I, (Waveney), just popped down the road to get some rolls for lunch. I went to Bakers Delight and, as is habit, took my own bag. I asked the teenage girl serving if she would mind using my bag. She looked utterly confused, like I had just asked her if she minded using a can opener, as she tentatively reached out her hand she said “All our bags here are free,” then with a smile added for clarification, “we give them away.”
Now, its true that I have been asking butchers, bakers and even the occasional Chinese take out if they could use my bag or other container since February 1st 2008, but I’m not sure I could honestly say its something I particularly enjoy. My butcher in Christchurch was such a gem (Corner Stanmore and Avonside Road shops). He would smile when he saw me coming, simply stretch out his hand to take my container and effortlessly recalibrate his scales whilst commenting on the weather. But since moving to Auckland we haven’t had great small-retailer luck. It seems to prickle some people and fluster others. Others are happy to pander to the weird customer but just don’t get it. Neither Matthew or I do the ‘weirdo’ thing very well, we just want what we are doing to be normal, no fuss. But instead the practice of using a plastic bag just once, before its starts a 500 odd year journey of polluting and decomposing, is normal.
So, wishing I’d been organised enough to bake rolls this morning, I say, “Thanks. But its not about the money, its about the plastic” Her blank look returns, I add “Plastic lasts for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years so I’m just trying to use a little less of it.” She fills my bag with rolls, and says that’s “4.90.” I hand her my card. And then, she says: “So you’re against plastic but you use a plastic eft-pos card?” Well! What was going through her head? “Plastic has rights?” or “If you can’t save the world then its OK to contribute to screwing it up?” I’m genuinely annoyed, tempted to unleash years of tertiary study on this unimposing teen. I stand there with options scrolling through my mind: Wrath? Laughter? Lecture? – I go for pleasantries. We both wish each other a nice day. But as I turn to leave, I think better of it. I say that because of the way our world is, it’s pretty much impossible to live without plastic and that I was simply trying to minimise it’s usage. When I make it home with my rolls I tell Matthew all about it, expecting sympathy, but he thought it was hilarious. At least one of us still has a sense of humour.
Perhaps you already know of some environmentally switched on small traders who would welcome the opportunity to create less waste? If so, comment below. If you’d like some information on how to cut down your usage of single-use plastic bags when shopping for fruit, vege, meat, fish and bread then click here, or go straight to the rubbish free store to buy reusable bags . And don’t worry, if we all do it then it will be nice and normal in the twinkle of an eye!