One of the first societal changes we can anticipate to combat our environmental crises is here: shopping bag fees. It begins, of course, on the west coast:
"Under a proposal announced this week by Mayor Greg Nickels, shoppers in Seattle would pay a 20-cent “green fee” beginning next year for every new paper or plastic bag they use to carry away goods from grocery, drug or convenience stories. They would be encouraged to bring their own bags for carrying home purchases.
Foam food containers would also be banned under the proposal.
It apparently is not without precedent:
"The city said a similar program in Ireland helped reduce the use of disposable bags by 90 percent. The city could expect to raise $10 million annually through the fee, with $1 million going to buy and distribute free reusable bags to each household in the city."
“This proposal,” the mayor said, “is all about forming new habits.”
That really is what it is all about. Behavioral change is difficult on a conscious level. To change behavior in the long run, we must change our habits and our expectations. And as to the knee-jerk reaction from some that this will never change, Mr. Conlin gives the appropriate response:
Mr. Conlin, the Council president, said making people pay for bags rather than banning them would encourage people to be aware of what they consume and could help the city avoid potential challenges to its authority to ban products. He dismissed the suggestion that the public dependency on disposable bags was somehow beyond rehabilitation. “Plastic bags were only invented like three decades ago,” Mr. Conlin said. “It’s not like this was a pioneer tradition.”
It never ceases to amaze me that people disinterested in a societal change will claim it can never change while ignoring the obvious fact that the situation in question was not always as it is. American can ween themselves off the habit of getting new grocery bags to use for an hour and then permanently discard. We got along fine before we started doing so.