What do China and I have in common? We're both decreasing our use of plastic bags!
The big news from China yesterday is that they're banning the thinnest plastic bags altogether, and requiring that stores charge for thicker plastic bags rather than give them away for free. They're one of many countries (and cities, like San Francisco) that have taken on this issue, either by banning the bags or imposing taxes; apparently in Ireland, the 15 cent per bag tax has led to a 90-95% decrease in plastic bag usage:
In Dingle's largest supermarket, the plastic bag levy has worked smoothly except for tourists who are sometimes upset at having to pay or find some other method to carry groceries, SuperValu store administrator Chris Norveil said. "Local people bring their own bags now; they use boxes, or they carry their shopping out to their cars," she said. "There wasn't very much fuss after it was presented by the government as a way of saving the environment."
That's pretty awesome! (If you want to read more about the serious problems with plastic bags, check out this article at Salon.com.)
In the meantime, while neither my country nor my city is discouraging plastic bags at all, I'm working on it for myself anyway. I'm trying to get better about bringing reusable bags to the grocery store-- although I get funny looks from the checker, and they often make me pack the bags myself. (That's one reason I wish there was a ban or at least a tax, so I wouldn't get looked at like I'm crazy!) And I'm proud of myself for how much plastic I avoided during the holiday season. I kept forgetting to bring my tote bags with me-- but as we went from store to store and most of the time I bought only one or two items, I just kept asking myself if I really needed a plastic bag with my purchase, and the answer was almost always no. I could carry a lot of it by hand (even if a little awkward sometimes), or stick it in a bag I'd gotten from somewhere else, or make an extra stop at the car to drop it off.
And happily, I've noticed in the last couple weeks that the habit has stuck. When I'm at a store and my purchase is ready to be bagged, I'm automatically thinking about the alternatives to using a plastic bag, and usually I can come up with one. "That's okay, I don't need a bag for that" is becoming my new mantra! I've become more conscious and intentional about what used to be an automatic acceptance of the plastic thrust at me, and I'm creating a little less waste now, which is pretty cool. Admittedly, I will get even further when I remember to carry reusable bags around with me every time I'm shopping, so that I'm using the plastic bags never rather than rarely-- but this new approach means I don't have to give up when I realize I've forgotten again.
Do you try to avoid using plastic bags personally? What are your successes, challenges, and tips? And how about politically? Are folks in your area talking about taxing or banning plastic bags? Would you support a ban or a tax, even if it meant you'd be charged extra for bags if you didn't bring your own? And if you live somewhere where it's already happened, do tell us how it's going!