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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Disposable bag fee fails miserably

Well, it's mostly official. The referendum to charge 20 cents per disposable bag used by consumers has gone down in a big pile of burning plastic flames. So far, 58% of voters voted against it.

Now, I would expect this if the referendum included all of King County, but this was just for the city of Seattle. Really, people? Is it just too much of a hardship to remember to bring your reusable bags when you go shopping? Are you too lazy or too cheap? Which is it? And, really, if you forget and have to have a bag, is adding 20 cents onto your purchase of Cheetos really going to break the bank? Better yet, how 'bout just not getting a bag?

I find this horribly frustrating and, frankly, this just doesn't bode well for the rest of the country. If us nutball liberals here in Seattle can't get a little ol' bag fee passed, well, it just looks like we'll be looking forward to getting payback when those 100 billion plastic bags used in the U.S. every year choke us to death down the road.

29 comments:

megan said...

That is so depressing. If it is a 58% no in Seattle, I hate to think of what it would be like in the rest of the country.

To me, this kind of thinking seems to be just another symptom in our disease of consumption. "But, I deserve to have bags provided for me..."

Carla said...

Oh no. I did hope the people of Seattle would show the rest of the country how to be responsible about single-use plastic bags. Too, too bad.

camelama said...

Might want to be a bit more open-minded about why people voted no. Not everyone who voted no is thinking "I deserve to have bags provided for me".

I bring my own bags everywhere, even for produce (which many of my "I'm so much greener than you!" friends DON'T do!), and I voted no.

I don't need a city government babysitting me to death. People are switching to resuable bags, we'll get there. We don't need to nickle and dime people to death in order to make the change.

If the city doesn't want people using one-time plastic bags, ban them outright like Edmonds (starting end of this year? next year? I forget).

I will continue to bring my own bags for every aspect of my shopping trips, and I will continue to vote against a bag fee. "Catch more flies with honey" etc - I make resuable bags and give them to people who don't use them yet, and whaddya know - a lot of them start using them full-time.

James Antonio Mittelnsteiger said...

it was so sad. i was expecting something different for Seatlle even though i am not an American. people should care about the environment more

Amy in Tacoma said...

I thought about one of the comments left yesterday: that without grocery store plastic bags, people will need to buy more plastic bags for things like garbage, dog poop, etc.

Is that the case? I was thinking about how my household generates plastic bags regularly even while using reusable bags at the store. We accumulate bags from loaves of bread, boxes of cereal and frozen foods, for instance. We don't have a dog, so maybe that's not enough for someone who needs to scoop poop daily, but for our needs, the bags we get from food purchases are plenty.

Robyn M. said...

Gods, that's pathetic. I can get behind the "stop babysitting me" mentality, all the way up until it becomes obvious that people *need* babysitting. Honestly, how many years will it take to get even a significant fraction of the population to use reusable bags? It's pretty clear that most of the population won't even make that trivial-level change on their own, much less something more substantial. When our collective actions begin to harm our collective society (and they don't seem to be dissuaded by less interventionist means), it is time for our collective government to step in--that's what it's for.

Heather @ SGF said...

I'm sorry. That's frustrating. I figured getting something like that passed in Seattle would be a no-brainer. I guess we all have some work to do...

Anonymous said...

I posted this a few minutes ago on the other post, but figured it might as well go here instead! So sorry for the double post.

Our local Kroger takes 5 cents off for each bag you bring in. The 5 cents then goes into a fund and if someone comes in without a bag they are given one. It works really well and I am starting to see a lot of people using the bags.

I've been using canvas bags since 1993 when we lived on an AF base in Germany. The BX handed them out!

Kim

Robj98168 said...

I don't think it was passable- the plastic industry put too much money in the campaign. But I think Seattle will revisit the issue, if past experience is any clue.

Michelle said...

While I do feel a bit digusted that people seem to need to be babysat on these issues, the fact of the matter that financial incentive is a great motivator for people (who either really are or perceive themselves to be) too busy to get around to that whole "reusable bag thing". Yes, it would be great if everyone would just do the right thing, and many people have good intentions but just don't get to it for whatever reason. You can vote no because you don't appreciate being told what to do, but we will pay for the destruction one way or another - better to have it be on the positive side than the negative, if you ask me. AND, better that it be on something as trivial as plastic bags than, say, using energy to wash your clothes or something. We need to get conserving ASAP and those meanial things can be the first to go with limited discomfort.

Anonymous said...

why should we pay people to bring their own bag? I mean what did our pioneer grammas do? They toted their own stinking basket to put purchases in - stuff they couldn't grow themselves.

If Seattle can't pass it the rest of the country is doomed.....

I weep with you Crunch - I weep for the turtles and birds and out kids who will grow up thinking that they deserve because they purchase....

camelama said...

