Ask AOA: what's with the plastic bags?

JF, who recently moved to Albany, emails with an observation:

I've repeatedly noticed small, black plastic bags floating about in the streets and skies of Albany. I probably see these bags two to three times a week. They're about the size of a plastic grocery bag, but they appear to have no print on them. They're just plain black. And ubiquitous! I never saw anything like this in Seattle.
It's always sad to see litter, even sadder to see plastic bag litter (we can all help the environment and its critters by not using plastic bags), and downright mysterious that these same bags are everywhere. Is there some store in Albany that packages goods only in smallish black plastic bags? If I knew where these dang bags were coming from, I'd talk to the folks handing them out and try to convince them to sell reusable bags, give discounts for reusing bags, etc.

JF has spotted the bags in the Henry Johnson/Washington Park area and also in Troy.

Anyone know the scoop?


Uh...this isn't going to sound good, but I think JF is describing the "discrete" bags used by almost all liquor stores in the area. I'll leave it at that.

They are liqour store bags, pretty standard around Pine Hills.

They're the bags that you get at the little corner convenience stores in Albany. Just a generic plastic bag. I'm sure some of the lovely folks that frequent those stores just take out their loot and drop the bag on the street.

Good luck approaching them about those reusable bags...Albany's not Seattle...not by a long shot.

I'm guessing these might be bags for scooping up dog poop.

I think some liquor stores use the black, unbranded plastic bags - I've only seen them at about the size to fit a wine bottle, so that may be considered a "small" bag.

Those little black bags are a ubiquitous staple at every bodega and independently owned convenience store. Although, I agree litter is terrible and there is far to much of it. I reuse plastic bags to pick up after my pet and the little black ones are just perfect.

In Troy, these black bags seem to be standard issue for single can beer-to-go purchases at the convenience stores. The buyer downs the brew, the bottle collectors redeem the recyclable can, and there's nothing left but another unidentified flying object decorating our streets.

My guesses:

A) Convenience store bags given out to cover up purchases of "singles" that are then discarded.


B) Someone likes to pull out the city-provided doggie poop bags from the dispensers located around Washington Park and let them fly free.

Good chance they're the doggy doodie bags that are posted here and there, especially if you're seeing them around Washington Park.

Poop bags, probably. Hopefully poopless, if they're floating around.

They are definitely bodega or corner store bags. All of the ones I go to use those bags. And yeah, Cassie's unfortunately right: there's no way they'd be interested in eco-friendly methods. All they seem to care about is overcharging you for everything.

i live across from pine hillls grocery. those bags are my lawn decorations. every purchase that you make get thrown in a black bag and then the bags are promptly thrown on the ground, right next to a public garbage can.

I always thought those were Albany's form of wildlife. At war with the squirrels.

Or one more sign that Albany is a dump. Literally.

Definitely the convenience store and booze store bags. I've also been noticing a LOT of them on the streets lately though. I'm used to seeing them occasionally, but now it's like 2-3 per block, every day.

Haha! That's so funny - so you all think the bags are either from liquor stores (where you think my suggestions would be met with disinterest), or from dispensers with poop bags (which we like, because it's nice having clean sidewalks and parks). Two pretty tough puzzles to tackle!

I'll do some more investigation when I get a chance. If the bags are fluttering out from the dispensers, there might be a cheap and easy fix. And maybe I can find a wholesale paper bag vendor that sells bags for cheaper than those plastic ones - that'd be slightly more convincing for a business-minded liquor/convenience store owner. Doesn't solve the problem of people littering, but at least paper is biodegradable and critters won't choke as much on a mouthful/beakfull of paper bag.

Thanks for all your input, folks! You're right, Albany isn't quite as environmentally conscious as Seattle is - but Seattle doesn't have a website like this! There's a neat sense of community you folks have on this website, and that's pretty damn special.

I haven't actually seen the black ones but the explanations here make sense. When I used to work on Route 4 at the Tech Park, it was the white bags with Walmart smile faces hanging from all the trees which convinced me to stop using plastic. I picked up some nice parachute cloth bags that fold up in tiny pockets, and saved on thousands of bags over the years since. It used to be a novelty and store clerks gaped at me when I whipped them out but now its almost normal.

I lived on Washington Park for years.... those black bags all over are (9 out of 10 times) from liqour stores, and not poop bags. They have handles, right? Unfortunately, with the park and all its lovely picnic tables and benches, comes drunks looking for a place to sit and tie one on. Be glad you're seeing just the bags and not their rightful owners in the park as well.

Welcome from another Seattle-ite. Warning: this? Is not Seattle. Your environmentally conscious ways will not go over well here. And let's not even talk about your coffee expectations...

"...a bag [of poop], caught in an updraft, dancing with me".

the ironic thing is those bags are mostly potato starch. on the street under UV light they'll break down in a few weeks. buried in a landfill they'll last decades. so, erm, stick that in your starbucks and sip it!

more constructively, if you're willing to pick them up and rinse them, you could bring them to honest weight.

Albanians recreating the lame symbol from American Beauty.

They are definately used by the gajillion small convenient shops all over albany. They are very popular stores since they also sell everything one needs to smoke crack...the "glass rose", and Chore Boy! It all goes in a black bag with lighter and you are set for the a delightful evening. This is why I shop at Stewarts.

Wouldn't the obvious solution be to lift the penalties on open containers?

If you could convince the city that the environmental impact of this law is worse than the scourge of public drunkenness (which continues unabated thanks to the ubiquitous plastic bags) maybe the problem can be headed off at the pass.

The creative solution would be to turn the trouble makers into part of the solution. "Bring in 25 bags and get a free can of PBR." Maybe you could even give it to them with a reusable beer cozy.

Surely there is an EPA grant for this lurking out there somewhere.

I resent Rocza's implication that the Dunkin' Donuts Hazelnut with double cream and sugar is not the epitome of gourmet coffee.

bodega bags are the black bags!

The glass rose is for smoking crack?! I am so naive. No clue. I had no clue.

Uhmm so cutting down trees for paper bags is more environmentally friendly? The trees might not agree with you.

Rocza, JF, and LB - on coffee:
It's a regional preference, which McD's has recently grabbed onto with both hands, as noted from their incredibly clever ad campaign. What is considered good coffee to PNWers is considered mud-flavored rocket fuel to Northeasterners. On the other hand, good coffee to Northeasterners is like brown colored water to PNWers. Rocza can tell you how when drinking coffee at a popular Philadelphia brunch place, she and her fellow PNW friend were reveling in how good it was, and I was gagging and kept adding cream until it was overflowing.

Rocza & JF - on environmentalism:
Sad, but true. Good example - We have a mountain of paper that needs to be recycled in our apartment, but our building is too big for municipal garbage, and our landlord doesn't invest in recycling. We're torn, because we don't want garbage to pile up, but we don't want to throw recyclables in the garbage, either.

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