Thoughts on the Seattle Plastic Bag Ban

Posted by: pat 11 years, 7 months ago


Let's get things started with some serious reflection on the weighty topic of the recent plastic bag ban in the city of Seattle.

For readers from far afield, the citizens of Seattle recently voted to ban plastic bags, and furthermore to charge a $0.05 per bag fee on paper bags.  It is supposed to help the environment or something I guess.  I'm not too keen on laws that micromanage individual choices, and was always a diligent recyler of the plastic bags from our beloved Ballard Market and other local stores.  In the spirit of opening the kimono, I now reveal the fact that I voted against the bag ban.  But I am somewhat ambivalent about it.  It does sadden me to hear about beached whales with large numbers of plastic bags in their stomachs.

It took me a few months to get in the swing of things and remember to bring my reusable bags.  At first I just went with the paper bags for a nickel a piece, but after a few too many sidelong glances that seemed to be re-evaluating my worth as a person, I got with the program and started bringing my own bags.  Plus also, I really got sick of the baggers "doing me a favor" by single bagging my groceries and failing to put things like milk or beer in the bag.  Listen baggers, I'm not going to be thanking you for saving me the double-bag extra nickel when the bottom falls out of the bag or the handle rips off and all of my groceries explode onto my front steps.

Bag ban adverse consequences:

  • Single-bagging paper bags are more likely to fail in transit
  • Reusable bags become a colony for mold and mildew, potentially spreading to bagged produce
  • Paper bags take up more space in our household recycling center
  • Reusable bags need to be managed.  Take them in, empty them, and then you need to remember to put them back in your car.
  • My biggest pet peeve, and something I suspect few voters anticipated, is the space these things take up in your cart.  I always use the mini-carts, and now a good 1/3 of my cart capacity has to be devoted to bags.
  • Baggers have to deal with a greater variety of bags, which must make then less efficient.  I predict slower checkout times overall.
  • Update!   Here's a good one.  If you go to the self-checkout stations at Fred Meyer and hit the "No Bags" button, it will automatically put you into the freezeout "an attendant has been notified to assist you" screen.  Do not pass go, do not insert your $200.  You will stand there twiddling your thumbs until the attendant "assists" you by verifying that you have indeed taken zero bags.  Next time, I'm taking a bag.  A nickel is a low price to pay to avoid waiting for this "assistance".

Bag ban advantages:

  • Reusable bags are sturdier.  Even with double-bagging, I've had paper bag handles fail with disastrous consequences
  • Baggers are more likely to put beer and milk into your bags.  This makes them much easier to carry into the house.
  • You can express your own personal style and individuality with your choice of reusable bags.  My choice says "I found a bunch of freebie bags my wife forget about in the garage".  I derive some perverse pleasure from pitching my pink-and-proud Girlfriends' Half Marathon bag across the checkout counter to the bagger.  I caught a glimpse of a cool MEC bag the other day and wished I picked one of those up when we were in Victoria this summer, because you know I am one of those self-hating Seattleites who secretly wants to move to B.C.  :)

Dear reader(s), what are your thoughts on the bag ban?  Share them in the comments!

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