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Banning and Charging for Single-Use Bags

Back in July, Emily wrote about AB 1998, which would have banned single-use bags in California.  A few weeks ago, it was rejected by the California Senate.

I hate single-use bags as much as the next green person, especially plastic ones, but I think think a small fee might have less backlash and more general support than a flat-out ban. It made me think about what other cities, states, and countries are doing to reduce the amount of disposable bags used. 

When I was in Washington D.C. last spring, they charged 5 cents for each bag.  I actually thought this was a great idea.  If you forget your reusable bags (which I do more frequently than I care to admit) you don't have to spend 99 cents on each bag.  If you do forget your bags, I think it helps cashiers and baggers go less "bag happy."  How frequently do stores unnecessarily double-bag things before you can even tell them to stop?  Or sometimes they'll put just one or two items in each bag.   

Does this fee on plastic bags work?  YES!  In Washington D.C., the use of plastic bags has declined by half!  

What other places in North America are making strides towards reducing the use of single-use bags?

  • Coastal North Carolina banned plastic bags last year.
  • Brownsville, Texas charges an extra dollar per transaction that uses a disposable plastic bag
  • Last year, Mexico City banned plastic bags.  
  • Over the summer, Portland, Oregon resolved to ban plastic bags.  
  • Toronto charges five cents per plastic bag.
  • In 2007, San Francisco banned plastic bags in stores.

Please add if you know of any I may have left out.

Meanwhile, several U.S. cities and states are hoping to take action against, including NYC, Connecticut, Boston, Seattle, and Maryland.   In other countries, England has many cities that banned plastic bags.  Asia is way ahead of the game, with China's ban, Indian cities, and a barely noticed ban in a Burmese city.  Many European cities tax bags.  

I also like what they do at Costco.  They generally don't bag anything, but if you do have smaller items they reuse boxes.  
Now the trick is remembering to use the reusable bags.  I have about a dozen, and I try to keep one in my purse (usually a cloth one that crumbles up nicely, or a Chico Bag.  I keep a bunch in my car, and the rest on a coat hook in the mudroom.  I find that walking to run errands is not only eco-friendly because I'm going by foot, but because I'm set out to run errands I tend to remember my bags.  

As for what to do with those plastic bags, most supermarkets have recycling facilities for them, or you can reuse them around your home.


I'm not sure how wide spread

I'm not sure how wide spread this is, but a few stores here (St. Louis) actually give you a slight discount for using reusable bags. It may only be a few cents, but I know it's an incentive for me. I know research shows hurting the pocketbook (charging for plastic bags) is more effective for the masses than helping the pocketbook (discount for reusing), but it is another way to approach the issue.

Some of the grocery stores do

Some of the grocery stores do that here, too.   I've seen it at about 3-5 cents.

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