“Changing Habits”

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In late spring, the Connecticut legislature imposed a 10 cent tax on most single use plastic bags, such as ones at the grocery or drug store. On August 1st, this measure took effect. Rather than charge customers the 10 cent tax, the stores I frequent eliminated them altogether and began to charge for paper bags. The alternative provided was to supply one’s own bag. Previously, Whole Foods had eliminated plastic bags and given a 5 cent rebate for using one’s own bag. While its procedures stayed the same, all other stores changed.

Skeptic that I am I expected many people would arrive at the store empty handed, complain loudly about being charged for a bag, and leave in a bad mood. To my surprise, nearly every person I saw entering any given store had a bag of some sort in hand. Those without bags were leaving stores with unbagged goods. I was amazed at what a disincentive paying for a bag turned out to be for a majority of my neighbors. Previously I only occasionally saw people with their own bags. Now they were everywhere.

Perhaps we need to have to dramatically change habits more often. Who knows what governments could achieve. We could be charged for riding elevators instead of using the stairs.(Doctor’s excuses would be valid.) Parking meters close to shops could be more expensive. Cigarettes could have $25 dollar taxes. But who would put up with being made to change their habits? Apparently Connecticut shoppers! Who knew?

22 thoughts on ““Changing Habits”

  1. I’ve been bringing my own bag to the grocery store all year. Jamaica banned plastic straws, plastic bags and styrofoam at the start of this year. As a citizen, you’re supposed to live up to it’s standards abroad when where you live has lower standards for certain things…so I try to follow the Jamaican environmental laws here as best as I can. 🙂

  2. I always carry my own reusable bags in the trunk of my car and usually remember to bring them into the store. There’s no fee yet in Renton but I believe Seattle has had it in place for years. I think it makes good sense, an easy change to make.

  3. We have the same here Elizabeth although charges & incentives weren’t monetary.
    The government banned single use plastic bags & then we either took our own bags or bought reusable bags at the counter 😀 we don’t have paper bags at the Grocery stores here.
    Everyone in Australia does it now. 😉
    Bless you,
    Jennifer

  4. We have had the charges for plastic bags for years now. Even before that, I always took much larger reusable bags to the supermarket. Most people do the same happily, especially when getting in a ‘big shop’. But for some people, the small charge of 5p for a bag is not enough to stop them buying many of them each time.
    Cigarette tax in the UK accounts for almost 90% of the retail price already. Someone paying £9 for one packet of cigarettes is handing over most of that in tax to the government. They are unlikely to increase that though, as the revenue is valuable to them, and they probably don’t want too many people to quit smoking.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  5. I appreciate your willingness to consider the benefits and I’m happy to read that people are adjusting to the new charge. We just got back from our UK visit and found that grocery stores there also charge for plastic shopping bags. I like the idea and became even more convinced as I was trying to photograph an otherwise perfectly scenic Irish bay. Noticing the plastic bag just before I snapped the shot I was forced to move down pier a bit. It reminded me that plastic lines our oceans all over the world. I think I like this Connecticut plan and wouldn’t mind seeing it happen here in Washington State as well.

  6. I have a large selection of shopping bags, as it took a while for me to remember to take them with me out of the car when I go in the shop. I now have four fold-up-very-small bags that stay in my handbag for such emergencies. We still seem to accumulate plastic bags though, somehow
    .

  7. We generally use fabric bags now, Elizabeth and sometimes I buy paper bags. Our stores also charge for plastic and a lot of people have moved away from them. I think plastic bags should just be banned and not available at all.

  8. I do a lot of small-scale shopping so generally I toss my things in my backpack on the way home from wherever I am. I sometimes take my bike for larger trips and fill the panniers with groceries.

    Cigarette taxes here are pretty high. I don’t smoke but looked up the price of a pack of Marlboros here and they go for $14. Much of that tax revenue is intended to pay for healthcare. Seems like a good arrangement.

  9. It took a while for people to adjust here but it’s second nature to carry our own bags now. I wish we were offered paper bags though, rather than an option to spend a little more on what it termed a ‘bag for life’ which is still plastic and will inevitably be thrown away at some point. Apparently the plastic used for these thicker bags is even more damaging environmentally.

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