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Green Fleece II: More on the bag grab in Seattle and what $0.20 will buy (UPDATED)

July 10, 2008
July 29 Update:  Bag fee ordinance passed.  See end of post.


If Seattle proceeds with its Green Fees scheme to try to reduce use of paper and plastic grocery bags, your 20 cents a bag will pay, not to clean up the dreadful pollution your bag will cause, but the cost of administering the cost of your bag. This is not unusual in regulatory fee politics.

• Merchants will retain 5 cents per bag for taxes and administrative costs. Businesses that gross less than $1 million will keep the entire 20-cent fee.

So lower-volume businesses have higher costs to offset? Does someone get this?

• City revenue — 15 cents per bag — will be used for waste prevention, recycling, city cleanup and environmental education programs.

You can read more details of the Green Fees scheme here.

But the point is, the bags are still out there, presumably heating up the fragile planet.  Bags “remain as persistent environmental pollutants.”  Money purchases atonement, not mitigation.

When have environmental programs worked? In my opinion, smoking remains as a persistent environmental pollutant. I wish there were no outdoor smoking, but I’d rather dodge the fumes than pit my sensitivity against other people’s liberty. (And fragrances: is your desire to smell like a gardenia or Old Spice so important that people should suffer headaches and respiratory problems? It would be so nice if you at least would not sit within 26 pews of me.)

Information about the hazards of smoking has been pumped into the sociosphere for decades. Smokers have been taxed till you’d have thought they’d surrender, or perish for want of food. Low-income smokers have not been subsidized, and there are more low-income than high-income smokers.

Smoking has been deemed (I’m not speaking for the science here, just the hype) hazardous to everyone in its midst, smoking or not. But the Tall Ships Festival in Tacoma (a free public event) was billowing with smoke on crowded wharves and pathways at the festival. Some of the smokers gagging me out were police and security people. I have never felt queasy around, or minded the smell of, a clean plastic bag.    No one has ever brushed by me on the sidewalk with a plastic bag and burned a hole in the sweater I was carrying.  A smoker has.  I’m just saying that a consistent scheme would ban outdoor smoking if it’s going to ban clean plastic bags.

I don’t live in Seattle, but it’s close, and I sometimes shop there. I don’t think, or like to think, that Tacoma would pass such a stupid ordinance. But ask someone in Florida whether Cuba makes him nervous. It’s the same thing.

I do have two shopping bags that my local Metropolitan Market gave me during a promotion. I keep them in my car.  If Tacoma passed a bag grab ordinance, I would have to have my Audi retrofitted with a bag alarm so I would remember to bring them into the store.

UPDATE-July 29:

No surprise: The Seattle City Council has passed the bag fee ordinance.  No more foam to-go containers, either–only leaky compostable ones.  If life just got a little more expensive, inconvenient, or stupid, hang on.  A plastic bottle bill is probably next.

BTW, if you’re in the market for shopping bags, Trader Joe’s bags are not made in China.  They’re made in Bangladesh, but at least the chain is concerned about their customers’ qualms about goods made in China.

One Comment
  1. Laura permalink
    July 12, 2008 5:52 pm

    Inconsistency seems to permeate everything the government does. We stumbled upon this article, written 14 years ago, and wonder what the scene is like now.

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