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Grocery Bag Taxes and Bans - An Effective Means To Reduce Waste


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In light of the San Francisco ban on petroleum-based plastic grocery bags, in favor of biodegradable (e.g., corn byproduct) plastics, does anyone know what WF, TJ or other socially responsible grocers will do? Other than emphasize the use of paper.

For the chains, will these efforts be implemented nation-wide? What is currently the recyclable content of their bags?

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I'm not too sure what the specifics are of different types of plastic bags, but Whole Foods in Alexandria will not give paper bags. They had a sign up for a while explaining why plastic bags were good. The only places I can get paper bags at all of the many places I shop are Trader Joe's and the Clarendon Whole Foods.

ETA: Whole Foods does use paper bags to wrap individual bottles--olive oil, wine, etc.--but only has plastic carrying bags.

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I'm not too sure what the specifics are of different types of plastic bags, but Whole Foods in Alexandria will not give paper bags. They had a sign up for a while explaining why plastic bags were good.
In Fairfax/Springfield/Vienna you can get either, and I always tell the clerk to decide for me, because I really can't decide. It seems to me that either type is on a par, ecologically, as long as you do the responsible thing and reuse and/or recycle.

Cutting down trees vs. refining oil -- decisions, decisions.

Plastic made with cornstarch adds more complexity -- we could be feeding the corn to hungry Mexican peasants, or converting to ethanol, instead.

For that matter, what about all the "recycleable" plastic containers? Around here, you can't recycle plastic unless it's soda pop bottles or milk bottles, or plastic bags. Those clamshells may be recycleable but no one will take them.

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For that matter, what about all the "recycleable" plastic containers? Around here, you can't recycle plastic unless it's soda pop bottles or milk bottles, or plastic bags. Those clamshells may be recycleable but no one will take them.

A dirty little secret... Very little "recycleable" plastic is recycled. In fact, in Montgomery County (and I think a few other areas around DC), your plastic bags get picked out of the recycleables and go to the landfill.

I've started bringing my own damn bags. I have a few lightweight canvas freebies from Whole Foods that we're using.

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A dirty little secret... Very little "recycleable" plastic is recycled. In fact, in Montgomery County (and I think a few other areas around DC), your plastic bags get picked out of the recycleables and go to the landfill.

As long as I can remember, MoCo has never accepted plastic bags for recycling, only plastic bottles. So stop leaving bags in your blue bin! Plastic shopping bags may be recycled at Giant Food, Walmart, and probably a few other large retailers.

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A dirty little secret... Very little "recycleable" plastic is recycled. In fact, in Montgomery County (and I think a few other areas around DC), your plastic bags get picked out of the recycleables and go to the landfill.

I've started bringing my own damn bags. I have a few lightweight canvas freebies from Whole Foods that we're using.

Fairfax County won't take plastic bags, either, but some grocery stores do, e.g., Safeway, Whole Food. We recycle ALLLLL our plastic shopping bags unless they have been used to pick up dog poop or dead rodents, or used as trash can liners.

In our house, we say (well, OK, I say), "put the bags in the bag bag." One bag is the bag bag, and all the other bags go into the bag bag until it's full, then make a knot with the handles and drop it off at Whole Foods or Safeway.

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In our house, we say (well, OK, I say), "put the bags in the bag bag." One bag is the bag bag, and all the other bags go into the bag bag until it's full, then make a knot with the handles and drop it off at Whole Foods or Safeway.

And what do they do with it?

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And what do they do with it?
just the other day i asked politburo the same question. we often have tons of plastic bags, but as soon as we use them, we check if there are holes in the bottoms of the bags. if holes, we put them in the hole bags bag. if no holes, we put them in the reuse these bags bag. every week politburo drops the holey bags off at safeway where they are taken to...?

i've heard of stories in some gov't agencies where the "recycling" bin is actually just taken out to the dumpster, along with the trash :blink: . i would hope that something similar is not going on with our recycled bags. maybe the next time i'm at safeway i'll ask the manager what happens to them.

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Anybody here save and reuse clear plastic produce bags?

Do you ever remember to bring them w you on shopping trips?

To the farmer's market?

How about the rubber bands (elastics to folk from Connecticut) which cashiers at WFM always slip over cartons of eggs?

I've got a slew of the produce bags at home and bring them to supermarkets rarely. No pennies back at the cash register. How would anyone verify it's reused?

