Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bag Battle in Gotham?

I am heartened by the proposed 6-cent fee for plastic shopping bags in NYC. Making stores collect bags for recycling is a step in the right direction, but change won't really come until there's a good economic reason for people to stop using them, or stores to stop providing them. Is it a tax on the middle and lower classes? Sure, but only as long as it takes for us to change our habits, and that isn't long at all.

The recent Times article does bring up points that give me pause though:

Mr. Thrasher, the Brooklyn man battling the wad of bags under his sink, finds plastic bags ideal for, of all things, composting. He uses them to store food scraps in the freezer, then takes them once a week to his farmers’ market. With a paper bag, he said, “I’d worry it’d rot through.”

That is exactly what I do with my compost. I don't have a yard to make my own compost and an inside worm bin isn't an option right now, so it goes in the freezer and then to the community garden or Union Square. I suppose I could look for a big plastic tupperware when my under-sink pile is depleted.

On the other hand, this argument gets no traction with me:

There are, indeed, logistical issues that may make it impractical for many New Yorkers to bring their own reusable bags along when they shop. Most people walk or take the bus and subway, so they have no car trunk in which to carry a number of them. Because so many purchases are spur of the moment — as easy as spotting a storefront and remembering you need candles or toothpaste — sometimes the backpack, briefcase or humongous handbag that can store them are not handy.

How long do you have to live in New York before you learn to only shop for what you can carry, and have a bag big enough to stuff that spur of the moment purchase in? Come on. This is what we do.


Kate Crist said...

I'm sorry, but I think it's WAY easier here to carry my bags. I live in the midwest and while I'm here for auditions, I find it so much easier to go plastic free. I have one cute bag that zips up and several larger bags. The large ones, I've found, are big enough to carry a HUGE amount of groceries.

That argument didn't hold water for me :)

Anonymous said...

I hope this law goes through! What a massive level of change it could cause!

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying your blog. I agree, I really hope this charge for plastic bags goes through! Perhaps it would initiate a wide-scale change that the earth (or at least NY) needs.

Juli said...

My worry now is that, especially in combination with the proposed rate hikes from MTA that came out yesterday, the bag tax will be considered yet another tax on those who can least afford it. But, like cigarette taxes, it is something you can avoid by changing habits-- and bringing reusable bags is one hell of a lot easier than giving up a cigarette addiction!

The Green Cat said...

I think it's silly for people to complain about 6 cents a bag. Seriously, it's not that hard to keep a bag on hand (even one of those plastic bags you got for free before the tax went into effect). And if a person really needs the bag, then pay the 6 cents and stop whining. It might make folks think about plastic more. Just today I watched a man purchase a large bottle of juice--the kind that has a handle built into its top. This was the only thing he bought and yet he stood at the end of the checkout and waited for the bagger to put this easy-to-carry item in not one, but TWO plastic bags! I bet he might think about using the built-in handle if he had to pay 12 cents for those bags.

As far as compost goes, I have been re-using the same tortilla chip bag for a couple of months now. I can't recycle it so I just rinse it out after I've dumped my scraps at the compost collection and then use it again for the next round of scraps. A binder clip keeps it closed and I find that I don't have to worry about things poking through like I would with plastic grocery bags.