Enviro When It Comes to the Environment…
posted by February 2 at 9:38 AMon
In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.
Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable—on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.
To prevent retailers from switching to paper bags—which are biodegradable, but create more greenhouse gases during production—Ireland’s minister for the environment threatened to tax those too. And Irish retailers, who aggressively opposed the tax, are now big backers of it.
According to the NYT, 42 billion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, and most wind up in landfills. Except, of course, for the tens of millions that wind up in forests, fields, oceans, rivers, and streams. Also in today’s NYT, this op-ed about eco tourists at Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina:
The most striking thing about the drive out of El Calafate on the way to the Patagonian glaciers is the trash. Sheer, flimsy, white plastic bags, tens of thousands of them, are strewn across acres of land. The harsh wind has blown them in curtains up against the chain-link fences around construction sites; thousands have been tilled into the mud of wide tire tracks; thousands more, tattered by sharp nettles, festoon the low, clumping bushes that cover the landscape.
Taxing this shit out of plastic bags, changing what we expect at the grocery store, encouraging people to use cloth bags or, when they buy one or two items, to carry those things home in their hands or toss them in the bags and backpacks they carried into the store when they arrived: If we can’t make this kind of change—a small, simple, easy change, one that could implemented overnight—what hope is there for making the kind of big, systemic changes we’re going to need to make to slow or halt climate change?
Greg? Sally? Tom? Tim? Nick? Jean? Richard? Richard? Jan? Bruce? Slap a tax on plastic grocery bags in Seattle.