Thursday, August 27, 2009

Should We Pay for Plastic and Paper Bags?

Unfortunately, the citizens of Seattle recently voted against a proposal that would have made it mandatory for grocery, drug and convenience stores to charge 20 cents for each plastic or paper bag taken by customers.

What a great idea! What a shame! The use of these throwaway bags falls under the category of unnecessary consumption and we should be charged accordingly.

It took about two weeks, but carrying a reusable shopping bag eventually became ingrained in my routine. And even if we forget our bag or make a spontaneous purchase, do we really need a plastic bag for the orphan container of orange juice or the solo box of toothpaste we occasionally buy?

Whole Foods gives a 10-cent refund for each reusable bag used by customers. I took a survey of reusable bag-toting shoppers leaving my local Whole Foods and found that none of those polled uses a reusable bag to save the dime.

That being said, echoing the Seattle proposal, shouldn’t Whole Foods charge 10 cents for every bag that customers take? This would quickly make people think about the issue and, I firmly believe, increase the number of people using reusable bags.

Whole Foods, a public company, does not have to face a citizens’ vote. Yes, there are the shareholders to answer to, but Whole Foods has become a progressive company catering to left-leaning clientele. If any store can pull this off, it is Whole Foods.

I called the Whole Foods Northeast regional office and am waiting to hear back from the person who handles green issues. I’ll report on our conversation when it happens. In the meantime, what does everyone else think?


Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

I had heard about the Seattle vote coming up, but hadn't heard the outcome. Too bad it didn't pass. Perhaps if it had been a nickel or something less punitive than 20 cents--just enough to nudge people every time they shopped--it might have passed.

Regarding Whole Foods' 10-cent refund, I'm in favor of their carrot approach rather than the stick of charging people if they don't bring reusable bags. It may not be someone's main motivation for bringing bags with them, but rewarding good behavior is a nice gesture. One store I shop at here in Chicago refunds a nickel for every reusable bag you bring. And no, that's not why I carry reusable bags, but every time I see them ring up the refunds, it makes me feel good about the store.

Kleinroq said...

Orsi said...

I absolutely think that we should have to pay for plastic and paper bags. There is clear and quantifiable environmental cost due to the harm done by the disposal of these bags; therefore, every shopper should be made aware of this cost. By not having shoppers pay for it, plastic-bag producing companies (that lobbied so deceitfully in the runup to the Seattle vote) are externalizing the cost to everyone else. Those that choose to cause the harm should pay for the cleanup - at 5 cents, or 20 cents, or whatever cents at a time.

The ads the plastic-bag industry was sponsoring in WA - that poor people won't be able to afford such a "tax" - were absolutely mind-boggling. The fact that people bought into these ads shows how much conditioned helplessness has infiltrated people's minds. I grew up in Central Europe at a time we didn't get disposable bags at the checkout. So what? You had non-disposable ones. It was no big deal. We were poor, but not stupid.