Bag the Plastic
By George Anderson
Ireland’s success in using a tax to reduce the impact of plastic shopping bags on the Republic’s environment has led many national and local governments around the world to consider imposing tariffs of their own.
While Ireland’s tax has been a success in reducing the number of plastic bags found in landfills and along the road while simultaneously generating funds for environmental programs, there are other private means of achieving many of the same benefits, writes Dan Magestro, a postdoctoral research associate in the physics department at Ohio State University, in the student publication The Lantern.
For those who may believe that plastic bags are not an issue of concern, the writer points to Environmental Protection Agency numbers showing 1.63 million tons of plastic bags making their way into landfills in 2003 alone.
Still, with considerably more landfill space than the Republic of Ireland, is there really reason for consumers, businesses or government to be concerned over the buildup of plastic bags?
The author clearly believes so and, while not a substantive part of his argument, a lead-in sentence suggests another reason consumer and retailers should opt for something other than plastic. “For one thing,” he writes, “a typical plastic bag gets its start in a Middle East oil field.”
Rather than waiting on governments to impose taxes to reduce the use of plastic bags, Mr. Magestro believes that retailers can make an immediate impact on the problem. Using Wal-Mart as an example, he writes the company could “single-handedly change wasteful habits in our shopping routine. A five-cent per bag charge company-wide would do more immediate good than any legislation.”
Moderator’s Comment: Would most American consumers support a retailer charging an extra per bag fee for plastic or paper bags? If a retailer were to
consider such an initiative, how would they sell it to consumers? Is there another option other than high-density polypropylene bags for retailers? –
George Anderson – Moderator