Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Paper or Plastic? Either Way, It'll Cost You $$$

Just last month, Judith Hizer from the SB Tribune asked the question, "Should we tax plastic bags?" As we continue to wrestle over the pros and cons of taxing plastic-bag consumption in South Bend, the folks in Seattle have already made their decision: If you want a plastic or paper bag, it'll cost .20 cents a bag.

Hmm...that's got me thinking: I wonder if those baggers will start to bag those groceries more efficiently? Maybe if people are paying for those plastic bags, baggers will finally chill-out with excessive bagging, lest they hear complaints from disgruntled shoppers.

Anyway, this "green fee" will be effective starting next year, which gives folks plenty of time to let go of their plastic (or paper) habit. Plus, some of these green taxes ($1 million) will be used to provide residents with free reusable bags.

In a perfect world, there would be no green taxes (and everyone would be eco-friendly). But in this imperfect world, how else can we motivate quick, sweeping changes that reduce our negative impact on the environment? Any suggestions?

4 comments:

Fake Plastic Fish said...

I really love the idea of taxing bags. It gives people the feeling that they still have a choice, while cutting down on the number of bags used. I wish we could just ban all the plastic bags, but practically-speaking, letting people feel like they are deciding for themselves might help more in the long run.

Experimentaholic said...

One could do a study on how people bag. I notice that in my days of plastic bag use, baggers would sometimes give me a double bag and only place one thing in it. Maybe now, making it a commodity, will change people's behavior. It's clear as day to me - the days of the plastic bag are numbered, in part because of the efforts of people like Michelle.

Nate Ring said...

That is an interesting incentive to be green. Although, I think this will be one of those laws in 50 years (assuming it will last that long) that the youths will forget why it is in place. Or this may end up becoming one more reason for people to just get annoyed by the government "interfering" with a personal decision.

Interestingly enough, when I worked at Meijer’s (a super market in the Midwest, much like Wal-Mart), I was a bagger. That is an interesting incentive to be green. Although, I think this will be one of those laws in 50 years (assuming it will last that long) that the youths will forget why it is in place. Or this may end up becoming one more reason for people to just get annoyed by the government "interfering" with a personal decision.

Interestingly enough, when I worked at Meijers (a super market in the Midwest, much like Wal-Mart), I was a bagger. In retrospect I must have done my fair share of waste. People really dislike the idea of putting bottles (glass) side-by-side; therefore I would double or even triple bag items. I remember an elderly lady wanting me to double bag everything, and at least triple the glassware. Mind you these are jars of sauce--not wine bottles or the like.

Much like Experimentaholic expressed, "the days of the plastic bag (is) numbered," I'm inclined to agree. Although, what I think we should also point an eye on is paper consumption of fast food places (papers/cardboard boxes, huge receipts, and the like). A perfect example would be our lovely American standards--Star Bucks and McDonald's. I have no idea how much garbage Star Bucks and McDonald's produce a day, but it has to be of epic proportions. Think of the thousands of pounds in empty cups, or big mac boxes and receipts. How could we influence the companies to want to be greener? Or even more important, how can we (individuals) instill the want for others to be conscience of eco-friendly behavior in a way that actually produces that behavior. A fine example of that is Experimentaholic’s garbage bin research.
Maybe a combination approach (much like in therapy) would be effective: appropriate positive modeling from major industries, and education.
So in general how the major industries interact with the individuals to provide a modeling system of appropriate "green-thumbed" behavior. At Star Bucks if a customer is even remotely regular, give away a FREE (because everyone loves free stuff) Star Bucks plastic refillable mug after X number of drinks--with no regard to size of drink. This way they reduce the total volume of cups used per day, and people have a cool Star Bucks mug, similar principle for McDonald's. Followed by positive education (what you can do) on the matter, opposed to “scare tatic” (what happens when you do) education. Of course the education would have to give the reasons why, for it to be effective, but to focus on the positive might be the strongest approach.

Admittedly, Star Bucks is quite an eco-conscientious company, although, maybe now may be the time they can get even greener. But I feel things in more than just plastic bags will need to change to affect the overall situation. But starting with plastic is a fantastic starting point.

Audrab@THINCbean.com said...

Paper or Plastic, no thanks. The only way to go is reuse, reuse, reuse! Organic cotton, made in the USA Bags. There is no better choice. It is durable, compostable, recyclable and there is no need to double or triple the bags. THINC like a human bean and B.Y.O.B