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Ramblings Easy On The Wrapping, Please!
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Long live the almighty American packaging industry! But please try to go lighter on the amount and strength.

Earth Day came and went and finally I made my move. I purchased two 99-cent cloth bags to carry my groceries home after years of facing that inevitable question, "paper or plastic?"

It's a small gesture toward doing my bit towards saving the environment and protecting Planet Earth. But it's a start, I hope.

Actually, most of the local store employees know my preference. For years now I've asked for paper, but now and then there is a newcomer.

Once home I place the discarded bags in the green waste container - along with grass and garden clippings - on the assurance they will be recycled at the garbage collector's plant. But how can I be sure they will bother to separate out the paper and it won't just go to swell the landfills now rising like mountains in the countryside?

Paper represents trees cut down, acres of them, for something as ephemeral as packaging that will be torn off and thrown away after a few minutes' use.

The number of times I have cursed the packaging industry - and longed for a knife - as I wrestled to open an item packaged so securely it could be dropped 30 feet onto concrete without damage or probably survive being blasted to Mars and back.

Growing up in England many, many years ago and in "a more primitive age," I was used to seeing shoppers carrying their own bags and baskets to and from the grocery stores.

Vegetables were thrown loose into the bag. Meat got a minimal wrap in one, maybe two sheets of paper. Comfort and convenience was not the mantra it has become now. If you didn't have your own carrier, you were out of luck.

Paper was rated so precious, the Englishmen's favorite food of fish and chips - roughly equivalent to burgers and fries in America - was wrapped for carrying and eating on the streets - in old newspapers. It took the health authorities generations to realize the ink was seeping into the food and ban the practice.

But at least paper is made of vegetable fiber and when thrown away decomposes over a relatively short period of time.

Plastic is a different matter. Some varieties can be recycled and converted to something else and some cannot.