November 5, 2012

So I wrote about how San Francisco has made me super conscious of recycling and composting, and now I can add another thing to the list. Plastic bags. San Francisco recently banned plastic bags. Or I guess, they’re forcing stores to charge 10 cents per bag (paper or plastic) while restricting what kinds of plastic bags can be used. As the policy is still a bit new, I’m a bit torn for a few reasons.

No matter which way you slice it – it’s inconvenient for me. It ultimately forces me to constantly carry around a bag in case I might buy something bigger than my purse. Good thing I bought these a few years ago. Weirdly, this actually happens a lot. I’ll be out and realize that I need to buy shampoo or cereal or eggs. I guess maybe large purses are never going to go out of fashion now. Plus, everyone always talks about how reusable bags are so much bigger than plastic bags, so you need fewer. Not a fan of that argument. I’m not really strong enough to fill up a reusable bag with heavy things and still be able to carry it in any reasonable way for more than a block.

And now I need to buy garbage bags. I’ve always used my plastic bags from stores in place of large garbage bags. Mostly because I always have them and it makes me take out the trash more. If I used the 13 gallon trash bags, I wouldn’t take out the trash for a month and it would be gross.

Lastly, the 10 cent charge gives off a really weird vibe. When the cashier asks “Do you want a bag? It’ll be a 10 cent charge” – it just feels like bad service. Like airline fees. Like this article says – if you spend a whole bunch of money at a store, do you really want them to ask you to pay for a bag on top of it? Maybe that’s just because the fee is new and they have to tell people about it up front. So eventually they can just say “do you want a bag?” and not explicitly state the charge. I doubt it though with all the tourists the come through – someone’s always going to need to be told.

Then as a customer, I’m thinking “it’s only 10 cents”. I actually feel totally petty saying I don’t want to pay an extra dime or two. Especially when I can clearly afford it as I already live in this expensive city. I know that’s just in my head. And it actually does work as a deterrent as I rarely accept a bag if I don’t need it. But it still makes me feel weird about it. Don’t like that.



  1. They recently started to do this in Montgomery County (read: the DC suburbs on the MD side) and it just makes me crazy. It makes me want to buy a bunch of bottled liquids, say “Oh, no thanks, I don’t need a bag,” and then drop them on the floor and say, “Whoops! Wish those bags didn’t cost money!” before walking out.

    It’s an idiotic plan considering that it costs me way more than the 5 or 10 cents a bag (I don’t remember the charge in the county), but I think that tax is absurd.

  2. I agree with how you feel, both in terms of how weird it is to be asked “do you need a bag” and that supply of trash bags is now in question.

    I also remember hearing (on NPR I think) that plastic bags don’t really cost that much to produce or do they account for a significant part of landfill.

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