I saw the woman as I headed into my local Hannaford on June 30. She was pushing a shopping carriage filled with groceries that were shoved into at least 10 disposable plastic bags.

“Lady,” I thought, “you are going to have a rude awakening the next time you go shopping.”

The next day, of course, Maine’s ban on plastic bags in retail establishments went into effect.

At long last.

I’m not going to apologize for the pleasure I take in seeing people leave stores juggling several items because they haven’t brought their own bags and don’t want to pay five cents for a paper one.

Nope. I am proud of the fact that I’ve been a reusable-bag user for 20 years.

One of my oldest is a canvas model with a label that reads “Shop ’n Save” (Hannaford’s precursor).

Once, I handed an old reusable to a cashier at Trader Joe’s in Portland. He exclaimed, “I haven’t seen one of these in years! We had these when I worked in the store on Boylston Street (in Boston).”

I said, “That’s where I got it.” It was my first visit to a Trader Joe’s, and I toted my stash home in that bag on the Downeaster.

I hate the disposable plastic bag, and on the rare occasion when I’ve forgotten my reusables, I’ve been known to buy a new one on the spot.

It’s not that hard, people.

I have canvas “boxes,” which are sold as reusable grocery carriers, in each of my cars. In each box there are three reusable bags. I had many more at one time, but finally did a thorough weeding. When you like reusable bags as much as I do, you’re always on the lookout for the latest and the cutest. One of my favorites is from Whole Foods. It was designed by an artist, and one side features colorful faces and food. The word “Yum” is repeated three times down the other side.

Although I’ve permitted myself to be horrified by people who carry out $150 worth of groceries in disposable bags, I’ve never believed I was saving the world from plastic waste on my own. It was always one small thing I could do.

For example, I tried washing out baggies and reusing them. I even have a small wooden holder to dry them on. After a while, though, I decided life is too short for this. I would rather use wax bags, or wrap stuff in aluminum foil. Not perfect solutions, but they do rot and if the foil is clean you can recycle it. Storing food in bowls, with a plate on top, is even better.

I’m in my element at this time of year, when I can pick lettuce from my garden instead of buying it in plastic bins (which I try to recycle, but who knows what actually gets recycled?).

Visiting the farmers market at Mill Park is a frequent pleasure. There, I relish the practically zero waste of the experience. I bring my French market basket and my cotton produce bags. When I get home, all I have to discard may be the small plastic wrapper from the goat cheese, and a paper bag that contained a baguette. All other “waste” (like vegetable cuttings) goes into the compost bin.

Since these little, environmentally friendly actions bring me joy, I was devastated in March of 2020 when, due to the pandemic, I was no longer able to proudly pull out my reusable bags at the supermarket. With 20 years of reusables under my belt, I automatically asked for paper. That could be recycled — until the city recycling center was shut down for the duration.

I can’t say that not being able to bring my own bags was the worst part of the lockdown phase of the pandemic, but it was pretty bad. I remember hearing that other people shared my angst on an edition of Maine Public Radio’s “Maine Calling.” If you’re environmentally aware, it’s like a code of honor to use them.

After a while, using paper bags became a problem. Not all checkout lines had them. The cashier would get them for you, but this took time. At the height of the pandemic, I didn’t want to spend one more moment in the supermarket than I needed to. Between masks and plexiglass barriers, it sometimes took several tries to get the bagger to understand I wanted paper. For a couple of months, I resorted to plastic. I only lived with myself by bringing them back to the supermarket to be recycled. I’m not sure they were, but I was fully capable of lying to myself at that point.

Oh happy day when the sign went up at Hannaford saying that we could use our bags again. At first, the sign stated that the bags must be cleaned. I snorted to myself. My bags had been sitting in my car for months. They were pristine.

And then the word came that disposable bags were banned. I’d forgotten that the law had been delayed, so when it went into effect it came as a wonderful surprise. It’s all well and good for me to bring my own bags, but it can really make a difference if everyone else does, too.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].

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