Regulation of the Day 94: Plastic Shopping Bags

Retailers have traditionally provided free shopping bags to their customers as a courtesy. Washington, DC’s city government – known for being less than courteous – is now requiring stores to charge customers five cents for each plastic bag they use at checkout.

The tax is environmentally motivated. Since the city is acting so urgently on shopping bags, that implies that they must be the most urgent environmental threat facing DC. If that’s the case, then DC must be a veritable ecological paradise, or else its priorities are misplaced. One or the other must be true.

There were 84 unsolved murders in DC in 2009, by the way.

In lieu of plastic bags, the city is urging people to buy reusable cloth bags. But those have an environmental footprint nearly 100 times larger than a plastic bag, according to Sierra Club data. They have to be used many, many times before they cause any savings. They are also a haven for bacteria if not regularly washed. And washing them adds to their footprint.

Washington, DC has a lot of problems. Expensive but inferior schools, crime, violence, high taxes and spending – the list is long. The epidemic of plastic bags littering the streets is right at the bottom of that list. It should be prioritized accordingly. The regressive plastic bag tax should be repealed.

3 responses to “Regulation of the Day 94: Plastic Shopping Bags

  1. “But those have an environmental footprint nearly 100 times larger than a plastic bag, according to Sierra Club data. ”

    Where does the article you link support your proposition?

  2. I’m confused as well. Your point? Are you advocating the use of plastic bags? For what purpose? Because we are a society that can only focus on one thing at a time and since there are unsolved murders, we should continue to pollute the planet with wasteful use of fossil fuels (by creating plastic bags)? Many countries have wisely discontinued the use of plastic bags. US (as usual: healthcare, same sex marriage rights) is lagging behind…

    The link you supplied makes the following statements (re: plastic shopping bags and recycling from the Sierra Club):
    * Reusing a bag meant for just one use has a big impact. A sturdy, reusable bag needs only be used 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than using 11 disposable plastic bags.
    * In New York City alone, one less grocery bag per person per year would reduce waste by 109 tons and save $11,000 in disposal costs.
    * Plastic bags carry 80 percent of the nation’s groceries, up from 5 percent in 1982.
    * When one ton of plastic bags is reused or recycled, the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil is saved.

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