CHARGE FOR PLASTIC BAGS
May 2, 2010
I am in
favor of a ruling that "businesses that sell food or alcohol must
charge you 5 cents for each disposable paper or plastic carryout bag."
The quote is from a new law in the District of Columbia. We should make
it a law throughout the country.
are a scourge on oceans, lakes, and wildlife wherever they end up. Dramatic
deaths from the consumption of plastic bags have been reported in leatherback
sea turtles, seals, and whales. The bags are swallowed and then clog the
digestive system. Plastic bags also cause problems when they are sucked
into the cooling intake systems of boats. And the greenish slime that
collects on bags as they float just beneath the surface of a lake in a
city park is extremely unsightly.
is that more than a trillion plastic grocery bags are produced every two
years, the average term of a state legislator or a U.S. congressman. The
United States uses about 1 billion plastic bags each year, or about 10
tons a day. For people concerned about U.S. dependency on foreign oil,
please note that more than 10 million barrels of oil are necessary to
make enough plastic bags for the United States each year. Obviously, our
whole country would benefit from a law requiring business to charge five
cents for each disposable bag.
have already implemented plans to curtail the excessive use of plastic
bags. Ireland instituted a personal tax of around 25 cents for the use
of a plastic bag and consumption of the bags has decreased by more than
90 percent. The Irish have simply stepped up recycling and found less
wasteful ways to carry small items. South Africa has passed legislation
to fine retailers who provide unrecyclable plastic bags. Taiwan has regulatory
procedures that heavily fine businesses that use disposable plastic bags,
resulting in personal recycling of bags and other containers.
people have a learning curve for any new regulation; they will also have
questions about its implementation. The "Skip the Bag, Save the River"
website answers frequently asked questions that have arisen since the
law was implemented in January 2010. One of those questions, "How
do I avoid paying 5 cents a bag?" has two excellent answers. "You
can bring your own disposable or reusable bag to the store or restaurant.
. . . You can also choose not to bag your purchase." How simple is
that? Of course some people are going to object to a new procedure regardless,
like those who are driving out of the District to shop in order to avoid
paying for the bags. What a sensible way to save a nickel.
that everyone in America is as confused about economics as I am. But anyone
can figure out that if we place a charge on something that does more harm
than good, people will find a way not to do it. Many of our environmental
problems would be readily solved if we made people pay to pollute. We
should allow people to use or even waste all the plastic bags they want,
as long as they pay additional local, state, and federal taxes for the
privilege. The new money in the treasuries can go to programs to clean
up plastic bags locally, nationally, even globally.
I am not
in favor of laws that restrict constitutional freedoms. However, a law
that curtails the excessive use of an unnecessary product that does horrible
damage to the environment and can be easily managed by a little personal
frugality seems not just reasonable but obligatory. A two-year term is
plenty of time for a member of Congress or a state legislature to garner
support for a plastic bag ruling similar to that enacted in the District
of Columbia. We need to stop treating our oceans, lakes, and forests like
they are garbage cans. It's time for all of us to skip the bag, save the
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