28 July 2008

Plastic Bags: It ends here.

A letter to the editor of my local newspaper, published here for anyone doesn't live in Victoria.

I want to commend Oak Bay residents. Many of them try to reduce waste by using cloth grocery bags rather than plastic ones. As a Safeway cashier, I’m in a position to notice and appreciate this.

However, for every conscientious person who brings bags, there’s another who doesn’t seem to care. They wrap each item- the coffee, the chicken, the single apple, and the tiny box of pills- in its own produce bag, and expects the cashier to put the whole lot in another plastic bag at the checkout. Sometimes they even ask for double bags, lest their hands get sore from carrying that heavy load.

The usual justification for this is to prevent coffee grounds from getting on the apple, or fluid from the chicken leaking out. But why? Stuff washes off.

It almost hurts to think of the reams of flimsy plastic that pass through my hands every day. I want it to stop. It’s possible- Ireland has almost eliminated the use of plastic bags by simply of taxing the heck out of them. People waste things that are free, but a 25-cent tax will make them think. It would make me think too- I occasionally use plastic bags myself, even though I have fabric ones at home. I wouldn’t mind some help breaking the habit.

Not to generalize, but I have noticed a pattern in the worst of the bag-wasters. They tend to pay close attention to discounts, quibble over sales prices, and count their change carefully. I think people of this temperament would respond very quickly to a bag tax.

I don’t understand, in fact, why BC doesn’t have a bag tax already, seeing how well it has worked for the Irish. Perhaps the people in charge of these things are just waiting until enough citizens demand it, to be sure it’s what we really want. In that case, add my name to the list.

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