Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shopping bag tax

Today is the day that Seattleites vote for or against a shopping bag tax. Well, in theory, it's the last day we can vote since we've switched to all absentee mail-in voting. Anyway, by voting "Yes", citizens are choosing to retain an ordinance that was adopted by Seattle City Council last year whose goals was to reduce waste and pollution by encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags. The ordinance would charge shoppers 20 cents for every new disposable bag they carry out of grocery, drug and convenience stores.

This ordinance was modeled after a similar law that exists in Ireland, with the hope that the fee would increase the use of reusables and is expected to reduce disposable bag use by up to 90%. Not too surprisingly, oil and chemical companies have now spent 1.4 million dollars in a campaign to repeal the law, mostly focusing on how unfair the bag tax is to the poor, etc.

What’s the American Chemistry Council getting for its money? In the last two weeks the group has spent $40,000 on direct mail, more than $7,000 on yard signs (many of which have been placed illegally in city medians), $15,000 on phone calls to voters, $11,000 on online and radio ads, and nearly $9,000 on unspecified "get-out-the-vote" efforts. Looks like this ordinance is hitting the ACC in a sore spot - its profits.

Disposable shopping bags are a significant source of pollution, generate global warming gases, harm wildlife, clog stormdrains, and cause other problems. Seattle Public Utilities estimates that Seattleites use approximately 292 million plastic and 68 million paper disposable shopping bags per year, totaling about 360 million bags a year. Nationally, we use 100 billion plastic bags and 7 billion paper bags a year. Wouldn't it be nice to get rid of them all?

Want to find out more? Read How Bad are Disposible Grocery Bags?.

What do you feel about a bag tax? Would you vote for one in your area?

33 comments:

Aimee said...

This is the first issue that has made me regret I can no longer vote in Seattle. I'd vote illegally if I could. I'd vote three hundred times like those stupid gits who pay good money to vote three hundred times for their favorite on american idol or some equally inane show. Plastic bags are the most unnecessary, worthless evil piece of trash that I can think of.
What? no, that's not a drawer stuffed full of plastic bags in my kitchen. No!!! NOOOOOOO!

Robj98168 said...

LOL I would pay a tax on shopping bags...If I didn't live 2 miles south of the Seattle City Limits- oh well as Seattle goes, eventually so goes Burien

Robj98168 said...

PS To Aimee- Just what is a "git"?
really I have always wanted to know

Amber said...

I'm in Canada, so I'm really outside of the jurisdiction on this one. There has been talk of a similar law in our area, though, and I would support it. We don't usually vote on issues like that up here, but I would vote for it if given the option.

I think that a lot of plastic bags are used because people forget re-usables. I think that any little incentive, like paying an extra dollar or two for plastic, would help people remember and be more diligent.

Terra said...

I'd totally vote for one in my area. There has been some talk of forcing big box and grocery stores to get rid of plastic bags in the city of Philly, but it is generally pooh-poohed. We are not a very green city. We are also a very dirty city. Yeah, I'd love to get rid of the plastic bags.

Garden Pheenix said...

Speaking as an Irish person, I love that tax :c) Yes it can be a pain in the ass, and my stepbrother who is visiting from Canada can't grasp why I opt for carrying stuff loosely instead of getting a bag, but it DOES work. I have several methods for getting my purchases from a to b. A big tupperware box for groceries, reusable bags (canvas to cotton and everything in between) or I just carry it/stuff it in my backpack.

Why on earth that is something that negatively effects the poor as opposed to anyone else is absolutely beyond me. Suddenly the poor are incapable of reusing bags?

I really hope to hear in a future blog that the tax was kept. It's an absurd waste and one that is EASILY avoided.

Claire St Juin said...

South Australia just introduced it this year, and I honestly think it's been a smash success! I feel sorry for the poor checkout-chicks that get angry remarks towards them when they charge 10c for a bag though. That being said, you really do become conscious of using a plastic bag, and taking your reusable bags to shops. Winner and highly recommended for everywhere else!

pigbook1 said...

I love the idea though I would be a stickler about where the money is going. I understand the good stuff about getting rid of bags but if the govt uses it as a source of income it seems fishy. Not fishy because they can't use the money but because as more and more people use alternatives the money dwindles. Not that Seattle would do this but the major city near me would plan for this revenue source to grow and then cry for help when it dwindled(which should really be the goal if you ask me). All in all though, I love the benefits of such a law.

Heather @ SGF said...

I sure hope it happens. Eventually the stuff that hits the west cost trickles this way and we NEED it.