Doesn't this post remind you of the Turtle's scintillating conversation?*

*Cf. Sex & the City esp. regarding pears, I believe. Or was it apples?

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Anybody here save and reuse clear plastic produce bags?

Do you ever remember to bring them w you on shopping trips?

To the farmer's market?

How about the rubber bands (elastics to folk from Connecticut) which cashiers at WFM always slip over cartons of eggs?

I've got a slew of the produce bags at home and bring them to supermarkets rarely. No pennies back at the cash register. How would anyone verify it's reused?

Doesn't this post remind you of the Turtle's scintillating conversation?*

*Cf. Sex & the City esp. regarding pears, I believe. Or was it apples?

Those bags often have a fairly high recycled content. Each time plastic is recycled it degrades. Therefore, a lot of recycling facilities just throw them away because there isn't much return on the effort. I've been told by a reliable source that Montgomery County recycling doesn't touch the stuff.

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Both the wife and I keep cloth bags in the trunk so that we have them even if we make a last minute run. One thing that I haven't gotten around is veggie/fruit plastic bags. Any suggestions. We reuse the bags when we can but I'm looking for a way to cut them out all together.

As for the all the packaging on food (and everything else) I wish they'd stop. Yet another reason to shop at farms markets or do Coops.

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Anybody here save and reuse clear plastic produce bags?

As someone mentioned upthread, we reuse them for cleanup when walking the dogs. We try to avoid getting plastic bags as much as possible, an effort made easier by the fact that we go shopping almost every day. Anything we need usually fits in some subset of messenger bags and the nylon bag the cell phone company gave Azami when he procured service from them. Many grocery stores here use point cards to encourage customers to use reusable bags -- if you spend at least 500 yen (~$5 USD) and don't take a plastic bag, they give you a stamp. Once you've gotten 20 stamps, you get a 100 yen discount when you redeem the card. It's not much, but it is something.

I'm glad that some stores here make some effort toward reducing use of plastics because the amount of packaging that things receive here is out of control. Many times, if you buy a bag of cookies (or rice crackers, or Pocky), not only do you get the container that they come in and the tray they sit in, but each cookie is individually wrapped. Japan has an elaborate system of sorting recyclables and trash that I admit I haven't investigated very closely, but I'd hate to think we spend as much time as we do complying with it only to have everything end up in the ground anyway.

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Walk by any streamside and see what washes up. A billion bottles and cans. A zillion Styrofoam cups. Newspapers and candy wrappers. Fast food containers. Six-pack holders. Tampon dispensers. And yes, every now and then, a plastic bag.

So, what does the city council do? Make my life marginally more of a pain in the ass by passing a stupid tax on grocery bags so that when I walk (!) home from work and decide that I might pick up a quart of milk and a hand of bananas, if I haven't remembered to haul my ugly yellow plastic grocery bag, I get to kick a dime into the city's coffers.

Not that I can't can't afford the dime. Not that I don't want to see the Anacostia clean, though if it's important they should just fund it out of general revenue and not pretend that reducing the bag use will have any measurable effect whatsoever on the health of that river. It's just that this measure is stupid, self-righteous bullshit -- pretending to do something when you're not.

Want a greener city? Triple the gass tax in the region. Limit car access to downtown. Tax fast food, bottles and cans. Impose strict performance codes on housing and appliances. Make city-owned propoerties more green and require environmental studies in schools.

Don't pass some penny-ante tax on food stores (why not department stores? Why not hardware stores? Why not linerie shops?) that -- in addition -- will be one more headache for corner shops to administer, as well.

Jerks.

Glad I got that off my chest.

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The best thing that they could do is enact a 5 or 10 cent deposit on soft drink and beer cans and bottles. When they enacted that in California, a large amount of roadside trash and litter suddenly became a valuable commodity and no longer an eyesore, and lots of people who had the energy to collect bottles and cans but couldn't find a job, suddenly had a way to make some money. The major unintended consequence, was that scavengers went through people's recycling trash before the collection truck arrived.

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The best thing that they could do is enact a 5 or 10 cent deposit on soft drink and beer cans and bottles. When they enacted that in California, a large amount of roadside trash and litter suddenly became a valuable commodity and no longer an eyesore, and lots of people who had the energy to collect bottles and cans but couldn't find a job, suddenly had a way to make some money. The major unintended consequence, was that scavengers went through people's recycling trash before the collection truck arrived.

