Plastic Bags: Time for a Confession

Phil Gutis
Director of Communications, New York City
Posted April 5, 2010 in Living Sustainably

As we left the supermarket Friday evening, we saw a family of five lugging their groceries to the parking lot. Each family member was carrying a reusable bag; one young man had an unbagged jug of cider. And there we stood with our cartfull of plastic bags. Redfaced with embarrassment and happy that I wasn’t wearing my NRDC vest, I immediately told Tim that we needed to do a better job about remembering the reusable bags.

Its not like we haven’t purchased many of the reusable bags. We even keep some in the car!

There’s just some sort of a mental block. I always always always forget about the reusables until I start to bag. By then it is even too late to run out to the car without inconviencing the others in line.

Maybe I need a bit of a financial push. Perhaps I’d remember the bags if Pennsylvania were to institute a 5 cent tax like DC did earlier this year. According to Treehugger, plastic bag use in DC dropped by 22 million in one month. In its report, The Washington Post says:

In its first assessment of how the new law is working, the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue estimated that food and grocery establishments gave out about 3 million bags in January. Before the bag tax took effect Jan. 1, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer had said that about 22.5 million bags were being issued each month in 2009.

The 3 million bags that were used raised $150,000 for cleanup of the Anacostia River, a significantly lower sum than had been projected but still a nice boost for a very polluted river.

As with everything else, we’re fanatical about recycling the plastic bags (and apparently we’re not alone; recycling of plastic bags has been increasing). But I recognize that it is best not to use at all.

And we will do better!

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