Why do bodegas insist on putting everything in a brown bag, and what's with sometimes putting one item and its brown bag inside a plastic bag?


Gothamist shares your curiosity and, from the tone of your email, frustration. We recently bought a pack of gum at our local Duane Reade and before we could say anything, the sales clerk put our tiny purchase in a small white plastic bag. As we left the store, we took the pack out of the bag and threw the bag out in a corner trash can, giving the bag a total out-of-store lifespan of about two minutes.

We can only assume that bodegas put the paper bags inside plastic ones to make them easier to carry. Paper bags, especially small ones, rarely have handles. But considering that so many New Yorkers are rarely without messenger bags, backpacks, or Louis Vuitton knock-offs, most of us have little use for plastic bags for the few items we might purchase during our daily routines. If you want to rock the world of just about any bodega or convenience store employee, tell them that you don't need a bag to hold your purchase. Gothamist often pre-emptively tells salespeople that we don't need a bag and in return we are greeted with looks that most people reserve for the insane and/or Tom Cruise.

Since so many bags wind up in landfills or blow around the streets American Beauty style, some cities across the globe have taken measures to encourage their reuse. Ireland was one of the first countries to impose a plastic bag tax on shopping bags. The tax, which equals about fifteen cents per bag, resulted in a 90% reduction in plastic bag use. Other countries and cities are following suit. San Francisco considered a seventeen-cent-per-bag tax - paper or plastic - and rumors have long circulated that New York would impose one as well. In addition to wondering how such a law would be enforced, Gothamist wonders how New Yorkers would take to a tax on bags. If the city levied a bag tax, how much should it be? Would it change your behavior, or would you still take your bottle of Vitamin Water in a small plastic bag with a straw?