Amy in Tacoma - I've heard that too, and I point out to those folks that you can purchase bio-degradable bags for these tasks. In fact, I use bio bags for everything now except freezer use. Trash bags, pet stuff, yardwaste/foodscraps, etc.

And from bio bag scraps (bits left over from processing, bio ties I don't use to close the bags, etc), I'm knitting together even more bags! :)

Greenpa said...

I'm just a big softy, I suppose, but I think it may not be stinkiness on the part of people- but quite a few who are just so broke that 20¢ now sounds like more than they can afford.

Really. Some folks are that broke already, and it's getting worse. I'm afraid it means similar votes for other conservation measures too- we're already cutting cops and teachers- so...

To me what it means is that WE (you, and I, and the others who still think this is worth worrying about) need to look around and find a different way to deal with the problem.

Asking Uncle Seattle to just fix it with a nifty tax- is kind of the easy way out.

Get the Scouts to collect bags to recycle to fund their activities? Get the grocery stores to switch to biodegradeable bags?

Anyway. My 2¢, offered without knowing anything about the circumstances, really. :-)

The Mom said...

It is really sad. As Greenpa said, nobody is voting to enact a tax of any kind. We need to find another way, because people do not see it as a major issue. These plastic bags are so ubiquitous that nobody even thinks of it. I actually had a bagger today pack up my groceries in my reusable bags and then pull a purchase out of my cart(that I had put there, not needing a bag) and put it in a bag. Absolutely amazing.

Maybe all of us should give reusable bags to friends and family for birthdays and holidays this year. The more people have, the more likely they'll use them.

Kristi said...

I wish the stores would do more to promote reusable bags - as we all know, people will react better to positive reinforcement. I have noticed that those stores with five cent per bag refunds see much more reusable bag usage than those that don't. Maybe up it to 10 cents? Or get local governments to do something to get more stores in on the program.

OurGangof7 said...

That is sad. I live in South Australia and this state has recently gone plastic bag free (well almost lol). The thin style grocery bags have been banned. Grocery stores now have compostable plastic bags available at 10 cents a bag. Some grocery stores sell the thicker style plastic bags at 15 cents a bag or you can get the reusable ones which vary in price.

It has been accepted pretty well here and now more states are looking at following in our footsteps. When I do my shopping, it is nice to see that most people are using the reusable cloth style bags. Of course you still get some people who refuse and end up paying for their bags, but at least they are compostable types and not the plastic that hangs around for many years.
I got caught out one day after I had cleaned out my car and forgot to put my bags back in, I then paid 15 cents for a sturdy plastic bag and it is still going strong 3 months later.
Are there any states over there that have introduced a bag ban and seen it work???

Melissa Anderson said...

I totally agree with you on this one. I'm sorry it didn't pass. I have gotten into the habit of carrying my bags with me, but I don't see too many other people using them. It's kind of sad that something so simple seems to be "too much trouble" for so many people.

Eco Yogini said...

I thought it was kinda weird that the government was playing a part. here individual stores are charging 10 cents to buy bags.... so it's up to the companies. Saves them money on giving out "free" bags and forces people to evaluate just how many bags they have to buy for their groceries, on average less than if they didn't have to decide on a number.

we bring our own bag. (Nova Scotia, but I know this is happening in BC as well).

Green Bean said...

Wow. That's downright shocking. Not to mention depressing.

Elizabeth B said...

Camelama, I'm sorry to tell you that BioBags actually are not a good choice for things going into the landfill. Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish has learned that when BioBags break down in the anaerobic conditions found in landfills, they produce a lot of methane. I was super bummed when I found this out, because BioBags just seemed like the answer to my prayers. They're great for composting, but not for landfills. :(

Toria said...

I think the majority of people need some encouragement to take up reusable bag use. We had a new supermarket open up here, and they used the opening to promote reusable bag use - all groceries purchased in the first week of business were packed in reusable bags for free.

No one coming out of the supermarket that first week had a plastic bag. Now 3 years later, you still don't see very many people using plastic bags at that centre. There are some of course, but it seems like most people have taken up with the green bags.

If more shops would do promotions like that, or if govt groups or eco groups funded more promotions like that, I think it would encourage a lot more people to take up using reusable bag, without having to resort to additional government interference.

Anonymous said...

When I lived in VA one grocer I shopped at was Shoppers Food Warehouse. At SFW if you didn't bring a bag with you it was 15 cents per bag. They also sold these awesome strong tough tough cardboard boxes.
This was 15 years ago. I bet they still don't give out bags

die Frau said...

That does sound frustrating--and while I can see why adding another tax seems extreme, I do think people who look at the green movement as some hippie-crunchy waste of time need some incentive. Our grocery chain, Wegman's, sells reusable bags at the entrance and the check-out counters for $1. I've bought one twice when I forgot a bag; I figure it'll more than pay for itself. I'm starting to give reusable ones as presents, myself!

