"This is actually a very unimportant thing, but it bugs me," writes Mrs. B. E. Snesrud of Silver Spring. "Possibly it bothers other people, too."
"Isn't there some way the large grocery bags we accumulate so fast can be used again? In this day of so much wastefulness, I just hate to throw them away. We use some for trash, and some to put old newspapers into, but they still kept accumulating. If only the stores would let us bring our own bags, but they frown on the idea."
I know what you mean, Mrs. Snesrud. As an unofficial combat correspondent in the War on Waste, it is my sad duty to inform you that we are not winning many battles.
Some dray cleaners welcome the return of wire hangers, and when I go to my aluminium company's stockholders' meeting I always hear a proud report on the current year's record tonnage of recycled cans. Old newspapers are also being recycled, as you indicate, and we're even learning to turn sewage into electric power. So the news is not all bad.
However, we remain a terribly wasteful nation, spoiled by too many decades of seemingly limitless resources. It is hard to shift our mental gears now and start thinking in terms of a dwindling stockpile of raw materials.
Even the Swiss are not yet in a mood to pull in their belts. Although they are known for their good sense and frugality, the Swiss have voted heavily against eliminating pleasure driving on one Sunday in each month. Why should we expect profligate Americans to be leaders in the new attitude toward waste? For us, it would be out of character.
Mrs. Snesrud could cure the symptoms, if not the problem, by buying more rectangular wastebaskets for her home. To line them, she'd need more grocery bags.
In order to use up all her surplus bags she might have to put two or three wastebaskets in some rooms. But that is certainly one way to deal with a bag surplus.