If I recall correctly, there was an attempt to do something like this quite a few years ago. The charge of racism killed it pretty quickly, again IIRC.

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I love these voluntary taxes. You have a choice to pay it or not. If you don't want to pay it, you'll soon remember to either (i) carry a grocery bag with you, or (ii) learn to carry milk and bananas without plastic bags. Paying this out of general revenue means a higher tax on everyone who pays taxes. It's a like a gas tax. If you don't drive, you shouldn't have to pay the tax.

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I love these voluntary taxes. You have a choice to pay it or not. If you don't want to pay it, you'll soon remember to either (i) carry a grocery bag with you, or (ii) learn to carry milk and bananas without plastic bags. Paying this out of general revenue means a higher tax on everyone who pays taxes. It's a like a gas tax. If you don't drive, you shouldn't have to pay the tax.

If it's worth cleaning the Anacostia, its worth cleaning it out of general funds rather than funding the cleanup with a tax on behavior you're trying to eliminate. Imagine if it worked and people stopped using bags: they'd have to abandon the cleanup effort.

And the gas tax is hardly voluntary. There is no substitute for gas if you drive as there is for plastic bags when you shop. It might, however, be construed as a "user fee." Generally speaking I'm against trying to modify behavior through taxes, they should be revenue devices, not scolds (or cheerleaders).

Mrs. B is right. Years ago a bunch of damn hippies got a ballot measure to demand bottle deposits -- and (back to the stupidity of the bag tax) let's walk through my neighborhood and see which is the bigger litter contributor, beverage containers or plastic bags -- and the grocery store owners association or whatever put a bunch of influential ministers on the payroll who then got into the pulpit and denounced the deposit as a conspiracy by rich white people to tax/burden poor people without cars. They also ran a bunch of ads showing an old African American lady (possibly with a cane) trying hobble to the store with a full paper grocery bag full of bottles which ripped open at the end, and the hippies got their asses kicked.

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It could be worse. In Ireland the tax is 33 cents per plastic bag. The large A Better Bag is an affordable 99 cents at Whole Foods and received the top rating in Consumer Reports a couple of issues back. I've stuffed them with all sorts of heavy items with nary a rip or tear.

I have 4 of them and they are quite durable. I also have about 20 other assorted reusable shopping bags. I would like to use them always because they are easier to carry home then plastic bags. I just don't always know when I'm going to shop.

I don't like feeling like a bad social Do Bee every time I forget to bring a bag with me. I don't drive. I walk. So I can't just toss them in the back of my car. I don't regularly (never really) carry a purse. Not all my pants have pockets so I can't even stuff a couple old plastic bags in my pockets. And I really don't want to carry something on my shoulder every damn time I walk out the door. I'll pay the nickel or dime, I just don't want to deal with the righteous aprobation from smug bag carriers. :blink: Diane Rehm I'm looking at you. :D

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It could be worse. In Ireland the tax is 33 cents per plastic bag. The large A Better Bag is an affordable 99 cents at Whole Foods and received the top rating in Consumer Reports a couple of issues back. I've stuffed them with all sorts of heavy items with nary a rip or tear.

See, if DC was going to enact said tax, it should have been for at least a quarter or 50 cents a bag to really change the behavior. I have no problem with the tax, though I live and work in MD and have never grocery shopped in DC. Still, if and when Maryland imposes a similar tax, I will have no real problem with it. I prefer the reusable bags.

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Learn to balance stuff on your head? It's pretty amazing what Africans can do with their heads.

Do you remember the lady that would ride the 14th street bus with the RC Cola bottle on her head back around 1987-1995? I'm pretty sure she wasn't African (I think she was Caribbean) and it was pretty cool that she could do that with her head.

Here's an African that really uses her head.

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I couldn't disagree more with the origional poster. For me I wish they would outlaw plastic bags all together.

I know it is tough to remember to carry bags. It was for me. But after about 5 times of forgetting and then having to carry milk and other stuff without a bag, I seem to remember just fine now. Haven't gotten a platic bag from any store in over 8 months.

I have also given up bottle water. Go out and get a bottle you can refill many times. I wish they would reduce pkging all together.

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I know it is tough to remember to carry bags. It was for me. But after about 5 times of forgetting and then having to carry milk and other stuff without a bag, I seem to remember just fine now. Haven't gotten a platic bag from any store in over 8 months.

