The World of Waste

Back in Aberdeen Connie I went to Sainsbury’s one night to pick up some food for dinner. As I left the car I realised to my horror I had not picked up the life shopping bags from the flat and would have to ask for some polythene bags from the check out. I admitted that this was annoying and that I had specifically left the bags out to take them to stop us from using bags that I didn’t need, you know – for the environment.

Turns out I needn’t have bothered. In the US it appears that they don’t even care that that just on their door step is a large big plastic island that might even be bigger than Texas. I went to the store a few weeks ago to get food and sundries and left with a not unusual amount of items. Here, in the US, at my local store, they do something that made me originally very uncomfortable – they pack your bags for you at the checkout. I now love this hand off approach as it solves my biggest anxiety from shopping at a super market – the race for the packing at the till. Now a hapless teenager getting paid a dollar an hour has to deal with my bagging troubles.

The problem with this situation is that they have literally no concept about bagging efficiently. I came back from the above mentioned shop with around $100 of groceries (a little more than my usual UK shop but the prices of things here are a small fraction higher than in the UK and that builds up) with all of this pushed into 12 bags. I have done this maybe 5 times since arriving in the US and my cupboard is literally spilling out with polythene bags. It’s quite ridiculous. When in the UK I did end up taking these bags I reused them for lunches and even used them to pack my delicate items for coming to the US instead of using bubble wrap.

Not only are they throwing polythene bags at me left right and centre, they also seem to make a hundred tonnes of food that will never sell – you won’t believe the size of the bread wall in the store over here. I went at 8pm last week to find a fully stocked bread counter that, if in the UK, would most probably be empty. I expect it to be empty, not brimming with food that will most likely be thrown away in the morning for some more freshly baked food.

It is frustrating and shocking. I even had a perplexed till attendant try to figure out what was going on when I tried to use the self service till. I had brought my rucksack after walking the 20 minutes to the store along the road. I, like I used to do in the UK, dropped my bag onto the till area and started to check out. The till, being one of those annoying second guessing self service tills, refused my custom asking me to “remove item from bagging area”. In the UK there’s a button at this screen saying “Using own bags” to let me add that weight and zero it to allow me to do this. The US tills offer no such ability. And, therefore, after a kerfuffle with the staff member... I had to resort to placing my items on the bagging area and after payment had been taken transferring my items into my bag. The staff member made me feel like I was acting like an idiot even trying to use my own bag.

A piece of stand up by Sean Locke reminds me of this.
“I’m quite interested in to why some people really, really care about the environment and why some people just don’t give a shit. Some people would quite happily just fly to the shops, wouldn’t they? If easy jet did a fly to the shops deal.

I do care, I care a lot actually. Well not as much as I used to because I went to America and when I came back I thought what’s the point, why do I bloody bother? Because their consumption levels are so much more extreme. I just feel stupid now, I’m at home, recycling. Washing out marmite pots. ‘Ohh, must get all the marmite out so they don’t have to make another one!’ and they’re drilling for oil in Alaska.

I just feel stupid. I feel like I’ve turned up at an earthquake with a dustpan and brush! ‘Can I help at all? Well, you do all that, I’ll do this little bit here… feel better now.’”

(sourced from here)