Michelle said...

I absolutely would vote for this in my area!

Anna said...

I would adore the shopping bag tax. I live on a military base in Korea and the bag waste is out of control. If I forget my bags, the volume of plastic I come home with is often more than the volume of purchased goods. And it does no good to try to stop them. Once I stopped a bagger after she had already put something in a bag. I put it in my purse instead, and she crumpled up the bag and threw it in the trash?!?!?!?!?

Little Green Penguin said...

On June 1, the city of Toronto introduced this legislation, and now people who want to purchase bags are charged 5 cents per bag. It's had mixed reviews in the paper, with many people griping, many people saying hooray, and a lot of people either opting for no bag or for bringing their own. I say good stuff.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I totally agree with Aimee. I've wanted this sort of tax to be in existance for a long time.

Anonymous said...

It took a while but now I've gotten good about getting the grocery bags back out to the car when unloaded...helps me to remember them if they are in the front seat where I put my purse.

Would it bum me out to pay an extra 20 cents when I stop for one or 2 things at walmart or somwhere else? Probably - but I also have a little bag I keep in my purse for that reason. Its just changing habits.

Sadraki said...

I'm in Seattle and voted for it even though I do have concerns over the logistics of it all. I hope it passes and I also hope that if it passes that lots of the more affluent environmentally minded folks will take the time and $$ to donate a collection of bags to food banks and those who are not able to buy reusable bags as easily.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Our grocery stores around here deduct 5 cents per reusable bag from your total. It's not much, but I think it's better than a tax becuase it's a positive incentive (not negative) to bring your reusable bags. I remember learning way back in psych 101 that positive reinforcement is better than negative, so I guess that's a good thing!

Anonymous said...

I would love to vote for this measure!! We (small town in Northern California) haven't banned bags as of yet but the town has at least banned styrofoam food containers.

It would be great if, as the previous poster mentioned, that progress could be made by paying people to bring bags. The stores here have been doing that for at least 10 years and it really hasn't seemed to make much of a difference in people's behaviors. So I'm afraid that the stick is going to work better than the carrot on this.

What is Seattle going to use the tax money for? I'm hoping something pertaining to the environment. Environmental education perhaps?

Lisa

Tigerlily said...

I'm also in Canada, and it seems a lot of chain stores are doing it to seem environmentally friendly. Also the discount grocery stores have been doing it forever. You can use a box (that the food is delivered to the store for free) or you own bag or get charged 10C/bag.

What I wonder is that I've always used these bags as garbage bags. Now that I 95% of the time use reusable bags I don't have garbage bags. I don't want to buy bags b/c that seems wasteful (at least with grocery bags they are getting reused once). I tried biobags but find that they need to be change very often or they 'melt' leaving a mess. Does anyone have a solution to that.

beaglescout said...

Hi. Long time lurker, first time poster.
A year ago my husband and I took a week long bike tour in Connemara (Western Ireland.) The bag tax was not the least bit intrusive once we bought our first bag. (Wad it up, put it in pocket, problem solved.) The absence of litter along the road was astounding. I would assume that the bag tax was a big contributor to this. Rural areas at home always have bags stuck in trees and underbrush. (And don't get me started on the plastic bottles in the creeks.)

I understand the concern of a "freebie" being taken away, but I must say that I think the "poor people" (people using EBT/Food stamps cards) will survive. They seem to cope just fine at the Aldi. The concern for the poor seems like a talking point used by industry types and middle class people who don't want to deal with change.

Sonja and Chris said...

Yikes. Thanks for the reminder, ballots have to be postmarked by today, don't they? It's been sitting in my mail pile for a month and I'd forgotten about it. I'm voting for it; I already use cloth bags but like the idea of making it law. Initially I was worried about less fortunate folks having trouble with the tax but decided that reusing plastic bags was an option; they don't have to be cloth. Stores like Ikea sell sturdy ones for something like $0.25 and that isn't too big a hit.

amandaginn said...

What is your take on this recent NPR article? http://current.com/1fkpm4c

Elisabeth said...

I would vote for a bag tax. Like Farmer's Daughter, our local grocery chain here in Lubbock, TX also rewards its customers with 5 cents per reusable bag. Unfortunately, I don't think this positive tactic is as successful as a negative one would be.

Carla said...

I would absolutely vote for a tax like this. Unfortunately, here in Northeast Texas it isn't likely to even APPEAR on a ballot, let alone pass. (We Texans have a moral right to our plastic bags, doncha know? Kind of like guns, and don't get me started on that!) The Brookshire's grocery stores and their discount chain, Super 1, also give you a nickel for every bag you bring in yourself, but I rarely see other people using their own bags. I think a tax instead of a price break would be more effective but it's not going to happen here.

