Green News

A better environment, A better World.
August 20, 2009

Seattle’s Plastic Bag Surcharge

Posted by : admin
Filed under : General Green
canal debris

Fighting the surcharge on plastic bags in Seattle

Its greenies vs. plastic manufacturers in the Emerald City.  Seattle’s plastic bag surcharge is literally causing people on both sides of the debate to take off the gloves.  The industry is spending more than $1 million to fight the newly imposed charge on use of plastic grocery bags (20 cents per bag) adopted last year by the City of Seattle, Washington.  Today, the results of an election to recall the surcharge will be announced.

When you consider the alternatives, the plastics industry should be happy.  Other municipalities including San Francisco,CA and Edmonds, WA have imposed partial or full plastic bag bans.  Still, Seattle is the largest city in America that has imposed a surcharge on plastic bags of this magnitude.

Around the world, other governmental agencies have had success in with a plastic bag surcharge.  In Hong Kong, a mere 6 cents surcharge for plastic grocery bags has reduced their use by 85%!  Its hip to engage in green-bagging these days.  And, canvas shopping bags can fit 2-3 times the amount of groceries than their plastic and paper counterparts.

Too busy to be bothered?  Consider that the primary reason behind the push for a surcharge on plastic bags is the “great garbage patch” of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre.  As noted in a recent National Public Radio (NPR) piece:

Heather Trim, a volunteer with the Seattle Green Bag Campaign, carries a vial of cloudy seawater in her purse as a visual aid. Our plastics are accumulating out there,” Trim says.

While Seattle’s tax on plastic bags may not have had the same effect as that of Hong Kong, today, approximately 20-30% of the shoppers now bring reusable bags when shopping.  That’s a pretty good start, in my opinion!

A plastic bag surcharge is a good idea! (image from HAIRLOVER on Flickr)

A plastic bag surcharge is a good idea! (image from HAIRLOVER on Flickr)

What is your practice with respect to grocery shopping?

Unfortunately, in Seattle, opponents are characterizing the surcharge on plastic bags as a “tax.”  While 20-30% of shoppers bring their reusable bags with them in the City, the underlying question is whether people that own reusable bags can remember to bring them into the store when they shop.  I guess I don’t feel bad about imposing a fee if you forget.  After all, its about being a conscientious consumer.

You wouldn’t forget your wallet, would you?

And just indulge me for a moment when I tell you that people are literally complaining about not being able to afford the “tax” in this economy.  My response?  We cannot afford to keep depleting the Earth’s resource while you decide whether or not to shell out a few bucks for reusable bags  – and remember to bring them with you!

Oh, in case you were wondering… you will not escape a surcharge in Seattle if you opt for paper instead of plastic.  Both options will cost you 20 cents per bag.  In fact, the city ordinance includes paper bags to make sure stores don’t just shift from plastic to paper to get around the surcharge.

What is your position on Seattle’s plastic bag surcharge?  A good idea, or unnecessary cost to consumers?

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