I know; I’ve discussed this before. In gory detail. You are probably sick of my endless discussion of our national supermarket habit and the reams of plastic it seems to require. But I think ridding ourselves of our plastic bag habit is an easy change to make, one that doesn’t require the kind of wide scale reconfiguration that addressing our car habit would take (though on that issue — carpools, bikes, and your own two feet are all great options). Besides, it’s in the news this week.
The Connecticut legislature is considering a ban on plastic bags, according to David Funkhouser’s recent piece in the Hartford Courant. I was pleasantly surprised to see that people here are at least supportive of the idea, though I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way the article was written. There’s no discussion at all of countries that have been charging for plastic bags for years (Germany, for example), and only a cursory mention of Ireland, which started taxing plastic bags a while ago and seems to have survived the transition. Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote a piece on Ireland’s bag tax back in February that actually seemed to suggest that the decreased use of bags has been a positive thing for initially reluctant retailers — an interesting point that seems to have been overlooked in the Courant’s piece.
Maybe an outright ban is too much of a change for people in this country. But the assertion that recycling is an equally good alternative to finding ways to decrease the use of plastic bags is not going to help anyone. It takes energy to recycle bags, and it takes initiative on the part of the consumer to bring those bags back in — all of which could have been avoided if a plastic bag hadn’t been handed out in the first place. I’m not saying they’re not useful to have around the house sometimes, and I’m also willing to acknowledge that even I forget to bring mine along on occasion. But really, taking a reusable bag along hasn’t been a difficult change to make, and I think once people stop resisting any change that might possibly be of the slightest inconvenience to them, we might actually have a country I could be proud of.