Despite some silly grumblings, the recent implementation of a 5 cent fee for plastic bags appears to be achieving its intended effect of reducing plastic bag waste. My evidence? Well, this falls somewhere between anecdote and solid data, but today I was at my favorite downtown lunch spot, Spice Express, where every takeout transaction ends with the question “would you like a bag for that?” The guy behind me in line asked the owner whether the rule had affected customers’ decisions to get the bag or not. The owner replied that in the 2 weeks since the bag fee went into effect, he had distributed fewer bags than he used to distribute over the course of 1 week.
There could be conflating factors, of course (holidays, no recent rain, etc). But it seems like a drop of more than 50% is a pretty good indicator that many people are changing their behavior because of the fee. Personally, I never got the plastic bag for lunch takeout anyway, since it’s easy enough to carry for a couple blocks. But I did find myself refusing a plastic CVS bag the other day when I bought a couple of bath items (I stowed them in my purse instead). Probably I’d have taken the bag if it weren’t for the fee.
I’m happy to pay 5 cents when I need a bag, particularly since a portion of the tax will go directly to cleaning up the Anacostia River. But the real beauty of the fee is that it makes me think about whether the plastic can be avoided for that particular transaction. Even those of us who generally try to be eco-friendly need the reminder.