Saturday, May 9, 2015

5 Cents Can Save the Environment

Recently, the City of Portland enacted a law requiring retailers to charge customers 5 cents for every paper or plastic bag taken from a checkout line at a grocery or convenience store. The law was enacted to promote recycling, reduce litter, and to draw attention to personal behaviors that impact the environment.

Plastic bags were a special concern because they don't degrade and frequently get into waterways where they can harm wildlife. Plastic bags are estimated to kill over 100,000 marine animals each year, mainly the sea turtle. But they also kill land animals such as birds that swallow them and die. A recent study noted that a five cent bag fee in Washington, D.C., resulted in a 60 percent drop in plastic bag usage!

Five cents is nothing, and I was skeptical whether this new law would change behavior. For example, I have dozens of reusable bags in my house that I rarely use. However, since the law went into effect, I've modified my behavior. Now, when I shop, I use a reusable bag, and I'm not the only one. At the checkout line, most of the people that I see are also using reusable bags. It seems that charging a relatively small amount for bags can produce a substantial change in behavior. So just maybe, a little 5 cent charge can indeed help the environment, save wildlife, and promote sustainability.

No comments: