Single-use plastic bags: A story in two acts

My story today is in two acts. The theme? Single-use, disposable shopping bags. Act One. “I’m not a plastic bag”. I stumbled upon my first story two years late. Today I saw a young woman with a canvas bag emblazoned with hip cursive text that read “I’m NOT A plastic bag.” The bag looked fully functional and seemed mildly provocative. Could this bag bring about change? What’s the scoop with this bag?… Act Two. The Bag Monster. My second story today is about a clever marketing campaign involving a monster. Bag Monster™ seems like it’s an activist’s brainchild, but ChicoBag invented the idea. A Bag Monster™ is a mascot of sorts, a person wearing 500 plastic bags – the amount an average American uses each year…


My story today is in two acts. The theme? Single-use, disposable shopping bags.

 Act One. “I’m NOT A plastic bag”


I stumbled upon my first story two years late. Today I saw a young woman with a canvas bag emblazoned with hip cursive text that read “I’m NOT A plastic bag.” The bag looked fully functional and seemed mildly provocative. Was this bag intended to bring about change?  

Tonight I searched the ‘Net and learned that “I’m NOT A plastic bag” was introduced by fashion accessories designer Anya Hindmarch in 2007. I live in Seattle and sometimes wear ‘socks with sandals,’ so the name Anya Hindmarch means nothing to me. Still, I got sucked into the story (imagine vacuum-like sound here). 

The European release of “I’m NOT A plastic bag” sold out in 2 hours. 80,000 people queued up to buy the bag at Sainsburys in the UK. The bag was a phenomenal hit. There were crazy eBay stories of bags selling for $250 dollars instead of just $6. Two years later there are still eBay listings for “I’m NOT A plastic bag,” although bids are scarce and the prices are considerly lower than the crazy days of two years ago. The consumer wave has subsided. Was “I’m NOT A plastic bag” just another fashion accessory, or did it help nudge us closer to changing our use of plastic shopping bags? 

From Anya Hindmarch: “Our aim with this project has been to use our influence to make it fashionable not to use plastic bags. ‘I’m Not A Plastic Bag’ was designed to be a stylish, practical, reusable bag that would raise awareness of this issue and spark debate.”

Is there something to debate here? Is there a pro single-use, shopping bag argument? Fast forward two years, to 2009, and activists are still working for change. San Francisco has banned plastic bags in grocery stores and here in Seattle we’re voting on whether or not to “tax” plastic bags 20 cents. Why didn’t Seattle take the ban route? Perhaps a tax is an easier sell then an outright ban. One thing is for certain, taxing or banning are much more effective than voluntary approaches. And so the single-use, shopping bag story continues…

Act Two. The Bag Monster

My second story today is about a clever marketing campaign involving a monster. Bag Monster™ seems like it’s an activist’s brainchild, but ChicoBag invented the idea. A Bag Monster is a mascot of sorts, a person wearing 500 plastic bags – the amount an average American uses each year. Here’s a ridiculous video of a Bag Monster skiing in Colorado.

In Seattle, Bag Monsters have taken a different approach. They’ve appeared at public events pleading for Seattleites to continue their love affair with plastic bags. Why? The Bag Monsters have families – bag brothers and bag sisters that may one day cease to exist. That is, if we continue to outlaw or tax plastic shopping bags. The Bag Monster of Seattle says: “My goal for this year is to stop Green Bag Campaigns, hippie environmentalists and their reusable totes, who use rationally sound arguments to oppose my Plastic freedoms.”

Plastic freedoms? I forget. Which amendment is that? ;-)

Thanks for reading my stories. And thank you activists for taking a stand – making the world better and cleaner for us all!

Have a wonderful plastic-free day!

Bag Monster blog
Fake plastic fish: Living life with less plastic
Make the switch to reusable bags


Author: Kate

I'm a writer interested in photography, philosophy, bikes and simplicity.

3 thoughts on “Single-use plastic bags: A story in two acts”

  1. I’ve gotta admit–I’m becoming conscious of the “look” of my reusable bags. I’ve noticed myself with “bag envy” when I see someone carrying a cooler bag than my $.99 pedestrian bags from PCC and recent Microsoft MVP events!

  2. I LOVE the bag monster! That is monstrously creative.

    Great post. Funny about the “bag envy” and wanting cooler looking cloth bags. I’ve used the ones I get from WWF and all the environmental places I give money to for years, and lately the supermarkets are selling “cute” ones, and I like them! Then last week I noticed the cashier at World Market was putting my stuff in their bag and charging me for it, but I liked the bag so I went ahead and bought it!

    I actually wish the stores would ban the bags and make people pay for the plastic. That way it trains people. IKEA did it like this: they’d ask you if you want to buy a reusable bag for a couple of dollars, or pay 25 cents or something like that for a plastic bag. Obviously most people would then make the switch. I think they’ve been doing this all over Europe for decades (maybe always- maybe they never went to plastic).

    Thanks for the post.

  3. I wonder how many of those original bags (which I now covet, thanks for showing) were bagged up in a store plastic bag right after purchase?

    And as for bag envy, my favorite bag is a plain cloth bag I borrowed from a friend one day. I’m kinda hoping she’s forgotten I have it.

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