What I think people don't understand is that while we can recycle plastic bags, it actually takes more energy, etc. to recycle them than it does to make them, so a better solution is to simply get RID of them. Plus, if people need more incentive, since they're petroleum-based, it will cut down on oil consumption if we make fewer.

Don't give up yet, Crunchy. I believe someone will come up with some sort of compromise that more voters will go for. Good luck!

cpcable said...

RE: Camelama & Elizabeth B on BioBags...

I don't think the decision to use or not use BioBags is that easy. Yes, it is true that when BioBags go into a capped landfill they are in an anaerobic environment and do produce methane. But this is true of all organic material that goes into a landfill. The situation changes, however, if that capped landfill has a methane-capture system in place, as mine does.

Obviously, the best answer is to not use any bag at all for trash. But, my garbage pick-up requires me to. Currently, I use my large dog and cat food bags to contain the small amount of trash that I do generate and send to the landfill, because they're going there anyway.

Since my landfill does do methane capture, if my choices are to use a petroleum-based plastic bag or a BioBag, I'm going to choose the BioBag. This is because both options have environmental costs in their production, but the BioBag will actually break down (the plastic bag will not) and if the methane that is released in that process is captured and used to power my home, then at least some good comes out of my trash and I'm using less coal-fired energy.

Like all things, it's not a good vs. bad issue. There are many factors and the "right" answer is different depending on your circumstances.

Olivia said...

Here where I live (Canada), we don't get to vote on this stuff. Supermarkets just slap a surcharge on plastic bags (usually 5 cents)whether people like it or not. I live in Atlantic Canada and it is rare to see anyone who is NOT carrying their own cloth bags - some of mine are 20 years old!! But - we have been refusing, reusing, recycling and composting for a long time now. My oldest kid is 30 and he has never known anything else.

Justine said...

The fact that we couldn't pass this OPTIONAL tax that would make such a big impact in eliminating waste infuriates and depresses me to no end. The sense of entitlement, greed and laziness of citizens can be really discouraging. Many seattle citizens use reusable bags, but the reality is, many also do not. Perhaps those that don't reuse have good intentions (i.e. just forget), but I'm pretty sure the idea of paying 20 cents extra for a bag would help them remember that eliminating waste is a priority. Not to mention, most reusable bags are far superior in durability and size to the crappy little plastic ones anyway! I hope a solution perserveres some day soon.

Abby said...

Personally, I shop at Aldi most of the time. I know they aren't the "greenest" but they save us a lot of money that we simply don't have. The thing is, they have a STORE policy of charging for bags (and "renting" carts with a quarter). We bring our own, but you don't go there expecting free bags, and they don't bag it for you either. Actually, I prefer it that way.

But I'm off the point. 20 cents per bag is actually a lot of money if you think about it. Even if they limit the bags you use at each trip, you could potentially spend $4 a month or more on bags (and that's just on regular trips) if you have an average size family. A lot of people can't afford the extra cost right now, and still don't see a reason to switch to reusables, either.

I think that the better 'campaign" would be to write to stores you shop at regularly asking them to change their STORE policy rather than trying to have the government make it policy. Stores really are trying to come up with 'green" things to do lately, and this could be a potential money-maker, as well. Bags cost them money, too.

I probably wouldn't vote yes on a law like that, either, and I use my own bags most of the time. A friend of mine said (and I don't know if he was quoting someone else or not) "every time someone says there should be a law against something, a little bit of freedom dies."

Sweet Greens said...

So sad and so frustrating.

Anonymous said...

This takes me aback somewhat, as I have been using cloth bags for as long as I can remember and I don't really see what the big deal is.

There used to be an independent store near me that deducted 5 cents for each reusable bag used from the total, which I always appreciated - when it sold out to a chain, the chain stopped the policy. :(

There is another grocery chain near me that banned plastic bags altogether. You can buy reusable bags for 99 cents (y'all amaze me that your stores only charge 10 & 20 cents!) or larger plastic bins w carrying handles if you forget yours (or need more than you thought), but plastic bags are no longer available.

For me, I didn't notice exactly when they went from plastic, to transition period, to none, but I heartily supported it.

In my city, two of the grocery chains, an independent grocery store, at least two hardware stores, and two clothing stores have all started producing their own reusable bags stamped with their logos. (And this is just what I have noticed.)

Apparently they are ubiquitous enough (& cheap enough) that people give them away; I have had lots of donations in these bags - more than I will ever be able to use (and in addition to the dozen or so cloth bags I already had!)

It is NOT a big deal! If you drive, stash them in your car somewhere - otherwise, put them in your knapsack, bike panniers, coat pockets (some nylon bags compress to be pretty tiny) - wherever you need them.

Sometimes I carpool, and I have a stash at work in case my ride is going to a store & I can pick up some items.

Of all the little things we can do for a big impact, this is one of the easiest - and if we fail at this, we are in BIG trouble. :(

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