Quebec is considering a $0.20 per bag tax on plastic shopping bags. The intent is to cut down on their production, use and disposal.
I’m in favour of reducing the use of these bags. I have a green basket I use when doing grocery shopping. Those few bags I do use get reused to hold what little garbage I produce, and any which aren’t usable get recycled.
I’m even in favour of charging for bags. Something small, like $0.05 per bag, won’t make a big difference to the people who burn through money, but it might make some think twice about double-bagging that milk or using an extra one for the can of concentrated orange juice.
But I’m not crazy about the idea of a tax, that benefits neither the consumer nor the retailer, encouraging both to find a way around it. There’s an (admittedly self-serving) opinion in the Toronto Star which explains some of the cons to such a tax. Basically it comes down to the fact that people need something to carry their groceries in. In some cases this means finding loopholes — those bags which for some technical reason aren’t subject to the tax, and may be worse for the environment.
That’s basically my issue. We need an alternative. The green baskets are great, but they have a high initial cost (around $5), and you need to lug them around. The re-usable bags also require forethought, and might not be sufficient to carry a week’s worth of groceries. Their use should be encouraged beyond the $0.05 per bill rebate that Loblaws offers, but it’s not a complete solution. What about smaller stores? What about department stores like Wal-Mart? What about those clear bags we put fruit in? What about all that excessive packaging that’s used on electronics?
That, combined with the fact that plastic bags still seem to be the method a lot of places use as proof of purchase.
Once we handle these things, then we can talk about drastic measures to reduce bags. In the meantime, I don’t get why stores don’t charge a small amount per bag, and offer more incentives for people to bring their own bags (like, say, ending the policy of everyone having to surrender their bags at the cash when they enter).
UPDATE: The Gazette’s Max Harrold has some man-on-the-street reaction to the idea.