Migration — Bag Bans

Monday, September 08, 2008

Progressive municipalities around the country are jumping on the “ban the bags” bandwagon, i.e., prohibiting or taxing the use of plastic shopping bags. Among the recent arrivals to the scene are Seattle, which will require stores to charge 20 cents for any type of disposable bag starting next year; and the town of Westport, Connecticut, which will ban  the use of plastic shopping bags (with certain exceptions) also beginning early next year.
As I mentioned last week, Price Rite in Cromwell has anticipated Seattle by charging 10 cents per shopping bag. Stop & Shop, New England’s ubiquitous supermarket, gives a 5 cent credit for each bag the customer supplies and also sells reusable cloth bags. Whole Foods preceded S&S by offering bags with its own logo and giving a credit for every bag (of any type) that the shopper brings with her. The store’s breakdown “Paper, Plastic or Reusable?” contains some thought-provoking statistics on which is better.
Many people support the ban or tax as a way to keep a major source of pollution out of landfills, waterways, or trees. On a more global level, a ban or a tax makes one think about our “throwaway culture” so termed in the Courant article by the head of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. And I notice Internet retailers have hopped on the ban-dwagon. My friend Dave Funkhouser’s story about Westport has a host of links to places where one can purchase reusable bags. The trick for me is remembering to take them to the store, or at least remembering to put them in the car so they’re ready for an impromptu stop for lettuce, bread, or whatever.
While bag banning or taxing seems to have good support, a majority of Seattle residents oppose the move. They argue that the surcharge will be onerous for the poor, though with plenty of warning it seems people could stockpile enough bags to avoid the payment. Others say that the recyclable bags will give way to a version that doesn’t biodegrade. In Westport, one opponent of the ban said that manufacturing paper bags causes more pollution than making the plastic version. I have some sympathy for the opponents. If the ban becomes widespread as I’ll have to find another way to dispose of used cat litter – paper just doesn’t make it. But there are enough plastic bags around my house to postpone that crisis well into the next decade. I swear those things multiply while we’re sleeping!
In fact it was the ever expanding number of plastic bags that motivated me to use my own bags before S&S began giving credit. I also like carrying my little filé, the white string bag that every French housewife used to own. It can expand to hold amazing quantities of stuff with only one minor drawback – one’s purchases are exposed to the world.  And right now the poor little bag is in desperate need of a bath. Since I inherited it from my mother, I’m sure it’s had the 300 uses that one opponent of Seattle’s ban says are needed to justify switching from plastic.
My other option for transporting groceries is a backpack – used for heavier items when I’m being extra green and walking to the store. The pack has a waterproof (plastic?) lining so cold stuff doesn’t sweat through and soak my shirt. The backpack also holds almost as much as the filé.
So while the rest of the world debates “paper or plastic?” and lurches toward  BYO, I’ll keep transporting my stuff in filé and backpack.

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One Response to “Migration — Bag Bans”

  1. What I’m Reading Now « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] update. Glad to see the idea of a bag tax is back. (“Bag Bans”) I like this new proposal better than an outright ban. Bags will continue to be available, and […]

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