Do you drive to the store? It's a lot easier to bring your own bags if you can just keep them in the car.

And why does it only apply to grocery bags, instead of department stores, etc.?

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The tax also applies to paper bags. And the heuristics about the whole thing is interesting. People are not as active in bringing their own bags to the store to get the five cent discount, but go completely bonkers over a five cent tax. I mean I realize it's a difference off of a base rate, but people are much more reactive to paying more than getting a small discount. And I also find it funny that those most vocally protesting the tax in this thread are in the same family :D.

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I highly recommend baggu bags. I have been using them for about a year, and they have almost entirely eliminated my plastic bag usage. I keep a couple in my purse at all times (fold up very small), and I grab the grocery sack of them for market runs. They are very convenient and even make it easier to carry heavy loads as they do not cut into your hands the way that plastic does when you have to walk with them for a bit. I have a few other random bags, but the baggus seem to work the best for my needs.

http://baggubag.com/Home/#Shop

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As I was waiting for the bus to work today, I saw a woman gather her things, which were heavy and took up a number of reuseable bags. She also had a plastic bag trailing off her wrist with the absent-mindedness such packaging encourages. I was surprised she held on to it despite her other burdens. Then it slipped off her wrist into the wind, without her even noticing. It landed on the street. After today's rains I'm sure it was washed down the nearest culvert and is now in the Anacostia or some other watershed.

Taxation to capture externalities is an ancient and legitimate practice. Strange that some of those who favor a gas tax to do this with fossil fuel consumption get upset with a modest effort to do it with plastic shopping bags. Perhaps shopping and bagging your groceries are seen as somehow more personal, and therefore government's action more intrusive, than filling up your car. At any rate, as others have noted, other countries have charged for shopping bags for years, and you don't see people climbing the barricades wailing about their wounded liberty. But their waterways are cleaner.

The DC tax on bags can indeed be construed as posturing; there is much more that could be done. But given the outcry at this minor effort, think of the opposition a more toothy legislation would have provoked. At least this is a start, and we are far behind.

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Every time you take a walk you carry a bag? :D

I do at least 95% of the time. Baggus are much smaller than a wallet when kept in their pack. They come in extremely handy.

ETA: I actually carry them more for the convenience than the environmental benefits, but they are a great side effect.

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I do at least 95% of the time. Baggus are much smaller than a wallet when kept in their pack. They come in extremely handy.

ETA: I actually carry them more for the convenience than the environmental benefits, but they are a great side effect.

You walk around with things in your hand? :D

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I use a paper shopping bag inside a plastic one to line my kitchen trash bin. The plastic keeps the wet garbage from soaking and ripping the paper bag. I also use plastic shopping bags for animal waste cleanup from my dog and cat and for lining small wastebaskets and...and...and. I will just have to buy other plastic bags to replace the ones that I already recycle, if I no longer get them at the store with my groceries.

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I do at least 95% of the time. Baggus are much smaller than a wallet when kept in their pack. They come in extremely handy.

ETA: I actually carry them more for the convenience than the environmental benefits, but they are a great side effect.

\

Indeed. How big is your wallet? I use a money clip and I'm not sure that it would work for this purpose. If I have to re-foled this item into a 4X2 inch item every time I use it I think I would happily pay a tax :D

If you are going for a walk and you have no pockets are you really going to bring a reusable bag with you every time???????

A purse I can understand (except no, I can't. I can't) why would you go for a walk with a purse!!!!

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I know it is tough to remember to carry bags. It was for me. But after about 5 times of forgetting and then having to carry milk and other stuff without a bag, I seem to remember just fine now. Haven't gotten a platic bag from any store in over 8 months.
Every time you take a walk you carry a bag? :D

Why can't they do a Zip Car or Smarte Carte sort-of thing for used bags?

Actually, I take that back - one night I saw My Cull And Rum standing with his arms cradled underneath the Dispense-a-Wench Pay-Per-Vieux Chute forAging X-Trippers just down from Adour.

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I do at least 95% of the time. Baggus are much smaller than a wallet when kept in their pack. They come in extremely handy.

ETA: I actually carry them more for the convenience than the environmental benefits, but they are a great side effect.

