I was pretty excited in January when New York City announced that it would require grocery stores to recycle plastic bags. Now, it seems like small potatoes when Gordon Brown, the prime minister of the UK announced all retailers in that country would have to charge customers for their bags.
I’d like to hear Obama, Clinton or even McCain address the multi-faceted problem of cutting our collective carbon footprint with a similarly heavy hand. I’m glad NYC is doing something rather than nothing, but as this picture from Los Angeles shows, the problem is not just in the Big Apple. California has already passed a bill to recycle plastic bags for the entire state. And, I don’t know about other cities, but there seems to be a plague of unnecessary double-bagging in New York.
Clearly, the real incentive is money, money money. When Ireland began charging for plastic bags, bag use dropped 94 percent. So, for every New Yorker like myself that has started using reusable bags, there are probably three more who shop at a store that double bags anything and everything. Recycling bags is a great start, but why not charge for them? Even China is charging for plastic bags.
Taking a more aggressive step keeps bags from sitting in landfills where they take more than 1000 years to break down. It keeps them from oceans, where they can be deadly to marine life, such as leatherback turtles if ingested. It keeps them off beaches and saves stores the cost of recycling them. And it makes people realize that cutting carbon isn’t just about selling their SUV.