Plastic, paper bags under attack in Seattle

  • Sarah Jackson
  • Thursday, April 3, 2008 1:44pm
  • Life

That’s right, folks. This is THE green story of the day.

Seattle mayor Greg Nickels and city council president Richard Conlin have teamed up to propose a 20-cent fee on disposable shopping bags at grocery, drug and convenience stores.

That’s per bag, ladies and gentleman, whether it’s paper or plastic.

I’m all for green progress. I’m totally in favor of paying more for greener options. I’m also a huge fan of Conlin’s push to make food waste recycling mandatory in Seattle.

But this move strikes me as a bit extreme or at least premature.

Then again, maybe I’m just not ready to let go of plastic bags entirely.

While I often use reusable bags at the grocery store, I still rely on plastics when I forget them and then, like many people, I reuse them for other purposes, including cat litter disposal, lunch sacks for work and as general trash bags around the house.

I have a friend who relies on the water-proof nature of plastic bags for the disposal and transport of dirty diapers when she and her kid are on the go. In a world without cheap, mass-produced, mass-distributed plastic bags, what are we going to do? Buy high-end new bags for such purposes? How will this impact low-income people who can barely afford to buy groceries?

Is this a Hefty conspiracy?

I could be MUCH greener. I could use flushable cat litter. I could buy something easily washable in which to transport my lunch. I could use Umbra’s tricks for reducing the need for household trash bags.

Still, I think Nickels and Conlin ought to be targeting other issues, not trying to out-do San Francisco on the bag front.

What about the millions of disposable coffee cups going to waste every year in the Northwest? They can’t be reused in 100 different ways like plastic bags. Reusable mugs, though made of plastic or mined metal, last almost forever. Maybe putting a fee on trashy coffee cups wouldn’t impact low-income people quite so much.

And what about retail shopping handle-style bags such as those from Victoria’s Secret and nearly every other shop at the mall? They aren’t really paper or plastic. Are they even recyclable? I don’t think so.

What do you think about all this? Are Nickels and Conlin eco-visionaries or over-zealous Greenzos when it comes to shopping bags?

Please comment below or write me here.

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