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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fingers, No. Elbows, Yes.

posted by on May 15 at 8:59 AM

When our elected officials contemplate the introduction of a tax on plastic shopping bags—wasteful, polluting, and, has already been proven elsewhere, unnecessary plastic shopping bags that we can easily live without—that’s unacceptable finger wagging. But when the Seattle Times spills barrels of ink about our need to protect Puget Sound from polluters and bulk-head builders and calls on our elected officials to take action, that’s just a sober-minded and responsible effort to “elbow [our] elected officials and bureaucrats” into taking action.

See how that works?

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why does everyone keep referring to it as a tax on plastic bags? the tax proposed is on paper AND plastic bags.

Posted by LH | May 15, 2008 9:11 AM

Just like cleaning your ears.

My doctor always said the only thing you should stick in your ear is your elbow.

Posted by Alan | May 15, 2008 9:16 AM

Maybe that's because the protective measures they're talking about in regard to Puget Sound are serious, and the bag tax is not.

Posted by Fnarf | May 15, 2008 9:32 AM

What could be more serious than partially reducing the 0.5% of our waste caused by bags?

Posted by elenchos | May 15, 2008 9:39 AM

Oh, Fnarf. If we can't bring ourselves to do the right thing when a problem is small and very easily solved, what hope do we have when it comes to the big, hard-to-solve problems? It is a small problem—disposable plastic bags—so let's not argue about it, use the fix that's already worked elsewhere, and move on to the hard stuff?

Posted by Dan Savage | May 15, 2008 9:48 AM

elenchos @4, is that 0.5% by volume?  By mass?

Either way, it's blowing smoke.  Plastic grocery bags have impact far out of proportion with their size.

Posted by lostboy | May 15, 2008 9:50 AM

*snark and sarcasm* Because taxing companies and corporations is the same as taxing individuals.


Why do I get the feeling that Dan is just being a mouthpiece for ECB lately? Maybe they're having an affair or something. But, really, Dan's not cut out for the shrill postings of sanctimonious bullshit that ECB tends to write.

Posted by TheMisanthrope | May 15, 2008 9:57 AM

Lostboy, supposedly bags have this massive impact, but the data behind that assertion is inexplicably elusive and shaky. For the ten-thousanth time, plastic bottles are where it's at, but that's too scary to contemplate just now.

I don't oppose the bag tax, mostly because it is so painless. Very little effort, very little sacrifice, and we cut back on a little sliver of plastic waste. So why not do it? I always favor taking baby steps, unlike certain elitist environmental extremists who want ecology to be an exclusive club that only the truly righteous may enter. (Hello, Erica!)

But people on both sides making these bags into a big deal are deluded. We haven't even begun to think about the big things yet, but this is one small step closer to thinking about them.

Posted by elenchos | May 15, 2008 9:57 AM

Thank you Fnarf = BAG tax on paper and plastic bags. But then everyone on the thread goes right back to talking about a plastic bag tax.

According to a study recently conducted by Herrera Environmental for SPU found that the "found the overall impact of paper bags was four times worse than that of an equal number of plastic bags (for all categories weighted equally), and worse in every category except litter and marine litter. Banning plastic bags but not paper would push stores and shoppers to use more paper bags, resulting in significantly greater greenhouse gas generation."

I keep harping on this, cuz calling it a "plastic bag" tax is sending the message that using paper bags is fine...

Posted by LH | May 15, 2008 9:59 AM

A tax on plastic bags and a tax or hefty deposit plastic water bottles are not mutually exclusive, elenchos. Let's do both.

Posted by Dan Savage | May 15, 2008 10:00 AM

There's more to these bags then the bags themselves. There's the natural resources that goes into their makeup, production and delivery. There's all the work that goes into cleaning them up since they're disposable which means that they can be disposed of anywhere apparently. When people start paying for the things they use, no matter how small the impact may be, they'll start thinking about the bigger things too.

What about those removable pull tabs on aluminum cans? The impact of those was really just about the looks involved with their disposal but they're gone now.

Posted by El Seven | May 15, 2008 10:05 AM

You're right Fnarf. The impact of reusing grocery bags is so small, why trouble myself. For that matter, I can't remember the last time my puny vote was the vote that made the difference in an election. And honestly, NPR isn't going to go off the air just because they don't get my paltry contribution this year. Lord knows my attempts to buy American haven't kept any jobs in this country. In fact, why don't ya'll join me and we can be slovenly, lazy, selfish consumers together. Not that it will have an impact on anything.

Posted by Mary F | May 15, 2008 10:06 AM

Of course they're not mutually exclusive, Dan. And I even believe the bag tax is a step towards the bottle deposit because we will realize how easy it was to change our habits a little bit.

But that's not your line. What you're doing is calling the Times hypocritical for having an editor against the bag tax while a reporter covers pollution in the Sound. Fnarf nailed it when he said that the one is quite serious while the other is fairly inconsequential.

If you want a contraction, read this review and compare that with the same writer's support of the bag tax (an article which is also in the 4/10/2008 print Stranger but not online for some reason).

Posted by elenchos | May 15, 2008 10:16 AM

If you would actually go out to our marine environment and look at it, you will see the impact plastic has. It's not bags. It's bottles, as Elenchos states. And, ahem, toys. I see literally hundreds if not thousands if bottles, toys, and plastic bits that have broken off of toys or cars or picnic coolers for every bag when I go out. Bags in Puget Sound waters are in actual fact EXTREMELY SCARCE. Other plastic is EXTREMELY COMMON. I literally see far more MOTOR OIL BOTTLES than I do grocery plastic bags.

A better analogy would be a person who is a hundred thousand dollars in debt deciding to save money by cutting out leaving pennies in the take-a-penny, leave-a-penny dish when he buys his six mocha lattes a day.

You support this because it's a meaningless gesture, which is the only kind of gesture that matters. Especially since you're only going to tax one kind of bag, at one kind of place. Most of the bags that come out of the supermarket will be unaffected.

It's cartoon environmentalism.

Posted by Fnarf | May 15, 2008 10:21 AM

Er, contradiction, not contraction.

Posted by elenchos | May 15, 2008 10:25 AM

"A cartoon is a full-size drawing made on paper as a study for further drawings, such as a painting or tapestry."

Sounds like a good metaphor for symbolic yet practical acts.

Posted by El Seven | May 15, 2008 10:53 AM

We must do it for the children! (sob sob) THE CHILDREN! (sob) They're our future.

Posted by I hate kids, love plastic | May 15, 2008 12:16 PM
Posted by nolaseatac | May 15, 2008 1:34 PM

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