Sunday, July 29, 2007

Save the Environment One Bag at a Time

Back in 2002, Ireland did something clever to reduce the the consumption of plastic polythene bags; they started taxing them. Consumers not inclined to pay this tax just bring their own bags. As a convenience, stores provide durable, reusable grocery bags with a flat base (essential) at a cost of 1 Euro each. And it worked!

"A tax on plastic shopping bags in the Republic of Ireland has cut their use by more than 90% and raised millions of euros in revenue, the government says."

Ireland's biggest concern at the time was litter. You could see any of the "estimated 1.2 billion free plastic bags" stuck in leafless trees throughout the city. Such a beautiful countryside plagued with opaque, white plastic.

We try to do what we can to help the environment. Reducing our consumption of plastic bags was one such endeavor. We never really liked the canvas or mesh reusable grocery bags we found here because their size and shape were impractical for real shopping trips. So on a trip to Ireland a few years back, my husband and I picked up a few reusable bags and brought them home for use in grocery stores.

Albertsons, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's have since designed similar bags, which is great because I hope consumers here start taking plastic bags more seriously. There's no reason to walk into a grocery store, Target, etc. without a couple of bags under your arm. And while you could argue that banning bags is too harsh, taxing them is perfectly reasonable. It's amazing how people remember to use their reusable bags when the alternative is a higher checkout receipt.

On a related note, while having a reusable bag is great, when you're paying $250 for one, you might be a bit confused about the whole point of avoiding plastic bags.