Plastic Bag Bans, Paper Bag Fees, And That Pacific Trash Vortex [Consumer]

by on March 12, 2013

in consumer

Plastic Bag bansToday I wanted to chat about the plastic bag bans being adopted all over the place, looking at the paper bag fees being imposed on consumers and chatting about that led me to taking a quick peak at that huge vortex of trash out in the Pacific, as a bit of what I suspect, is a side-affect of people’s disposal habits.

It’s all the rage.  Single Use plastic bag bans are going into effect all over the place.  And to some degree, it’s understandable.  Too many people can’t seem to find the trash or recycling receptacle to put their excess single use plastic bags.  And if you follow it out even further, our lacking recycling skills seem to be contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the Pacific Trash Vortex.

I know that sounds horrible, but depending on who or what you reference, the Great Pacific Garbage patch is basically where flotsam accumulates due to the huge ocean currents know as gyres in the North Pacific Ocean.  But unlike the visuals you might get about it, it’s mostly debris that’s accumulated and floats just below the surface and floats out of site.

Estimates, which can’t seem to get it together, say this huge patch of floating trash occupies roughly  700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) to  15,000,000 square kilometres (5,800,000 sq mi) of the Pacific Ocean, accounting for 0.4% to 8% of the size of this particular ocean.  Nice going humans!

I know…  it’s only one bag, right?  What harm can a bag do?  Well, if everyone in the world thought that, and dropped one bag each, and there’s an estimated world population of 7,104,651,108 of potential littering humans, I’m thinking that “that one bag” just might add up.

So yes, when you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to do the little extra to recycle or toss something in the trash, it can add up, at a frightening pace.

Hence, I understand the premise and drive behind plastic bag bans.

But it seems plastic bags are an easy target, considering we all use them, every day.  Heck, I remember the huge hoopla when consumers started having choices of “Paper or Plastic?”  But that heyday is over with.

Now as a pet owner, I’m a bit under the gun here.  I use my plastic shopping bags for litter disposal!  So now I’ll have to be buying my own bags.  So be it.

But what irks me a bit more is that if you want to use a paper bag from the store, instead of a plastic bag, the stores are charging you 10 cents a bag.  This fee came into being with the plastic bag bans.  The irksome part is that means we’re paying twice for those bags.

The price of commodities at a store involve the costs of all things, inventory and labor that put that box of cereal on the store shelve.  Business costs are absorbed via the product price.  And businesses have already added their costs of supplying paper bags to the consumer.

When we’re asked to pay 10 cents for a paper bag, we’re being double charged for that bad boy!  WTH?  And this fee is something that seems to be enforced not at the store level, but community level.

Now I presume this fee is a practice to help dissuade paper bag usage.  I get that premise.  People need incentive.  Or they revert to their natural state of “ease of accomplishment.”  Or lazy.

But the city of Woodside, CA, is reviewing whether they want to adopt the bag fee along with the bag ban.  Wait.. what?  Yep, The Daily Post is reporting that the town council has put up for debate whether to follow suit on THE COUNTY’s RECOMMENDATION to require a fee for paper bags.  “Require a fee.”  And all this time I thought the grocery stores were the greedy business culprits.

Oh, and that 10 cent fee, is going up to 25 cents in 2015.

But if any city deviates from the “recommended” fee, the town that does so, will then be required to pay for a new environmental impact report.  Those apparently go for about $100k.  So basically, that’s not really a suggestion.  But the county that Woodside sits in already conducted such a report and says they can use their report in the process of approving their own bag bans.  Wow, there’s a good guy in all this?  Nice to see.

The article goes on to further note that “People in government get carried away with rule-making power.”  A quote from Woodside Mayor Anne Kasten.  Kasten ponders why the government is wasting time with paper bag issues while there’s a huge budget deficit hanging over all our heads.  I like this woman’s take on things.

So… basically cities have to pass the bag ban or they’ll be finding themselves looking at a huge state fee?  And then the extra cost that consumers are asked to pay if they use a paper bag, is enforced by the local government and not the store?  And cat owners are doomed!  (Well, cat guardians.  I don’t think a cat would ever call a human their owner.)

Hey, if you live in Palo Alto, it gets a bit tighter there.  Today they just passed this bill, plus they’re passing the ban on to many other businesses aside from grocery stores.  Niiice!

Bottom line:

Our peers brought this on and now it’s up to others to move to contain it before the Earth becomes one big pile of plastic in space!

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