Plastic Bags: California Does What I’ve Recommended for Years (almost)!

10 06 2010

Yesterday California banned plastic shopping bags. Time to celebrate!

I’m a resident of left-leaning-green city Portland, OR. There are lots of people here doing everything they can to live a sustainable existence. That’s generally good. But sometimes a sustainability idea comes along that might not be so great, but they jump on board and don’t see the whole picture.

Example: Mayor Sam Adams proposes, a few years back, to tax plastic shopping bags. I hate them like anybody else. Plastic shopping bags are inferior because they pierce, and because they squeeze delicate items like bread. They also blow in the wind and clog drains, suffocate animals, and snarl recycling machines.  Practically everyone jumps on the bag tax bandwagon, except me. I don’t like taxes. I don’t like what I see as a new bureaucracy just to collect a nickel-a-bag tax! I see economic inefficiency. I’m doubtful the tax would have much impact.

But, my primary reason against the tax was I had spent time in Bhutan, a tiny kingdom way up in the Himalayas. I’ve been all over SE Asia and the little plastic bags wind up everywhere. Bhutan is a special place. There, King Wangchuk also despised plastic bags. But instead of taxing them, he had a much better idea: simply PROHIBIT THEM. And let the business world adapt.

Free to shoppers in Bhutan

As we can see, businesses in Bhutan quickly adapted, adopting earth-friendly recyclable shopping bags in every conceivable size. It works! So yesterday, I get news the legislature in the state of California has adopted a similar idea. Businesses will be prohibited from giving out plastic bags with purchases. Instead customers will need to buy them. Biodegradable bags are free. That is excellent progress. I also understand Mayor Sam Adams is now in favor of an outright ban, not a tax. This is great news!


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