In theory, using reusable grocery bags seems like a great idea. It generates less trash and I do not have to deal with a kitchen drawer overflowing with plastic bags awaiting reuse. The sturdy, long-handled bags are much easier to carry than the flimsy plastic bags that stretch and tear as I try to make it to the kitchen before everything spills.
After trying a variety of reusable grocery bags, I realized they do not serve their intended purpose. In fact, they are virtually useless at the grocery store. Here are four shopping obstacles that feed my wasteful habit of using plastic bags.
1. Forgetting the Reusable Bags
I can remember to bring my bags into the store, but eager sackers often begin lobbing groceries into a plastic bag before I can hand them the reusable bags. I have tried leaving them in the shopping basket and putting them on top of the groceries on the conveyor belt, but neither method worked well. Between handing over my club card and making sure everything scans correctly, there is not an opportunity to use my bags.
2. Sackers Struggle with Reusable Bags
The bagging station is not set up to accommodate reusable bags. The small area is for storing and using plastic and paper bags. Working with cloth bags can take a bit longer than filling one plastic bag after another and sackers have a hard time working with reusable bags that are not self-standing. It disrupts their usual flow and varying bag sizes make it difficult for them to anticipate what will fit in one bag.
3. Overfilling Grocery Bags
Sturdier, self-standing bags are easier to use and function like standard paper bags. Unfortunately, sackers are in the habit of filling every inch of usable space, leaving me with a 35-pound bag full of bottles of juice and Gatorade.
4. Picky Self-Checkout Stations
The self-checkout register has ample room to accommodate cloth bags, but the sensors require the attendant to push a button to allow use of the bags. Otherwise, the scale reads them as unpaid merchandise. The process seems simple, but the self-checkout is often chaotic with multiple customers needing some sort of assistance. Leaning on the counter or fussing with the bags too much can also trigger a red flag that requires waiting for clearance from the cashier.
Many grocers prominently display and sell reusable bags bearing their store logos, but that does not mean they will adequately use them to pack groceries. In my experience, reusable shopping bags are virtually useless when buying groceries at stores other than those, such as Sprouts and ALDI, that actively encourage customers to bring bags from home. Cloth bags are still useful at other stores, as tote bags and gift wrap, but many grocery stores are not ready to transition from plastic bags.