ByHaley Shapley

Oct 31, 2016

Whether you’re for or against plastic bag bans that come with mandatory fees for picking up a paper or plastic bag from the store, one thing is clear — some people will do anything they can to get out of that fee. And we mean anything.

Even though the price of a bag is usually 5 or 10 cents, for some people, clearly it’s the principle of the thing.

In the United Kingdom, shoppers have to pay 5 pence per plastic bag, or about 6 cents in U.S. dollars. Most of the money goes to charity., a waste management company in the UK that specializes in recycling for businesses of all kinds, asked hundreds of people across the country what they had used when short of a bag to avoid a plastic bag fee. Their answers were, well, creative. Sure, you could get a reusable bag, but why resort to such a boring solution when all these much more interesting ideas abound?

Car blanket tied up at all four corners

“I do it all the time now, the till operators think it’s very clever.”
We should all strive to impress the till operators on a daily basis. And use blankets for more than just picnicking and staying warm.

Builder’s bucket

“I’m a builder, I’ve got loads of buckets. What a money-saver.”
Buckets, bags, same same. They’ve both got handles!

Cycling helmet

“Which means I had to push the bike home. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.”
Life is all about trade-offs. So, okay, you’ve eliminated a safe mode of transportation home. At least you haven’t lost 5 pence!

Dog poop bag

“I’ve always got a few in my pocket, and they hold more than you expect.”
Just don’t run out of dog poop bags when you really need them. We’d hate to hear the creative solution for that one.

Pair of pants tied up at the ankles

“They were in the back of the car, they saved me at least 20 pence on bags, and hardly anybody laughed at me, so that’s a plus.”
You can’t put a price on dignity, but you can put a price on bags — and that price is 20 pence.

Coat with lots of pockets

“I leave the supermarket looking like a very successful shoplifter, so getting past the security guard is always a challenge.”
Okay, we’ll cop to having done this one. That’s what pockets are for!

Baby’s stroller

“An old-fashioned one with all the springs and such. All my children are grown up, mind you.”
Pro tip: Anything made to hold a tiny human can also hold groceries. But why did this shopper have a stroller handy with no kids in sight?

In the arms of my children

“I’ve got four, and they’ve got two good arms each. They’re not keen on the frozen stuff.”
When you can’t use your children’s strollers, use your children. That’s eight arms that would’ve gone to waste otherwise, or the equivalent of an octopus.

Flower pot

“One of those huge decorative ones from the homeware aisle. It was just the right size.”
This is what we call a win-win.


“Suitcases are completely under-rated as a shopping bag alternative. Think about it – they’re only used once a year when you go on holiday, so why let them go to waste? Top tip: Make sure it’s one with wheels.”
Touché, but may we suggest a best-of-both-worlds wheeled shopping cart?  

Confession time: Have you done anything a little crazy to avoid a plastic bag fee?

Featured image courtesy of

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.