Editorial: Bag it? No, don't!
Consumer culture met capitalism’s most slyly accommodating and friendly face — the customer is always right! — and the decades-long relationship resulted in an unwanted obscenity:
Americans fill, carry home, and eventually throw out 380 billion, that’s right, billion with a B, plastic bags each year.
That’s the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate, not the Sierra Club’s.
Little Connecticut is responsible for using an estimated one billion “single-use” plastic bags, annually.
It’s a waste. It’s a waste of petroleum — the oil so many have fought and died for. Petroleum wasted making throw-away bags could be burned to heat houses, shaped into toy fish, used to paint bicycles.
But throwaway or single-use plastic bags are beyond just a waste, They’re an environmental nightmare.
The bags litter the roadsides. They get caught up in trees. They end up in landfills. They’re burned in trash incinerators, spreading noxious fumes. They pollute rivers and streams. They’re filling up the damn oceans. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 100,000 marine animals a year are killed by plastic bags.
People were and are, rightly, grossed out. As a result, the Connecticut legislature passed a law designed to phase out single-use plastic bags.
Starting today — Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019 — the law goes into effect, requiring stores in Connecticut to charge a 10-cent fee for single-use plastic bags given out at the checkout counter.
Notably, the 10 cents will be charged only on single-use plastic bags handed out at checkout. Plastic bags to hold meat, seafood, or produce — as well as newspaper and dry cleaning bags — won’t be subject to the fee.
Still, it’s going to save a lot of bags. Before, a customer with five items could end up with three plastic bags. Someone with a full grocery cart — it could easily be a dozen, more than a dozen.
The plan is to have the 10-cent charge discouraging reliance on the bags for two years, and then enforce an outright ban on single-use plastic bags, statewide, starting July 1, 2021.
The money collected won’t go to the stores. The state — ever in need of funds — will get the bag fees. Connecticut is projecting collections in the vicinity of $56 million over the two years between now and the start of outright ban in 2021.
As the law’s phase-in anticipates the transition may be rough for some folks. Humans are creatures of habit, and many otherwise intelligent people habitually forget to bring along the stuff they’ll need even for — or, perhaps, especially for — so routine an event as stopping at the store to pick up groceries.
Here are some simple ideas that might help: Get reusable bags with some claim on your affections — pretty ones, funny ones, bags proclaiming a team loyalty. Keep them in the car — preferably someplace they’ll be seen, triggering the thought to bring them into the store. And make putting the bags back in the car the last step of unloading the groceries.
Already carry a handbag? Get a big one and stuff the grocery bags in there.
The thoughtless, needless, automatic overuse of these plastic bags is a monumental waste.
And a waste to what end? So shoppers don’t have to — heaven forbid! — bring bags with them to the store?
The law, and the variety of approaches various stores are using to introduce the change, are most welcome. It may take a few times to remember, but we’ll all get it after a while.
Folks, we can do this.
It’s simple, really. Get some reusable bags, bring them along, and take the groceries home in them.