Several North American cities now have a bag tax. If you didn't bring your own bag for your shopping purchases, and want a bag, you'll have to cough up as much as a nickel for each. It's not a bad idea, considering the life span of a plastic bag is somewhere between 300-1000 years, according to plastic experts.
I have several canvas and other durable shopping bags, which I sometimes forget to bring with me when I shop. I'm a dummy. I know. But it's easy to do, since we still get all the free plastic bags we want in these parts. So, I'm working on it. Still, I welcome a tax here in Trenton. It would generate some much needed extra revenue for the city, and it would also provide some relief in the litter around here. What I like about the potential for less litter, in particular, is that often, in the thick of cleaning up my fellow Trentonian's flattened, filthy, and often wet plastic bags, I only think of my immediate disgust. Having fewer bags to pick up will likely make me a happier person because my little corner of the world will be cleaner without as much effort on my part. But so will other corners, corners perhaps inhabited by those indifferent to litter. So, the rest of us won't have to look at that filth in those places. Our neighbor across the street does the same thing — cleans up the plastic bags — and between the two of us, I'd bet our collected bag litter for one month would stretch from here to Doug Palmer's Hunterdon County manse.*
I also have a damn black plastic bag stuck in the branches of a large tree; without leaves on that tree, I see that bag flapping, flapping, flapping, out of reach, from my bedroom window. This is a common sight around Trenton, isn't it?
There are opponents to this kind of legislation who claim it's an unfair burden on the poor, but I'm here to tell you that the financially disadvantaged — and most other Trenton citizens — don't need plastic bags since they often just let their bags fly off in the breeze upon exiting the local stores, anyway. Or, the more environmentally-misguided-minded individuals will find the nearest sewer drain, and throw their unwanted plastic items in it, thus clogging the cities pipes, and necessitating our public servants to come out a few times a year to unclog them.
Some stores opt to charge for their disposable plastic bags, even though there's no law requiring them to do so. These stores tend to be the more upscale, but that's not the rule. Some discount chains, like Aldi, also charge for their plastic bags. Bag taxes are in place in Seattle, and as of January 1, 2010, Washington, D.C., as well as other progressive American and Canadian cities. China — perhaps the biggest environmental failure in the world — has also banned the use of disposable plastic shopping bags in 2008, resulting in a savings of about 37 MILLION barrels of crude oil on plastic bag production EVERY YEAR. Many nations — an interesting patchwork of developed and developing countries — also have some sort of ban in place, including Ireland, Uganda, Belgium, Ethiopia, Sweden, and Bhutan, to name a few. The American petroleum lobby is strong, which is possibly why Americans have been slow to see changes in plastic bag usage. It just seems crazy to me to be so dependent on (foreign) oil, just for disposable plastic bags, which wind up piling up in our landfills (and occasionally tree branches) for eons, anyway.
I'm sure I'll get my ass kicked in some way or another for saying this, but if any of the throng of individuals currently running for mayor and council of this city supports a plastic bag tax/litter crackdown on his/her platform, you've got my support. Unless you're one of the crazy or slimy candidates.
* I wonder, by the way, if Palmer even shoveled his own driveway during our recent snowfalls. In case you've been off the grid for the last week, that's a reference to Newark mayor's Cory Booker, who shoveled one of his constituents' driveways on New Year's Eve, after that person made a plea for help via Twitter. Perhaps it was just an election year stunt, but I haven't seen that kind of decency from any politician, maybe ever.
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