Posts Tagged Plastic Bags

Walmart Cutting Plastic Bags

Walmart now has three stores where it no longer uses plastic bags, they are expanding to 52 stores soon and expect to have this be the status quo by 2013!  I have been saying for a while now that I thought this would happen and Walmart or Target would lead the way.

This serves several functions:

  • reduce plastic waste
  • reduce cost
  • develops a new revenue stream
  • builds good will

To say Walmart is doing this because they are green is inncorrect, but to chastise them for trying to turn a profit by selling the bags is also.  I for one am glad to see this.

Click photo for video

Bag Tax

I have been hoping that a big player like Walmart or Target will start to charging for bags, even just a nickle a bag would do.  The D.C. has stepped up and has taken a stance as a municipality they want to reduce consumption of bags.

Washington D.C. instituted a 5-cent tax on disposable bags—both paper and plastic—on New Year’s Day. Now, when you go to the grocery store in the District, you pay a little extra if you get a new tree- or oil-based bag rather than bring your own.plastic bag

There seems to be lots of grumbling from the locals about what a hassle/expense the tax is, but the thing is: It’s been wildly successful as a waste-cutting measure. Store managers are reporting that the number of bags they buy and use has dropped by around 50 percent. They should be happy about that because it cuts their costs. The tax will also generate an estimated $3.6 million in revenue for the District.

Many commenters are taking this as an example of how the difference between a free bag and a 5-cent bag can be huge, psychologically speaking. It’s also interesting to contrast this with the proposed 20-cent bag tax that was rejected by voters in Seattle (would a smaller tax have passed?) and the plastic bag ban in San Francisco, which did more to reduce bag use, but generated no revenue and may have increased grocery prices for everyone.

I’m glad it’s working, but I’m still slightly baffled that so many people need a tax to prompt them to rethink whether getting a disposable bag with every little purchase makes sense. I’m bummed when I forget to bring a reusable bag to the grocery store, not because of a tax (there isn’t one in Los Angeles), because using a plastic bag means unnecessary production and waste. I get that economics tells us we’re all supposed to be utility-maximizing rational choosers, but for me being generally resource smart and taking care of the planet actually feels better than not caring.

Reprinted: Good Andrew Price Jan 2010