Sunday, February 03, 2008

Ireland taxes plastic shopping bags -- when will we?

The Irish, in a matter of five years, have rid themselves of the plastic shopping bag habit, according to a NYT story:

"In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog."

In Akron, it is socially uncomfortable and often times weird to ask your supermarket bagger to use customer provided cloth bags. Only yesterday, at the Giant Eagle on Waterloo Rd, this shopper handed over two cloth bags to the clerk before emptying my cart of purchases, telling her that I brought my own shopping bags. The clerk's attention was all on the handsome young bagger, who was relating a long involved story to her. Once my cart was empty, I turned -- only to see that the bagger was loading my goods into plastic bags while my own cloth bags lay there in front of him, all empty from neglect.

"Hey, I don't want plastic bags -- I asked you to use my own cloth bags!" I said, and then -- I really couldn't help myself -- my teacher voice came out in full force: "Perhaps if you hadn't been talking so much you would have heard my request."

The clerk looked guilty and the bagger looked pissed, but he emptied the plastic bags and packed my cloth ones, while I calmly commented that plastic bags were harmful to the environment.

I want Akron to be a plastic bag free zone. Join with me and write your local council person. Maybe we should go for Summit County instead as most of the major shopping districts lie outside of the city limits. What do you think?


Dana Miller said...

There are wonderful alternatives to plastic bags all over the place! Check out for reusable bags made from recycled men's shirts! They are made in the US, and the artisans who make them work from home and are paid a decent wage. Very Green!

Susanne Maddux said...

Well we outlawed plastic bags in large supermarkets here in San Francisco (yeah) but now consumers are using WAY too many paper bags which take 4 times the amount of energy to make than a plastic bag not to mention they use paper a precious resource from trees.

If you are in the market for a great and truly green reusable bag check out Hero Bags from San Francisco they have a recycled cotton bag which is made out of 80% recycled fabric and 20% plastic bottles and made in the USA.

terra said...


I was at PetsMart a few weeks ago, getting big dog food, which doesn't need a bag. I also picked up a $.59 cat food can lid. It's about the size of the palm of my hand. The girl put it in a bag! I said, laughingly, I don't need a bag for that. I think she bundled up the non-used bag and put it in her trash. It disappeared under the counter anyway. Instead of instinctively putting stuff in bags, the cashiers should ask "do you really need a bag for that?".

I'm with you on the letter writing. Though I don't want Akron's bags taxed until I'm not required to use bags for recycling. I've looked into it a little, and Summit County has 5 cities with 5 different recycling requirements. More to come on that topic. It's frustrating. They're forcing us to be less progressive than Ireland and China.

Dana, I just checked out those baggy shirts. Awesome!!

Village Green said...

Terra, you are undoubtedly correct to not push the tax on plastic bags -- that would be the best way to kill the idea -- since folks around here are so anti-tax no matter what the purpose. (I will be voting for the Metro bus tax -- we have to maintain public transportation.)

There are other ways to get rid of plastic bags, but so far the general populace in this area continues to allow their stuff to be bagged without questioning it.

microdot said...

The best way to eliminate plastic bags is to convince the retailers that it is an uneccessary expense.
That seems to be the way it worked here in France. First, there was a grass roots movement to educate people about the wastefulness of bags and then one by one, the major stores stopped offering them..
You can buy a multi use bag at the checkout counter. I have bags I bought 2 years ago which I take shopping with me.
Of course, plastic and paper bags here are rather new anyway....
It's only been a 2 decades since every one had straw carry alls and net bags for shopping.
It's only been 2 decades since the idea of once a week shopping really took over the country side.
Most people shopped daily for the food they were going to prepare that day.

Stoop Davy Science said...

"while I calmly commented that plastic bags were harmful to the environment.
I want Akron to be a plastic bag free zone. ... What do you think?"

I think just what you would think I'd think. And guess what? It turns out I'm right.

Village Green said...

Stoop -- do you use cloth shopping bags or do you mindlessly collect hundreds of plastic bags that are given to you before you can say -- hold on there, I brought my own?

Plastic bags are a blight upon the landscape and they do harm to some species, such as turtles as described here