Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wrapped in Plastic
This is pretty remarkable. In Washington, D.C. a new tax on plastic bags has had a much bigger impact than expected:
The District’s 5-cent bag tax, which started in January 2010, netted approximately $150,000 during its first month of enactment. According to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, only 3 million bags were issued in the month of January compared to 2009’s 22.5 million bags per month average, and it appears that the new law DC shoppers has been successful in altering shopping bag habits faster than was expected.
22 million down to 3 million in just one month? I have been reading about the success of little "nudges" like this in a book called, well, Nudge. Obviously we'd all like to think we'd do the right thing even without the incentive of a nickel. Would it work on me? I don't know. Currently my sadly immense plastic bag consumption can be attributed to 3 things:

1) I go to the grocery store all the time - every day in some stretches (I eat less, and more responsibly, when I don't buy a weeks' worth of food at a time) - and usually when I'm on the way home from somewhere else. So, I almost never remember to put my cloth bag in the car.

2) My newspaper subscription, which generates a bag, and sometimes two, every single day. They don't even bother trying to deliver it bagless anymore, even on perfectly clear sunny days. I love getting the paper every morning. Something about it just makes me feel good. But it's a pointless habit, right? That stuff is pretty much all online. I've been meaning to scale my subscription down to weekends, when I really have the time to read it through, and would still get the coupons and Sunday puzzles I put to good use. For some reason haven't made myself follow through yet.

3) Even though I don't remember my cloth bag often enough, I occasionally remember to put my stash of plastic in the car and take it to the recycling bin. Now that plastic bags can be recycled, it makes me feel (foolishly) less wasteful for using them in the first place.

Would a .05-cent/bag tax put me over the edge and make me call the newspaper and get better about remembering my cloth bags? I dunno. Would it help you? Or do you need help?

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