Colleen said...

I also don't live in Seattle anymore so won't be voting on this. However, I'm an engineer and in our environmental engineering class we went through the carbon footprint for plastic v. paper bags. Both can be recycled, neither degrades in landfills (basically nothing degrades in landfills anymore). However, paper bags consume significantly more (I don't remember exactly but it was around 2-3 times more) resources to produce. So, if this bill will just shift people to using paper bags, I would not support it. If it were charging for any "disposable" grocery bags, I would. Also, this will shift many of us to simply buying plastic bags for things like garbage, dog poop, and other minor plastic bag using practices for which reusable bags aren't really practical. I haven't seen any studies that track the lives of plastic grocery bags, but I would be interested in seeing one. The one thing that is better about paper bags than plastic, is when they don't end up being reused or recycled, but are ending up by the side of the road or waterways, etc, plastic is much much worse.

I'm a big believer in supplemental environmental taxes on goods or services that create relatively easy to quantify problems. So the money charged should have a dedicated cause. But, for example, in OR we have the bottle deposit, even though most larger municipalities have curbside bottle recycling. I was OK with it because I thought oh well, it's a donation to the state funds which are pretty pathetically slim here; until I found out that the stores just keep the deposits that they collect that don't get redeemed (which has to be most of them, at least in metro Portland). They say they need it to pay for the equipment that collects the bottles.

Disposable wipes are another one that really cause problems, because people like to flush them, and end up fouling wastewater equipment, causing failures and expensive equipment repairs, replacements and upgrades.

Robyn M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robyn M. said...

I understand the preference for a "positive" savings rather than a "negative" (or punitive) tax. However, having lived in a town with a grocery store that discounted $.05 per bag, and another across the street that didn't, there was no appreciable difference in disposable bag usage between the two. The discount just didn't seem to matter at all to people. For some reason, we Americans consider access to an infinite supply of free disposable bags an inalienable right (maybe I missed that in the Bill of Rights somewhere...). I'm glad to see that attitude being broken in places. I think a better compromise would be for the stores themselves to charge for the bags (since, yes, they cost money) rather than taxing them, but of course market capitalism would never let a policy like that survive for long.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Pretty much all the stores I frequent offer a 5 cent incentive to bring your own bags, but I really don't think it works. If the amount was higher, maybe people would think about it.

Some of the funds collected will support the program itself and the remainder will help offset solid-waste rate increases and fund recycling programs.

This fee affects both plastic and paper bags - the link I have at the bottom of the post shows a breakdown of the amount of energy and other resources required to manufacture both types of bags. It also shows the rates of recycling.

Condo Blues said...

My concern wouldn't be the tax itself, but what the government is going to do with the money they collect from the tax.

I have to admit that shopping at Aldi and Trader Joes both reinforced the reusable bag habit. Aldi by charging for the bag and Trader Joe's by putting your name in for a giveaway if you BYOBag. It's now a habit to grab my reusable bags from the car trunk when I go into any store, not just those two.

Colleen said...

Aha, thanks for pointing out the link, Crunchy. I'm always speed reading; and the plastic bags always seem to get all the press!

I'll also comment that when I've traveled in Asia and S. America, the amount of plastic bags used and then floating around everywhere is extremely dismaying. They have much worse control over the trash, and people litter terribly. It was surprising to me.

Pheas said...

Tigerlilly, we didn't like BioBags, either, although we sure wanted to. We buy Seventh Generation bags for the kitchen and "go commando" elsewhere (no bags in bathrooms, laundry room, or office). If there's something really messy to throw away, we just take it to the kitchen. It's been much easier than expected.

dee dee said...

I wish our community would enact a plastic bag ban but it's not likely to happen in my lifetime. My husband and I use our fabric bags 99% of the time but we still wind up with a few which we use for the trash twice a week. With composting, recycling and reusing, we only fill 2 small bags a week. The 2 newspapers we get everyday come in plastic sleeves - it used to drive me crazy. But then our delivery person sent us a message in her bill that she would be happy to have the used bags back to reuse. So now I collect them for a month or so and put them out on the front porch for her to pick up. I think every little bit helps.

Erika said...

Money is a very strong motivator - I would LOVE to have a fee (or tax) for disposable bag use! It would certainly remind my hubby that a bag isn't just something to ignore and toss "away" later!

Anonymous said...

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

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