Same here - at least to start. I like that they are more comfortable to carry while walking home and that each bag holds more then your typical grocery bag. It did take some training to put the bag immediately back into my purse or backpack or car -- now it is habit. The clincher for me came when sorting through some marine debris data for a project at work -- plastic bags are the #2 most commonly collected trash at coastal cleanups accounting for 12% of the total debris (double that of plastic bottles, triple that of glass bottles, quadruple that of cans). That made it seem like a much simpler change for me to make.

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". . . plastic bags are the #2 most commonly collected trash at coastal cleanups accounting for 12% of the total debris (double that of plastic bottles, triple that of glass bottles, quadruple that of cans)."

Um, ah, what is #1?

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A load of fookin' shite, that is. It's just revenue raising behind the (projected on the?) green screen of environmental concern.

Not necessarily an either-or. Could be a both. I'm w you on a lot of the stuff that we're not supposed to talk about here lest we offend and all, but shifting the focus momentarily from The State to The Corporation: What would you say about Italian supermarkets charging approximately 50 cents per heavy-duty, enormous, tremendously reusable plastic bag? Must be more now, but most folk don't need 'em. No free choices. Either you carry your own bag, wheel your own cart or buy one at the supermarket because only frogs prance around w zee willow baskets.

And it's just at the supermarket since all the little independent shops that dot the streets give out the type that looks pretty only at the end of movies where Chris Cooper gets to play the Christopher Walken role.

One of the best gifts I ever got at Christmas was a sweet little nylon shopping bag made out of the same fabric most umbrellas are. Striped. On one edge is an itty, bitty square pouch that it all tucks into. Way smaller than a wallet, if bigger than a condom packet. Carry it around in my purse or knapsack. Would fit into the kind of battered briefcases hipsters carry home from work, easy. So, I'm w lackadaisi on this part.

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If you are going for a walk and you have no pockets are you really going to bring a reusable bag with you every time???????

A purse I can understand (except no, I can't. I can't) why would you go for a walk with a purse!!!!

I don't carry a purse either, but I frequently have a backpack with me. I just put purchases straight into that. Sometimes, though, I'm not planning to buy anything when I head out on foot and don't have the backpack, so I have to get a bag if I buy something more than I can easily carry in my hands.

For big shopping trips I drive and keep reusable bags in the car. The problem with that is remembering to return them to the car after I've brought them inside and remembering to take them into the store from the car :D. I still get some plastic bags, though, because I use them for things like cleaning out the litter box and lining wastebaskets. I also ask for paper bags sometimes at places that have them because I reuse those for some things. I'm not sure why paper bags are included in this tax.

It's interesting to look back, though, at how much things have changed. It wasn't that long ago that I'd get suspicious looks or have my backpack searched if I carried it into Safeway. When stores started offering the 5 cents back if you brought bags back in, the clerks had never heard of it and wouldn't give me my 5 cents. At the old corner store I used to go to, they insisted beer or wine had to be put into a bag and couldn't go directly into a backpack. They said it was DC law that it had to be put in an opaque bag by a store employee at the time of purchase. Whether that really was the case or the law has changed, I don't know. (The store has changed ownership and I rarely go there any more anyway.) Does anyone know if that is the law in DC?

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At the old corner store I used to go to, they insisted beer or wine had to be put into a bag and couldn't go directly into a backpack. They said it was DC law that it had to be put in an opaque bag by a store employee at the time of purchase. Whether that really was the case or the law has changed, I don't know. (The store has changed ownership and I rarely go there any more anyway.) Does anyone know if that is the law in DC?

I think that's the law in many places.

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I think that's the law in many places.

I have a couple of canvas bags that I carry with me to shop. The local liquor stores around here don't have a problem with my putting any of my purchases into one of them and skipping their plastic bags. I've never heard of such a law.

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1.3 million of them picked up last year in the US alone.

Not sure I'd want the job of "official counter."

As long as this website is no longer related in any way to food, I'll add that I actively and aggressively harass drivers who throw their cigarette butts out of car windows.

We now return you to the misguided diatribe of Waitman.

[seriously, please do try and keep this discussion tethered to the bag tax - it's an interesting conversation which could easily become less so if sidetracked.]

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I have a couple of canvas bags that I carry with me to shop. The local liquor stores around here don't have a problem with my putting any of my purchases into one of them and skipping their plastic bags. I've never heard of such a law.

I meant that it has to be bagged, not that it has to be in a bag provided by the store.

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