Sunday, April 06, 2008

Seattle to Charge For Paper & Plastic Bags in 2009

Starting in 2009, Seattle is doing the only thing (Pound 360 believes) will make people conserve shopping bags: make them pay. This according to a feature at the NY Times. Sorry, I think the recent green trend -- all these Priuses you see popping up on the roads, for example -- is a fad. Didn't the exact same thing happen in the Seventies?

It's hip to conserve in 2008. But it won't be in 2010. And that's a problem because conservation is crucial to what Pound360 believes is the essential duty of each generation: to leave the Earth in better shape than it was when they got there.

But that's a tall order. Humans (including the staff here at Pound360… probably more so than average… you should see how fast a box of doughnuts disappears around here) are selfish. Indeed, self-interested primates are the ones, over millions of years of evolution, that were more likely to survive. It's not fair. But the chimp that shared its food with a neighbor was probably more likely to die in times of shortage than the one that horded its food and devoured it in private.

Again, it's not fair. I don't like it. But that's the hand we're dealt.

So how do you get people to conserve, to leave the world in better shape, when by nature, humans are selfish? One way is to hit them where it really stings: the pocket book. In that spirit, Seattle will charge shoppers a $.20 fee for each paper or plastic bag they take at a store in 2009.

That may not add up to much over the course of a year. What, 50 bucks or so per person? (Pound360 wants grocery stores to charge $5 per bag) But it's a start.

The City of Seattle estimates $10 million in new revenue from the program. One million of that will go to handing out reusable bags to every household.

Seattle's not the first city to force conservation of shopping bags with government action. San Francisco, for example, has banned plastic grocery bags.
So has Annapolis, Maryland. But they don't enforce conservation of paper bags, which Seattle found can be "worse" for the environment (when you figure the costs of producing, shipping them), according to the Times.

Discover more:
Find out how much oil we use to make plastic shopping bags each year. (It's measured in the hundreds-of-millions of gallons).

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.