By Bob Ciminel
December 02, 2005
Big brown shopping bags were once the carry-all of choice when I was working in Pittsburgh, PA. My uncles, who were all steelworkers, used them, and so did my co-workers at the power plant, especially the old-timers who worked in the coal plants. They were bigger than a lunch box, which allowed you to pack a lot of leftovers. Why, you could even stick in a change of clothes in case you wanted to go out on the town after work.
As I looked at the shopping bag on the kitchen counter, I noticed a few things. The bag had a product warning label. The warning said, "Lift with both handles." Yep, even a simple shopping bag has to have a product warning label. It's probably intended for the same people who have to be told how to fasten and remove their safety belts on passenger planes. I'm sure there's been at least one class-action product liability lawsuit aimed at shopping bag manufacturers.
Another thing I noticed was a Seal of Approval. It never occurred to me that shopping bags needed seals of approval. This one was approved by the Paper Bag Council. When I read that, my "pork" alarm went off and I made a mental note to check out the Paper Bag Council on the Internet later in the day.
(The Paper Bag Council is part of the American Forest and Paper Association. The Seal of Approval was created to set quality standards for paper handle bags, which are commonly made of Kraft paper. It turns out that the self-opening paper sack, which we call a shopping bag, was invented in America in 1883.)
Being as it was made of paper, I was not surprised to see the old "Recyclable Renewable Resource" symbol on the bag. Unfortunately, the company we pay to pick up our recyclables does not collect brown paper, cardboard, or glass. We also learned early that they don't want the plastic bags filled with kitty litter either. Imagine that!
The shopping bag has a clue as to where it was made. Stamped on the bottom were the names of the workers who made the bag, "N. Enriquez" and "J. Guerrero." A little research showed that the manufacturer, the Duro Bag Manufacturing Company, has a factory in Rio Bravo, Mexico, near Brownsville, Texas. It turns out that Duro is the largest paper bag manufacturer in the world, with over 2,500 employees and 12 manufacturing facilities across the country. The company, founded in 1953, is privately-owned and headquartered in Ludlow, Kentucky.
What I learned after visiting
Duro's website was that customers prefer their original "handles
up" shopping bag by a four-to-one margin over their optional
"handles down" bag. Now that is a piece of information
you need to have in your back pocket. You never know when someone
may challenge you in the grocery store. It is amazing the things
you can learn simply by looking around your kitchen.
He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.