Pssst. Wanna make some fast cash?
Gather up all those plastic shopping bags that are squashed under the sink or floating around the pantry, stuff a suitcase full of ’em and go stand on a dark corner on Maui chanting, “Plastic. Acid. Grass. Plastic. Acid. Grass”. Take care, though, all three are illegal. A plastic bag ban went into effect on Maui in January (Kaua’i has one, too).
Aside: (Do I need to make clear that I’m JOKING about the “Acid. Grass.” part? And that it was a joke aimed at those who remember the early days of street drugs when stoned-out small-time dealers, the dizzy-headed and gentle ancestors of today’s Gangstas, stood on street corners and murmured such mantras?)
Half a year later, even in Maui households that once swirled with plastic bags, the items have become artifacts. And even if you’re supportive of the ban, boy do you miss ’em. The first time you come out of Ross or Walgreen’s bagless, bobbling several purchases, you feel a fool, recalling all the Foodland-TraderJoe’s-Longs tote sacks you forgot at home or in the other car.
Necessity is the mother of memory. All of a sudden, it’s not so difficult to remember to carry a tote or string bag everywhere you go, just as Europeans have been doing for hundreds of years. A tote becomes an must-have adjunct, like your wallet or keys.
No, it’s not the shopping excursions that are the problem, once you learn that first, hard lesson. It’s all the little things for which you used to use plastic bags: tying up messy kitchen waste or stinky kitty litter; bagging odd-shaped stuff for transport; tying up “plate” for friends as they leave the party; lunch sacks, doggie bags, wastebasket liners — those “free” bags served many purposes.
It’s also not lost on me that turning to paper isn’t the correct eco-solution, or the practical one, either. It takes a lot of trees, water and energy to make paper and the price has skyrocketed as any newspaper person (or former newspaper person) can tell you. And, forgive the pun, run of the mill paper bags are neither leak-proof nor very strong. Besides which the ones you get in the grocery store are too big for many purposes. Paper won’t wrap itself around the necks of sea animals but it won’t handle the squishy peach peels or fit easily into the bathroom wastebasket, either.
It’s back to pu’olo (ti leaf bundles) and furoshiki (cloth wrapping) — options that either degrade quickly or may be used for years. I plan to turn several oversize old-fashioned thin cotton towels, and lengths of fabric that I have on hand, into furoshiki for Maui friends for Christmas (oops, just outed my holiday plans for Valley Isle folk!). While these please me aesthetically, they don’t address the sloppy stuff-wastepaper basket issue. So for those, it’s back to the airtight slop bucket (can you say compost?) or garbage disposal. And forget lining the wastebasket.
A plastic bag ban is probably in O’ahu’s future, too, at some point. My not-PC advice: start hoarding the little suckers. Reuse them relentlessly, wash them out, put a large container somewhere in which to keep them. Use them to transport things but empty them and bring them home after. Don’t throw them away; there is, as any ecologist will tell you, no “away.” Then you’ll be ready to dole them out as needed when they become contraband.