Plastic or Paper, Lead or String?

by on November 17, 2010 · 12 comments

in Economy, Environment, Health, The Widder Curry

The Board of Supervisors for Los Angeles County has just made the decision that companies that use one-time plastic bags can not longer use them in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Their ruling excludes those cities that have their own city council.

Yesterday the Tampa Tribune had an article in their paper that stated that they had tested more than a dozen reusable bags and found lead in some of them, including Target and Wal-Mart bags. They quickly stated that those two had among the lowest level of lead in them. Swell!

Some East Coast supermarket chains have already pulled the reusable bags off the shelves. The paper found that bags from some companies had enough lead in them to be considered hazardous waste if disposed of in household trash. They did say that the tests showed that the lead does not easily leach out – presenting minimal harm to food when the bags are new. (Since they are “reusable”, what does that mean for those of us keeping the bags in our cars – where the sun beats down – and then take them into the store to put our foodstuffs in them?) Many of my reusable bags haven’t been “new” for months!

They went on to say that if you threw the bags away, the toxic heavy metal can seep into the ground when bags break down in landfills. If the paint peels off and gets on your food – (I presume they are talking about produce, meat, etc., rather than food in boxes) will that make the food toxic?

The report went on to say that Safeway said they tested bags from their vendor last year and did not find any traceable lead in the fabric or paint. Nice to know that they will be testing the bags again since I do have several “Von’s” reusable bags.

One Senator, Charles Schumer, from New York, has stated that “since most of the bags come from China, the FDA should investigate the problem.” He stated, “I think the supermarket industry is realizing this is a problem . . . and trying to take action themselves. But because so many of these bags are imported, I think the FDA has to step up to the plate.” Isn’t it a crime that we have to import our reusable bags from China? Aren’t there American companies that could make these bags?

According to some reports, reusable bags have maintained their popularity even though some environmentalists have said they are a “hothouse for bacteria.” Green proponents are chagrined that another good intention has gone awry.

stringbagI remember when my GRANDMOTHER used to make her shopping bags out of string. I am not even sure where she got the string, but day after day I would see her making the bags. I’m not sure why she stopped making them; perhaps paper shopping bags came out about then and she switched over to them.

Don’t you think that the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors could have waited a few more weeks before they passed this new law?

Don’t you think they could have waited until more research was done to see if the reusable bags are a harbinger of bacteria and harmful to the people and/or environment?

This can’t help but make one feel like someone on the Board may have more than a vested interest in reusable bags!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Patty Jones November 17, 2010 at 9:06 am

I found a page at TipNut that has links to 35 Free Patterns for Reusable Grocery Bags! Very cool!


avatar Abby November 17, 2010 at 9:43 am

It might be fun to have a bag making workshop. I was knitting a new one right now anyway.


avatar Sarah November 17, 2010 at 10:10 am

Danielle, over at OBCentric makes a line of “T-Bags” that are made from old T-Shirts. I don’t know what she charges but it’d be cool to support a local artist…


avatar annagrace November 17, 2010 at 2:26 pm

We use canvas bags- they are washable. And we have a whole bunch of Trader Joe bags. I’ve had them for years and they have never worn out, except for the bottle carrier. do you know how these bags do on the lead test Judi? Almost everything we buy is already in a tray, bin or plastic bag, so I’m not worried about my bags becoming a deadly petri dish.

I still vote for reusable over one time use, and we need to be sure that reusable bags don’t create their own health/environmental risks.

