Bag Tax In Ireland Has Eliminated The Plastic Grocery Bag.


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Thanks to a few eagle-eyed Irish Good Human readers (Thanks Guinness & Greengo – and I’m Irish, and I missed the story!), I was pointed to an article in the NY Times about a plastic bag tax in Ireland that has basically eliminated the bags from the country. The tax was instituted in 2002, so I guess it either took a while to really have an effect or the NY Times is way behind the times, but either way it looks like it worked in getting rid of these terrible bags:

In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable , on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.

This last part is what we need to happen here in order to stop the use of these bags. Check out the entire article over at the NY Times, it’s an interesting read and very encouraging to see that programs like this do work. Kudos to San Francisco for making this change; it’s a shame the Los Angeles politicians did not have enough courage to stand up to the Grocers Union and ban them here. Heaven forbid we do something good for everyone at the expense of some grocers and plastic bag manufacturers.

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  1. Where I live in Wales they seem to be attempting what I think is a weak effort to get rid of plastic bags – by selling fabric re-usable bags at checkouts, by some staff in the larger chain stores asking if you want a bag rather than just using one straight away. But this doesn’t seem to be doing much use, as it still seems an alien concept to some shop workers; many a time have I got strange looks after I have attempted to stop someone just putting my stuff into a plastic bag. Declaring that “it’s okay, thanks, i have my own bad”, seems almost on par with saying “it’s okay, thanks, i want to eat your brain”. I think it’s about time that more countries followed the Irish example and took more drastic measures to cut back on our pointless use of plastic bags! Thanks for the links to these articles on the issue, I’m reading them all with interest.

  2. I think it will take a long time to see everyone start changing their tune on these bags, but I am very glad to see certain countries/cities taking charge and making it happen. And I agree with your feeling that it can see like you are saying “it”™s okay, thanks, i want to eat your brain” – I get that here in some stores. Scary!

  3. What’s even more amazing about the effects of the bag tax is that before this, in Ireland you used to commonly get a plastic bag with every single purchase – even if it was only a chocolate bar or something. Economics can be a great tool.

  4. I am trying to convert over to using all of my own bags. I am just so incredibly frustrated with the number of plastic bags I have floating around my house that I don’t want to send to the landfill but am not able to repurpose/recycle fast enough. I have some fabric bags that stash nicely in my purse, but I still have to make remembering to get them out in time a habit.

    I do find it interesting that a lot of grocery stores are offering fabric bags but at the same time the clerks don’t ask if we have one first or look at me strangely if I let them know I have my own bag. I think it would be helpful if the stores simply provided a few minutes of training to their workers to have them ask if we need bags first; it would take as much time as the question they used to ask us if we wanted paper or plastic. I think they just need to get as used to the idea as the customers do. I think it would be easier for me to remember about my bags if a clerk actually asked me if I had one. It’s just a shift in perspective that would only take a few weeks to get used to, I think. A clerk asking someone who doesn’t have bags might also give the customer a reason to consider the fabric bag idea if they had not had time to before.

  5. I tend to think that the people working at the grocery stores near me have never seen a fabric bag before, judging by some of the looks I get. And try bringing one of those bags to Target or something like that, the people start flipping out!

  6. I bought a reusable bag at Target actually as well as some other stuff, and the bagger started putting the bag and the other stuff into a plastic bag! I was like, “what are you doing?” and she said she thought it wouldn’t all fit in the canvas bag (it’s a small one, and therefore really useful for incidental shopping, I keep it in my purse). But I got her to do it, and it did all fit, perfectly. I think a canvas bag can carry more because it has more give, without tearing.

  7. The looks they give are priceless though, aren’t they Helena? They always look at me like “um, why do you have your own bag…we have plenty of these lovely plastic ones for you!”

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