DC: money in the bags

Or as I’m sure the plan will come to be called… nickel bags.

A plastic bag stuck in a tree branch overlooking the Anacostia River

I remember when San Francisco banned plastic bags, and some shopping chains followed suit nationwide like IKEA & Whole Foods. I even remember when stores would reward shoppers for bringing back their own bags to be used or recycled. It was a few cents off your purchase, but every little bit helped. It really got it in my head to start re-purposing my bags, previously thought of as disposable. But then local stores stopped giving money back, and the recycling bins for plastic bags disappeared. IKEA’s still doing it, but at Whole Foods where you used to get a stern look if you asked for plastic, last I was there, they didn’t even blink.

Now in a sort of reversal of fortune, DC wants to add a tax for getting bags…

Paper or plastic?

It might end up being neither in the District. That is, unless consumers fork over 5 cents per bag when buying groceries from a supermarket, picking up cold medicine from a drugstore or grabbing a hot dog and soda from a street vendor.

I’m an eco-maniac canvas bag owner and plastic bag re-user, and even I think this is stupid. Am I expected to have a reusable bag on me at all times, even for quick errands and after-work runs? What about places that don’t even ask if you want/need a bag, like my local liquor store and amazing Peruvian chicken place. I remember trying to bring my own bag to get party supplies (booze) and when I said “Put them in here,” they looked at me kinda funny. Then they bagged the bottles in their own black plastic bags and then put those into my canvas bag.

I’d love for people to be more eco-friendly and aware, but levying a tax on something that is second nature to people is just sneaky and wrong. When I buy meat products at the Safeway, the cashier automatically sticks them into a plastic bag and then into my canvas bags. The same applies to “cleaning products” when I’m also buying food. Will cross-contamination avoidance be exempt from the 5¢ tax? And I can only imagine the reaction of the fellas that hang out in Mt. Pleasant–among other places–during the day, drunk as skunks sipping from their paper-in-plastic caddied booze. That’s an extra 10¢ right there, buddy!

The article says that the law would apply to liquor stores, grocers, food vendors, convenience stores, drugstores and “other businesses”. Part me of realizes that since people need motivation to change their behavior, this is a good thing. But there’s a bigger part that feels like this is just bad apples spoiling it for a lot of people that are already doing the right thing. Since I work right next to it, I would love to see a clean Anacostia, but I won’t hold my breath.

No wait, I will hold my breath… have you smelled the Anacostia lately? And you can’t tell me plastic bags are causing that.

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3 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    I fondly remember a cartoon strip from many years ago where, instead of asking “Paper or plastic?” the cashier asked, “You wanna kill trees or clog landfills?” … and the next panel shows the family at home unloading the car, item by item, with no bags at all …

    I’m sure at some point in the very near future they’ll come up with a reason why recyclable bags are bad … and then the boxes that they sell food in … and pretty soon we’ll be back to the days of the farmers market.

    latest entry: 12 of 12: February 2009

  2. Kyle says:

    Harris-Teeter will give you a few pennies off your purchase for bringing in your own bags.

    Giant has two plastic bag recycling bins inside their entryway. I take all my plastic bags there, periodically.

    latest entry: soldado

  3. Esprix says:

    I’ve been reusing all my old canvas tote bags from various cons throughout the years as grocery bags – I finally found a use for the fuckers! 😀 I went to a grocery store the other day, and a fellow shopper was just perplexed that I brought my own bags – he’d honestly never heard of the concept. WTF? Odd people down here.

    latest entry: WTF?

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