PS: When I was a kid, packages from the butcher and the baker were tied with string. There were even nifty little handles that could be slipped on the string if the package was too heavy or awkward to carry. My depression era mother saved every piece of string ( as well as rubber bands, tin foil, zippers, buttons…) and I doubt that she ever bought a ball of string her entire long life. Talk about reuse and recycle- depression era people have it all over us.


avatar judicurry November 17, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Patty,I probably should tell you about my sewing ability. I have 3 daughters. One day I decided to make mother-daughter dresses for all of us. Not wanting to have one dress ready before another, I cut all of the patterns at the same time; sewed all the seams at the same time, and then called my husband in to see the “fashion show” There was one little problem: I had sewed up the neck on all of them! That was the last time I attempted to sew anything! I have always said that if you have to put me in the “funny farm” please don’t let there be an arts and crafts room! Abby, I knit left-handed. I must have been destined to be a “lefty” but someone changed me as a youngster. I think my “knitted bag” would become more of a conversation piece than a usable item. Sarah, how big are the bags? I must have 20 in the car, that I usually forget to bring inside with me! Annagrace, you are right. I remember now my grandmother rolling the string from the butcher into a ball. It was a large ball and had many knots in it, but I think I just took it for granted that was how you saved things. Funny, my aunt, her daughter, worked for a button factory in LA as an adult. She probably had fun playing with all the buttons my grandmother had! The Trader Joe bags were mentioned in the article, but nothing conclusive came up. They said they would be testing ALL of the bags again. I guess the big problem comes from China. I wonder where Trader Joe’s bags come from? So now we can worry that if the reusable bags don’t have lead in them, do they have contaminated bed bugs?


avatar Patty Jones November 17, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Speaking of buttons… My dear aunt had a big Mexican bean pot that she kept all her buttons in, all the buttons she had cut off of old clothes. Beautiful carved buttons, shiny metal ones, mother-of-pearl, rhinestones, leather, so many buttons. I loved to play with those buttons when I was little. I would make mosaic designs with them that were always swept up and put back in the bean pot.

I have my own button pot now and look forward to the day when my own granddaughters are old enough to pour them on the floor and make their own temporary masterpieces.

I’m pretty handy with a crochet hook and might try one of the crochet patterns for a string bag. I’ll let you all know how it goes. And our Abby is a regular knitting machine!


avatar Genie November 18, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Yeah… I have those buttons, bows, and a collections of so many interesting things in my sewing box going back to my grandma. Be fun to have an ‘old sewing things party’, ha ha….
I’ve wondered about the Trader Joe’s bags too, and was going to ask them about them when I was in there, but, next time.
I also forget my bags in the car at times, but when I do….I just have them put my ‘stuff’ in the cart and put them in the ‘bags’ when I get back to the car.


avatar judicurry November 18, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Good plan Genie. The last time I moved I threw out all the buttons and bows that had been collecting for years. Now I wish I hadn’t. Patty, am looking forward to seeing your creations of bags.


avatar annagrace November 18, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Patty, Genie & Judi- my mother lived in PA. When she died I was unable to take any of the furniture she left to me- I live in an 800 s


avatar annagrace November 18, 2010 at 9:58 pm

oops- hit some strange button on the keyboard…. I live in an 800 sq ft house and couldn’t accommodate the furniture. Instead I took her box of buttons. I can remember many of the clothes from which they were cut before the clothing itself was cut up into rags (of course!) Fifty years worth of buttons in a recycled tin (of course!) I also took my mother’s cooking implements- wooden spoons and the weird old potato masher with a wooden handle and peeling red paint. And an ancient small glass jar full of her cinnamon sugar, shaken through a tin lid filled with holes. Can’t imagine parting with any of them, and I use the kitchen implements every day. Here’s to you Mom! .


avatar judicurry November 19, 2010 at 10:07 am

Great tribute to your Mom. I still have two pots of my grandmother’s that I use all the time. I wish I had kept the pickle jar that my grandfather used every year to make dills. The memories that come from these items are second to none. I wonder what my kids will do with MY things.


avatar Ro November 19, 2010 at 12:44 pm

It’s so funny what they do remember and want. I have an old Betty Crocker cookbook that I’ve used forever. It’s coming apart but my youngest daughter has told me several times that she had dibs on it when I am no longer around. I smile because she is the daughter that I cook with and have such fun with on the holidays. I think the book will always remind her of that. As for the buttons and other crafty stuff I’ve collected, my eldest daughter will scoop that up. She can make something out of almost nothing and is always creating new things.


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