Monday, January 18, 2016

Searching for Plastic Bags

For many years I have been storing my breads, cakes and other foods in gallon (3.78 liter) sized plastic bags.  It is an ordinary bag that is closed with a twist tie.  I use 1 – 3 every week.  If they are not wet or dirty, I try to recycle them.   The companies described the bags as very versatile and encouraged them to be used for food and non food items.  When storing food, one could squeeze out most of the air and put the package into the freezer for many weeks of safe storage.

You are probably wondering why I would spend time writing about something so ordinary and non-library connected.  Plastic bags are a very useful product.  The makers say that they can be used for food;  small non-food items and even to store off-season clothing.  In December my supply was low and so I wanted to purchase another box at my favorite store.  Below is a picture of the box.


I went to my local store and they didn’t have any on the shelves.  I asked and the clerk pointed to the section with a new store brand.  The display had only store brand and national brands of reclosable bags. Reclosable bags are less versatile and they cost more money.  A box of 75 plain bags costs about $.05 per bag including the twist ties.  The reclosable bags cost about $0.0923 per bag or more depending on the type of closure (single or double) and weight of the plastic (1,2, or 3 mil).

Since I was going out of town, I didn’t have time to search other stores.

I went to a supermarket in a St. Louis suburb and quickly found gallon sized bags.  The label advised “fits one and a half loaves of bread.”  Hmm, how does the maker know the size of my loaves?  I usually make 3 loaves and six buns using a recipe for 2 pounds of bread.  (I use 4.75 cups of flour.)  Why would I want to store a half loaf?  The size was what I wanted and so I bought a package.  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the box home.

Once back in Chicago, I searched many stores – Target, Walgreens, Aldi, Walmart, Food4Less, and none had plain plastic bags.  All they sell are reclosable bags.  I found that strange.  I went on line to search for bags. One can buy bags of many sizes for purposes of merchandise sales, storage and use.  They plastic can be food grade or not.  Many years ago when I was selling a card games, I purchases a 1000 reclosable bags in exactly the right size.

My searched led to restaurant and bakery supply companies.  I could buy a box of 1000 bags. With shipping included the cost was about $0.019 per bag.  That was not bad.  I was willing until I looked for twist ties. Twist ties come in many colors, but only in boxes of 2000.  The cost was $2.75 plus $10.98 shipping.  I didn’t want to do that because the shipping was so high and the bags were limited to storing loaves.

After a lot of searching online, I finally found an offer on Amazon for two 100 bag boxes for $7.99.  I ordered 400 bags. I got a bargain because today the same box is being offered for $9.99.  I did not have to pay for shipping because I had a minimum order.  Below is a picture of what I purchased.

After telling some of my friends about my search, I found few even used this type of gallon bags.  They prefer the reclosable bags.  I can only assume that stores decided twist tie bags are not worth selling any more.  Food storage bags have no connection to the ban on plastic grocery bags in Chicago and other cities.

What did I learn? I approached this as a research question and used all my librarian skills and tools.  Even the most useful and ordinary products can be discontinued and searching for a replacement is a grand way to waste time.

Post script -- January 19

I received a very nice comment from a fellow a librarian with as much experience going around the sun as I.  Many times I am frustrated when I purchase goods.  Very often I can't find what I want at a price I'm willing to pay.  That is why I hate shopping.  Sometimes I find what I want at a price I'm willing to pay, but they don't have my size.  Sometimes they just stopped selling what I need.  For example the battery to my tiny notebook computer wore out.  I tried the place where I bought it and even special battery supplier, none had the battery.  I found a Chinese supplier who would sell me the battery if I bought 500 of them.