June 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Finding Your Way Out of a Cloth Bag

I don’t think this ban on plastic shopping bags has been working out the way anyone thought it would.

Here’s how it’s going: Basically, it’s been about 9 months since the ban has started, and I still cannot remember to bring bags into the store. The only way I remember them is if, as I’m getting a shopping cart, I see someone carrying bags into the store, and I’m like, “Into the store?” and then I remember. And I run back to the car.

So I usually just put the items into my cart loose and put them in the bags when I get to the car, so that I have something to carry them into the house in, and then leave the bags in the house near my front door until Moshiach comes.

And I can’t be the only one who’s doing this because all the stores have started printing cloth bags that look just like the old plastic bags they used to give out but are more expensive to produce.

Also the awkward thing was that the government got rid of bags, but they didn’t get rid of baggers. So this guy’s just standing there judging you. “These are your bags?” Or, in my case, “Where are your bags? I want to fill them.” And I say, “I forgot.” So he’s just putting the items in my cart. Carefully. I guess if he wasn’t there, I would just arm-sweep it all in. He’s doing it in a smart order, with the heavy things on the bottom. And I’m thinking, “As soon as I get to my car, all of this is going to end up in the reverse order of what you’re doing here.”

So now we’ve reached a point where the Jewish stores are printing their own cloth bags, but not particularly good cloth bags because apparently people aren’t bringing them back anyway. People don’t learn when you help them, apparently. At least I don’t.

These are not cloth bags. They feel like the hot dogs of cloth bags. It’s like they took whatever falls on the floor when you make something out of cloth and then they scrape it up and turn it into a bag. They’re like lint bags. They’re giving out bags made out of the same material that used to be used for face masks.

But they’re free. And we’re all going to Jewish stores now because they throw in free bags, and the only downside is that everything else is more expensive.

The non-Jewish stores have not yet caught on.

So we keep accumulating more and more of these bags.

And now, in our house, we have a big bag of decent cloth bags near the front door when you walk in, in the hope that we will remember to bring them out when we go places. We also have troves and troves of plastic bags that we collected right when the ban was announced. We have boxes of them in our basement. I don’t know what the long-term plan is—to die before we run out? As soon as they announced the law, we started saving them. And now that the ban has kicked in, we’re not really allowed to use them, either. We used to peel vegetables into a plastic bag; now it’s onto a paper plate. Somebody came to our house for Shabbos and changed their baby, and they asked for a plastic bag, and my wife said, “Um… Can I give you a produce bag?”

Those are see-through.

So now, instead of a plastic bag full of other plastic bags, like our grandparents used to have, we have cloth bags, and we have plastic bags, and we have produce bags, and we also have a separate bin of these new trashy cloth bags with store names on them—and they’re no good for actual trash because they leak—but they have to be kept separate from the good cloth bags because the ones without store names are considerably better for shopping. In theory.

And then we have two bags going—one for each car—of bags that came in from the car with groceries that are supposed to go back out to the car that I keep forgetting to bring out, and if I do remember I will still forget to bring them into the store. Or they’ll all end up in the same car.

I am just swimming in bags. I feel like the environment.

But as long as we don’t use the trashy ones, they’ll be in our homes forever. Except that we can’t touch them because they’re made of some kind of material that gives us sensory issues.

The question is what to do with them. Because if you recall, when I originally wrote about the bag ban, I wrote that it was not formulated with Jews in mind because we were not part of the problem. We reused our bags. We were putting hats in them and bathing suits and carrying seforim in the rain and hanging containers of soup on people’s front doors. We can’t do any of that with cloth bags. How about when you put shampoo in your suitcase before a flight and you don’t want it to spill all over your clothes? What about when you have to lend someone a plunger and they give it back dripping?

I’m also still not sure how you’re supposed to bring home a goldfish.

These bags probably cost more to make than plastic, and they’re inferior to plastic in every way. Are they any better for the environment? Not if we can’t figure out how to reuse them.

But if there’s one thing we know about these bags, it’s that air and water will very easily seep through it. So at least it would be safer for the animals.

So here are some uses:—You can use them to sift flour—They’re definitely safer to put in cribs, in case you were looking to do that—Squeezing the liquid out of potatoes—Hanging garlic—Basically, everything that people use stockings or tights for, except putting their feet in them. For example, making pink lemonade.—Making cheese—Enormous teabags—Transporting small pets (not fish)—Making them into throw pillows? (“Boy, you really like Evergreen!” “No, I have Seasons pillows too.”)—Just keep tossing them into your attic for insulation? That’s definitely better for the environment. Until you turn on the attic fan.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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