I'd like to post a follow-up to Nikki's post last week on plastic bags, since The New York Times web site attracted hundreds of comments regarding the proposed 6-cent fee on each bag. Earlier this month, Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would seek a 6-cent fee on each plastic bag to raise as much as $16 million a year for the city and to help New Yorkers become a little greener. His well-intended effort, however, has been met with much pushback.
According to an article in The Times, while many welcome the change, there are those who disagree, citing the usefulness of plastic bags to clean up after pets or to hold other trash. Others cite the inconvenience of carrying a cloth bag around in a city where most people walk or take public transportation to the grocery store. Many grocers and retailers also oppose the tax, fearing that more people will demand paper bags, which is more expensive (and also kills trees).
In the article, the Food Industry Alliance of New York State said the city should provide incentive programs for stores, such as the nickel customers get back at some chains like Whole Foods if they use their own bags.
Several other European countries already impose hefty taxes--as much as 33 cents--on plastic bags. In the U.S., San Francisco has banned them from large grocery stores and pharmacies unless they are biodegradable. Ikea started phasing out plastic bags in March 2007 with a 5-cent surcharge per bag. Last month, the store eliminated all bags. By that point, however, more than 90% of its customers had switched to the big blue bags the store sells for 59 cents or used a Costco-like bagless option.
I agree that it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate the need for plastic bags, but I do think that a fee would provide incentive for people to cut back. All it takes is a little effort to change our habits--to fold up a cloth bag and put it in our pocket on the way to the grocery store. And with fashionable cloth totes becoming increasingly popular amongst designer labels, women can easily substitute one in for the daily purse.