The Hamilton Spectator
In the BAG
Capacious, comfy to carry, won’t squish the berries: We put the big grocery chains’ reusable bags (plus some stylish alternatives) to the test to find the best way to carry food home now
It’s all too vivid — my freshly polished, almond-shaped fingernail snagged the flimsy plastic grocery bag, launching my oat milk in a downward spiral toward the dingy ground. The milk met its demise, and the bag had to be discarded, its shameful single-use life over; its carcass destined for a landfill along with the 15 million plastic checkout bags we have been using in Canada each year, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
It was a sad situation, but it’s unlikely to be repeated. Last June, the federal government announced a ban on the manufacture and import of single-use plastic items, including checkout bags, in the hopes of achieving zero plastic waste by 2030. “Reusable” bags made of plastic are permitted, defined as meaning they won’t tear or break if carried 100 times with 10 kilograms of weight over a distance of 53 metres, and when washed once. The ban comes into effect this December, though most of the large grocery chains have already jumped on board.
This means we now need to remember to bring our own totes for every trip to the register — or outlay additional coin to purchase reusable bags, which adds to the bill along with the exorbitant cost of that weekly romaine. As an agnostic grocery store patron constantly lugging giga-packs of toilet paper and family-size cereal boxes (I have three kids!), I’ve been testing out the range of options available for months. I go to Costco when I need to start from scratch, No Frills for the pantry basics, Farm Boy for the freshest veg and when I want something fun (the Fiesta Cheese Ball, always and forever), Sobey’s in a pinch, and Metro just because it’s conveniently close to my house.
To save you the stress (or bore, depending on your star sign) of figuring out the best way to haul your groceries, I formalized my test drive with a few criteria in mind: Did the bag do what it was asked, and house my groceries safely all the way home? Did it make the process of hauling groceries more pleasant? Less taxing? And did it have any standout characteristics, like a nice design or easy-tostore foldable construction?
Here are the winning grocery store bags to bag, as well as some upgrade options if you’re feeling fancy.