Although the mere suggestion of making people pay a fee to bring their groceries home in a plastic bagcauses nothing short of outragein most American communities, a fellow developed nation’sexperiment with just such a bag fee recently provided definitive proof that such “taxes” can be shockingly effective.
See, we have this idea that plastic bags are free, a bonus gift provided by the store so that we can get our eggs home in one piece. Truthfully, thecost of offering disposable bags is simply passed on to the consumer in the form of higher product prices.(According to The Wall Street Journal, the estimated cost is somewhere around$4 billion.)
We say “cost” in the traditional sense, of course, becauseif you factored in the cost of what these bags are doing to the environment AFTER our eggs are safely in the fridge, it would make your eyes water.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
Producing all of these bags requires upwards of 2.2 billion pounds of fossil fuel and 3.9 billion gallons of fresh water. The manufacturing of these bags alone produces a billion pounds of solid waste and 2.7 million tons of CO2 per year. And that’s all BEFORE the bagger at the grocery store tucks your eggs inside.
Most of those 380 billion plastic bags are only used for 12 minutes, before being tossed into the trash (few recycling programs accept them) and making their way into our waterways.
“The mass consumption of plastic products has created a plastic wasteland in our oceans. Globally, there is now more plastic in our oceans than plankton, with 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean. Marine and avian are choked and strangled by discarded bags, and are killed by consuming partially broken-down plastic pieces. This plastic pollution negatively impacts 267 species of marine life,” reports Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
If you feel like shouting “STOP THE MADNESS!” you’re not alone.
So how do you get billions of people around the world to start bringing their own reusable bags to the store? Hit ‘em where it hurts: their wallets.
England instituted a 5 pence (approximately 7 cents USD) fee for bag in October 2015, and since then, around 90 percent of people now take their own bags with them when food shopping as a result of the plastic carrier bag charge.
In addition to this shocking drop in plastic bag use, less than 1 in 15 shoppers (7 percent) are now regularly taking single-use carrier bags at the checkout as opposed to 1 in 4 shoppers before the charge.
Accordingresearchers at Cardiff University, the study indicates that thecharge made shoppers stop and think whether they really need to use a single-use plastic bag for their shopping.
And the answer, contrary to what many in the plastic bag industry might say, is a resounding ‘no.’
Image Credit: Thinkstock
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.
This Simple Change Slashed England’s Plastic Bag Use By 90%