The time has come to speak my mind on a subject of great consequence to us all as individuals, as a nation, and as citizens of Planet Earth. The subject I refer to is plastic bags, toxic to birds, fish, and other living creatures. It seems to have reached the tipping point, what with cities and counties throughout the country passing piecemeal legislation banning them.
In California, legislation to ban plastic bag usage has been debated for several years. In 2010, a bill backed by grocers and then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t make it past the legislature due to opposition from—who else?– the plastics industry. The first state to ban plastic bags was Hawaii. San Francisco was the first city, in 2007.
In Alameda County where I live a law took effect this January 1st prohibiting food stores from packaging goods in plastic bags. A good law, a sensible law; who doesn’t want to save the poor little fishies who mistake these bags for food and choke to death on them? It’s a kind law, a progressive law. Or so I thought. Like most people I didn’t pay attention to other aspects of the law. Either that or I have a more simple mind than I thought I had. It never occurred to me that banning a product would mean doing anything besides removing it. As it turns out, in addition to the plastic bag taboo—in food stores, that is—customers who forget their tote bags or don’t have any or for any reason don’t wish to hang their purchases around their necks are welcome to a paper bag—for ten cents. I asked one cashier where the money goes. To the state, she said uncertainly. For what? Nobody seems to know. As I’ve so often observed, most Californians don’t care about small inconveniences; it hadn’t even occurred to them to raise the question.
But I am still a die-hard New Yorker, and I care. I would like to know the rationale behind this fee for paper! One cashier said she thought it was a way of encouraging consumers to recycle by bringing their own bags. I ask you: when did ten cents ever change anyone’s behavior? Those who’ve been recycling bags all along will continue to do so, and those who haven’t are unlikely to start doing so for the money.
Another thing: I’ve always used the plastic bags I get from stores–when I forget to bring my totes–as garbage bags. I cannot understand people who carry on about the dangers of these bags, yet go out and buy plastic garbage bags. Where’s the logic here?
And one final irony: When I bought a mug and some other chatchkalas at Pier One, they put my tissue-wrapped purchases into a plastic bag.
“I thought you can’t use plastic,” I said to the cashier.
If this is true, then the whole thing is just plain absurd.
If it’s not, well, where are the Plastic Police when we need them? Never mind the plague of violence in Oakland—they’re pushing plastic at Pier One! For the sake of the fish, get an undercover team out to Emeryville post-haste!
- How the Plastic Bag is Suffocating the Planet [Infographic] (urbantimes.co)
- Should We Get Behind Plastic Bag Bans? (naturemoms.com)