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Beyond plastic bags

Flip and Tumble's innovative bags roll up for easy carrying. (Flip and Tumble)

The griping has been well reported. Five cents for a plastic or paper grocery bag? It's an outrage! Almost un-American.

But a tax on store bags is now the law in Washington; much of the fee will go toward Anacostia River cleanup. Lawmakers in Virginia and Maryland have said they will introduce similar measures in legislative sessions this year.

Some ultra-eco-conscious souls are making their own tote bags. Some customers got free bags this week from stores including Giant, CVS and Safeway. (As an aside, I was amused to hear Safeway's in-store announcement alerting shoppers they will now be charged a nickel for bags to help clean up the "Anacostic" River.)

I must have a dozen canvas bags. (They magically appear in my house, kind of like T-shirts did when I was in college.) But even I am eyeing the new roll-up bags that can be squashed into a small purse or wallet. Here are a few fashionable alternatives:

* Most playful are the popular Flip and Tumble bags. Designed by Stanford University students, the bags fold up into a ball, sort of like a pair of socks and come in myriad colors or in eco-urban prints. The bags are $9 each or $7 each when you buy seven or more.

* These Horchow bags are my favorite. But looking good will cost you: The price is $40 for five 19.5-by-16.5-inch patterned bags, which roll up to the size of a keychain.

* A cheaper option are Chico bags, a brand that pioneered the compact reusable bag. They cost $18.98 for four 18-by-14.5-inch bags.

* Baggu bags come in just about every color of the rainbow. They are large: an advantage because they carry up to 50 pounds of groceries, and a disadvantage since they don't fold down as much as some. The bags are $8 each or $7.50 each for three or more.

* Also functional is this Reisenthel bottle bag. It safely carries nine bottles without risk of clanking or breakage. The $14.95 bag comes in chic prints and solids.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  January 5, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Shopping  | Tags: Jane Black  
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I just use the vinyl one I got for attending a Nordstrom event a few years ago. It's sturdy and a good size.

Posted by: LittleRed1 | January 5, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I carry a Chico bag in my purse at all times, and find myself using it quite often. For grocery shopping, I have collected a ton of bags and use whatever 'pack' of bags suit my shopping trip.

Charging five cents per plastic bag is going to make me rethink my avid use of them for catbox cleanup and as liners for small trashcans. I get my groceries in plastic bags once a month just so we have bags for the catboxes.

Posted by: earlysun | January 5, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad that you made that point about Safeway's announcement. I was in Safeway the other night when they made the "Anacostic" comment and I swear I spent my 10 minute wait in line scratching my head, thinking I've had the river's name wrong all these years. So happy to hear I'm not the only one!

Posted by: UStreet | January 6, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

It takes measures like these to get Americans moving - there will be grumbling, but people will learn the new norm soon enough. They charge for all plastic shopping bags in Europe, and you usually bag your own groceries, therefore, there is much greater incentive to bring your own bags or to use far fewer of the store's plastic bags (how many times does one item get its own bag over here?)

Posted by: sunshyn24 | January 6, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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