Green conundrum: ‘Should I wash out my zip-lock bags?’

We have the answer.

“Should I wash out my zip-lock bags?” is what some reader asked Umbra, a “Dear Abby” of sorts, for the popular green web site

The only thing sillier than the question was Umbra’s answer:

Instead of gazing into the darkness and wondering whether you should wash out your zip-lock baggies, you should be chewing your pillow in fury over the fact that a household good could be so bad. The plastics industry, built on the concept of “better living,” could in fact be poisoning us all…

… our primary goal should be to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives.

The question seems to hve arisen from someone “whose coworker is haranguing her for washing zip-lock bags. Umbra says:

Yes, she’s right that you are probably using more water than was used to make the bags in the first place. Yes, you’re right that you are saving on raw materials, shipping impacts, and landfill space. So feel free to keep rinsing if you wish, and consider it a wash.

Another Umbra reader suggested replacing plastic wrap with shower caps. Umbra replied:

I wish I could call your solution harebrained, just for pun, but it’s actually quite creative. However, your husband is right that washing these caps creates its own impact. On the question of whether they are dangerous because they’re not food-grade plastic, I say food-grade plastics are dangerous enough in their own right.

But we think we have the better solution to this green dilemma: Put your brain back in your head first, give the blood a chance to flow back and then, if necessary, ask someone other than Dumbra.

As to Umbra, didn’t you have a Barbie doll? Plastic is fantastic.

7 thoughts on “Green conundrum: ‘Should I wash out my zip-lock bags?’”

  1. What does India have to do with the issue of plastic bags in the US? India has about 1/3 the land area (in 1970 and 2011) and 1-2/3 the population (in 1970), so it is a very different kind of place altogether. I suppose that if India used as many bags per capita as the US (they in 1970, we in 2011), their problem would be about 2-1/4 times worse than ours (theirs in 1970, ours in 2011)…. Yeah, my comment appears to be rationale-deficient (too). But really, the 1970 apples are so like the 2011 oranges.

  2. I do not care for Umbra, but in this case Grist has a point. It is not 1970 any more. The US population was 204mm then vs. 310mm now. In 1970 plastic bags off all kinds were rare, today they number in many billions that are thrown away. It is too much waste no matter how you count it. It is unnecessary.

    I agree with Ben’s grandmother. The idea that everything has to be disposable bcause it is easier was fine when the US was rich and “only” had 204mm people. With a population that is approaching what India had in 1970 (555mm) and cronic unemployment that will continue until the “youth” of 1970 are fully out of the labor market, maybe 10-20 years more, it might make sense to not waste things just because you can.


  3. My grandma does it. She can’t bear to waste a good bag. She also neatly unwraps all her gifts and reuses the wrapping paper.

    Growing up in the Depression did something to you. Makes me want to slap all those people whining about the economy nowadays.

  4. I’m serious here. I’ve been thinking, and this seems to make a lot of sense. Is the high-green movement like the Flat Earth Society, where the entire organization is one big joke (aside from a few loonies) on civilization?

    That would make a lot more sense given some of the loony theories that I have heard. The plastics industry is trying to poison us. WHOOOO. Sounds like a bad ghost story.

  5. Of course, we’re poisoning people. Because we are evil people with no real plan aside from being evil.


    Seriously, though, do these people really believe this stuff?

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