Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: Oh yeah, Papa’s got a brand-new bag

By From page A2 | July 13, 2014

A while back, when the bag ban debate was in full flower, I had the distinct pleasure of using this space to discuss my recent correspondence with a representative of a company making “plastic-bag-ban-compliant plastic bags.”

I know, it sounds like an oxymoron to me, too.

The bag-ban-compliant bag is trademarked as a “smarterbag” and claims to “meet all standards to qualify as reusable bags in California cities that have implemented bag ban ordinances.”

Smarterbag, let me introduce you to the city of Davis’ toughest-in-the-nation plastic bag ban, instituted less than two weeks ago.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem a bit odd to try to overcome a plastic bag ban with a bag that’s made out of — you’d better sit down — plastic?

As noted a while back, the Smarterbag is endorsed by Chico State University, which pretty much seals the deal for me. If it’s good enough for Chico, it should be good enough for all of us.

Still, before endorsing a product that may or may not be illegal in my beloved hometown, I requested a sample of the bag in question. Well, ask and you shall receive.

In no time at all, I walked out to my East Davis mailbox and was greeted by a thick stack of plastic bags sealed together in, you guessed it, a mailer that appeared to be made out of plastic.

Depending on which piece of company literature you read, “Smarterbags are engineered to be used 125 times” or they are “Tested for over 200 reuses with over 20 lbs,” though the latter claim “may vary with size and gauge.”

Goodness gracious, so much information and really nowhere to go to learn if this is Davis bag-ban-compliant or not. I could ask new mayor Dan Wolk or future mayor Robb Davis, but I’m not sure either of them could tell me with any certainty.

Pretty much the only thing I can do is wait for the dust to settle on our new ordinance for a few days or weeks or months, then take one of these bags to Nugget and see if anyone calls the cops.

In fulfilling my request for a sample of these plastic-bag-ban-compliant plastic bags, a kind PR director named Gretchen noted that inside my plastic package I would find “a new, bag-ban-compliant reusable plastic grocery sack that Los Angeles grocers are making available for their customers.”

Unfortunately, it goes without saying that what’s legal in L.A. is almost certainly illegal in Davis.

But notice how cleverly Gretchen has substituted the phrase “grocery sack” for the phrase “grocery bag.” Last time I checked, the Davis ban included plastic grocery bags, but not plastic grocery sacks.

According to the literature included in my plastic-stuffed packet, “Paper sacks generate 70 percent more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.”

And who knew a paper sack could generate air?

Also, can you get your arms around the fact that “2,000 plastic bags weigh 30 pounds; 2,000 paper bags weigh 280 pounds,” all of which means “Paper bags require significantly more landfill space.”

Unless, of course, you use paper bags to start a fire in your EPA-compliant stove on a cold winter night.

Several of the plastic-bag-ban-compliant plastic bags Gretchen sent my way have incredibly sturdy handles that won’t snap even if I’m walking home with a 20-pound rib roast paired with a gallon jug of Gallo burgundy.

Another one of the bags she sent can comfortably sleep a family of six.

Clearly, when this bag ban sinks in around town, I’ll be the envy of the neighborhood as I waltz home with an entire cartful of groceries packed into a single plastic-bag-ban-compliant plastic bag. With bright red designer handles, no less.

Plastic bag ban? Hey, I’m ready for anything this town can throw at me.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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