchen sink grows a monster. A pile of at least 50 HEB grocery bags accumulates new limbs every time I forget to bring a reusable tote to the store, threatening to spill out from behind off-brand Windex and sponges. This grocery bag infection is something I never expected to find myself suffering from, but ever since moving to Waco, this has been my reality.
This was never a problem in my hometown, since the entire county of Los Angeles adopted an ordinance prohibiting the use of plastic bags at grocery stores, resulting in customers either bringing reusable canvas bags or purchasing a brown paper bag for 10 cents. In fact, this election day Californians will vote whether or not to adopt this law for the entire state.
The first time I went to HEB, I brought two large canvas bags with me to carry my groceries. I was astonished to discover the checkers giving out plastic bags like fliers to a ZZZ party, often with only one or two items in the bag. Clearly, McLennan County does not have a similar law prohibiting the use of plastic bags.
Nearby Austin County and at least seven other counties in the state of Texas restrict plastic bag use in grocery stores, according to baglaws.com, the statewide law allows grocery stores to provide bags of any material.
I still bring my own bags to the store, but every once in a while, my roommates or I forget resulting in the growing attachment to my kitchen sink pipes. Since I have no use for these small bags except perhaps picking up poop from my imaginary dog or lining the inside of my bathroom wastebasket, they continue to pile up. I would even prefer to pay a small fee for a paper bag when I forget, because these bags are significantly easier to recycle and find reuses.
I understand that plastic bags are cheap to manufacture and maybe more convenient than paper or canvas bags, and perhaps I wouldn’t be so bothered by my growing collection of bags if there was an environmentally-conscious way for me to get rid of them. My journey to do so exposed further ways that McLennan County fails to “go green.”
Cobbs Recycling Center is only 15 minutes from campus, but it doesn’t accept plastic bags (trust me, I’ve checked).
I can’t recycle them at my apartment, either. Although the City of Waco Solid Waste Services Department offers a recycling program at no additional cost to apartment complexes, many apartment complexes in Waco choose to opt out, including mine. The recycling program will even provide the building with a recycling dumpster and each unit with an individual recycling basket, according to Waco-Texas.com. If recycling services make it so easy, why aren’t apartment complexes taking advantage of this and making it easier for residents?
Recycling plastic bags on campus is not an option either as there are few recycling bins on campus and none that accept plastic bags specifically, although they do promote separation of recyclables in general.
McLennan County needs to strive to embrace environmental sustainability. Apartment complexes should work to encourage tenants to recycle, or at least include a recycling bin on the property. Baylor University should insist that students recycle large boxes and other recyclables.
Most importantly, McLennan County should adopt an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags and begin offering paper bag alternatives which recycle more easily and encouraging patrons to bring reusable bags to the store. The 10 cent paper bag charge serves as an incentive for stores to comply with the prohibition and to encourage customers to utilize reusable canvas bags only. Even paper bags can be reused by customers who can’t afford to pay the fee every time or purchase a canvas bag.
It may be less convenient, and it may cost a few more dimes each week, but the environment at large and my kitchen sink will thank McLennan County and its residents for considering this change.