Bag In The EUSSR

Have you noticed how shopping bags are quickly becoming an endangered species? Retailer after retailer is doing away with plasticd bags for your groceries, which used to be free in many supermarkets and made excellent dustbin inserts as well. Nowadays, you either have to buy deliberately pricey but reusable bags, or use boxes.

An attempt to reduce the waste mountains, the abolishing is quickly spreading even to non-food markets. The other day I didn’t even get a plastic bag for my new swimshorts at the local sports gear store, as we were going swimming.

However, being chronically cynical, I can’t help but suspect that there may be other underlying reasons as well. Giving away bags is a loss-making activity; people using them as dustbin linings mean that sales of dustbin bags won’t take off and, ergo, another loss. Having people paying for the reusable bags means they’ll be too stingy to put them in the bin, and thus will have to buy proper waste bags.

It also brings back some memories of the Soviet Union in the 1970s. One of the things I remember most from visiting what was then Leningrad (now St Petersburg) as a child in 1977 was how the grown-ups had to dig out a few sports bags before going to the supermarket in order to get the food items home at all.

The Soviet stores didn’t even offer packaging for any food item that could be sold without one. I remember how nauseating I found the idea of bread loaves and plucked chickens lying around in the open, for anyone to dig around among with their hands, before selecting one that could go into the disused Adidas. I was just about to write something sarcastically vitriolic here in this blog post about that being the next logical step for Western supermarkets as well, when I realised that unpackaged bread loaves and grilled, but unpackaged chickens are as abundant at my local Carrefour as ever in the old Communist state.

Fancy that. 30 years on, the West has caught up. Or however you wish to call it. Who would have thought?

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