June 12, 2012

Raise the Plastic Bag Fee to 25 Cents and See What Happens

You can look at the 5-cent plastic bag fee in Toronto as a tax, as Mayor Ford does, and try to get rid of it. He did, but in the process so annoyed his council that they banned bags outright in response. Good thing?

Toronto city council bans plastic bags

Banning plastic bags outright may sound like a good solution, and we'll see. The concern is that consumers will buy plastic bags at the grocery store and use them anyway. Fort McMurray has banned them and it seems to be working. People are getting used to finding alternatives. If there's hope for the tar sands, there's hope for Toronto.

Another way of looking at that nickel is as a pollution mitigation fee and be happy (not) to pay it. The solution seems simple. If you don't want to pay the fee, don't buy bags. Take your own to the store or reuse the ones you already have. If you do want to buy bags, then pay the nickel and imagine, in your fantasy land, that the money will go toward a cleaner environment.

But what if, instead of banning plastic bags, we raised the fee to 25 cents and watched what happened? In the Republic of Ireland, a 5p (about 20-cent) bag fee reduced plastic bag use by 90% in one year. In Canada that would amount to using 2.5 billion fewer bags each year.

Now that's a lot less plastic blowing around.

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