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No need to ban plastic bags

I read recently that lawmakers in Vermont may tax plastic shopping bags and some in California want to ban them completely. If the Irish experience is any guide there is no need to ban them. The tax will do.

It's been 8 years since Ireland introduced a 15c tax on every plastic bag. During that 8 years the plastic bag has almost disappeared from view. Oh sure you can still find them and every so often you'll see some sucker paying (now 22c) for a bag, but mostly you see people using reusable canvas bags rather buying the plastic.

I can't recall all the arguments in favor of the plastic bag tax when it was introduced, but I do remember what I think was the main one: blowing plastic bags seemed to be everywhere. No matter whether you were in a city or in the country you'd see plastic bags hanging from bushes and trees or lying in the gutter. They made the place look trashy.

It didn't take long for that to change. Most Irish people seemed to immediately vow that they would never pay for a plastic bag. And they didn't. Within a few months plastic bag use had declined by 90% and the blowing bags were gone. They have never reappeared.

I doubt many people would thank the government if it repealed the tax now. I'm probably as negative on the law as anyone and even I can't deny the benefits.

What's my problem with the law? Well, first of all, I don't like the idea that law-abiding citizens must be punished because the state is incapable of enforcing its laws (on littering). Also, I won't pay for a cheap plastic bag, I don't like having to remember to bring a bag with me and (mostly) I don't like walking to the store with an empty bag swishing along with me.

One of the more amusing effects of the law in our family is that my daughters love having shopping bags from stores you don't find around here. So we have bags from Wal-mart, Hannaford Brothers, Sainsbury's (UK) and Carrefour (France) in our vast collection.

So, when I was in America at Easter time I thought I'd try something that might appease me on those walks to the store. I took a cue from my daughter and decided I'd buy a bag I'd feel better having with me as I walk along. Hence, the bag in this picture here {left}. And it helps, a little, but it still swishes.

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