So how has everybody been faring in this first fortnight of the 10-cents-a-bag new order? (I just love the word fortnight!)
For those of you who don’t live in San Francisco and haven’t read about this – as of October 1, all merchants large and small in the city must charge customers 10 cents per shopping bag.
I am not opposed to this at all. There is something about the 10-cent levy that makes me go the distance – that distance halfway across the grocery store parking lot back to my car to get the reusable bags out of the trunk when I’ve forgotten them. Before October 1, half the time this happened I would proceed into the store thinking, oh well, I need the paper bags for composting anyway. Now I am more on task, remembering to shuffle the reusable bags back out to the car more often. For me, having to pay the 10 cents is working as a potent reminder, like someone in your imaginary TV family instituting a punitive jar to drop dimes into every time you say a swear word or uttering now-irritating phrases like ‘thinking outside the box’ or ’24/7.’ (Using ‘impact’ as an active verb or, worse, uttering the word ‘impactful’ will cost you two bits.)
Apparently, I am not alone in this. I found a great article on the National Geographic Website, “While Energy Policy Falters, Plastic Bag Bans Multiply” by Andrew Curry dated May 3, 2011. When a 5-cent charge on plastic and paper bags went into effect in 2010 in Washington D.C., it was estimated that bag usage by the city’s 600,000 residents dropped from 22.5 million bags per month, pre-tax, to 4.6 million per month – an 80% drop. He also goes on to say that in Ireland, where authorities started charging .15 euro or 20 cents per bag in 2002.
The impact was remarkable—and immediate. Within a few months, Irish shoppers went from using plastic bags at a rate of 328 per person per year to just 21. “It was a very dramatic fall-off,” says William Culbert, an official at Ireland’s Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. “Before the levy was introduced, some supermarkets recycled on a voluntary basis, and it wasn’t very successful. What made the difference was the levy.”
I have unknown quantities of wadded up plastic bags tucked away in multiple locations at home. I don’t think I am alone in this either. I probably have enough paper grocery bags stored up also to take care of my next two dozen compost runs. It’ll do us good in our household to spend down this bag surplus while improving shopping habits and reducing waste. Let’s hope that this measure does have similar results in SF as it has in other metropolitan areas, a positive impact on the environment and nudging more people in the eventual direction of zero waste.
Tara N said:
I haven’t taken a bag from a store in years, so no impact here! Even when I forget to bring my reusable bags, I’m the one that will juggle 10 items in my arms on the way home or to the car. At least now I won’t be alone in this, and perhaps folks won’t look at me so strangely. It is still a trip when I occasionally grocery shop in Marin and see folks coming out the supermarket with carts loaded with plastic bags of groceries (double bagged at that!).
Does anyone know where the 10c per bag goes to? Would be nice if it can be put towards our deficit in education budget, sigh.
Great question, which I wondered about too. Here is what I learned from the SF Gov website: the merchants keep the money to offset their costs “of allowable bags.” Oh well.
And as for your excellent shopping habits – snaps to you! Hands really work great don’t they? I was cradling some stray produce items carrying a few things without a bag this week and appreciative of the great engineering behind the hand and its useful array of fingers… 🙂
Vinny Grette said:
I had a nice note from your friend Rob. Thanks for telling him about Vinny! I sent him my phone number but never heard anything further, about his app ideas. I’m guessing other things came up. Enjoyed your post about bags. I’ve been using reusables for some time, ever since they started charging for bags here :)- It DOES work.
Hi. I’m intrigued by the bag tax and how it taps into human impulses in a simple way. As soon as you start trying to do it in too many areas it would probably stop working, but it’s good that this seems to get people truly using those reusables.
I’m glad Rob got in touch. Your friend Vinny seemed a perfect match and he thought so too. I am guessing those developers travel at a different speed so he should connect eventually. 🙂