The gentleman at the check-out (you know the one I mean — he’s distinguished-looking, always works the “15 items or fewer” register), was probably taken aback at how excited I was to see paper bags with handles this morning when I ran in to the Claremont Safeway to grab some groceries.

It niggles me the way that store pushes shoppers to use plastic bags — often a ridiculous over-abundance when they bag for you — by only offering as an alternative “handle-less” paper bags, which are near to useless. (Of course one’s own recycled bags are best — I don’t need reminding.)

But today’s appearance of bags with handles was a mirage of sorts as I was informed it was due to a mistake — these bags were destined for a San Francisco store and were mis-directed.

Why the Claremont store can’t have them too, I do not know. According to Mr Distinguised, the store did try to ban plastic bags a couple of years ago with an Oakland ordinance (similar, I presume, to the San Francisco one), but “the plastic bag companies sued and we went back to plastic”.

The paper or plastic debate has not been resolved more broadly, but it seems to me we are not even being given a genuine choice here.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...