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I have about 20 pound worth of bags in the cupboard gathering dust, 5p doesn't make a difference. They should make it £1 in the UK from now and £5 from 2020. That will make a dent.

2030 is the same as saying "Lets kick the can down the road".

Well apparently a 5p charge resulted in a 14x decrease in usage of plastic bags, so despite your anecdote, it does make a difference.

A little thing to bear in mind is that the new bags weigh significantly more than the old ones, so it's not actually a 14x decrease. With the switch all the stores now sell "lifetime" bags.

According to my fairly inaccurate kitchen scales the old ones weigh about 10g, the new ones weigh about 25g. So it's about a 5.6x drop, which is still fantastic.

I think everyone talks about the number of bags as it makes the decrease look bigger.

In Norway we went the other way - our grocery bags are so thick and sturdy that they're reused as garbage bags for 95%+ of households instead of garbage bags. Our garbage looks like this (the blue bags are free government provided bags for plastic recycling): https://i.imgur.com/WbAsG3y.jpg

Environmental organizations here actually complained about the plastic bag tax because they feared it would lead to people buying garbage bag rolls instead of reusing the grocery bags for their garbage.

Anecdotally I'd say it also makes our garbage system "less messy" than systems that depends on bigger thrash bags - a hole in a large flimsy thrash bag is more likely and has a bigger negative effect than one in a small sturdy one.

Very good point, really good to hear the new bags aren't weighing in at too much more than the old ones! Also worth noting that the heavier bags are better quality and so will last longer. Combine this with the fact that because bags are no longer a 'free commodity', I think people will tend to assign value to them and hence re-use them much more than before.

I think it's probably better than that though, because while some supermarkets have switched to using heavier bags, some are still using the lightweight ones.

The mass measurement is good to know; however, the lighter bags also take to the air and land in trees, the water, etc., a surprisingly large effect in the Windy City (yes I know it's not called that because of actual wind :-) ). This effect has almost disappeared in my neighborhood with the new tax in place.

> the old ones

Charging for bags was commonplace in the UK in the 80's ... how long have you been keeping these for??

Tesco/Sainsbury's (two of the big supermarkets) now only supply "bag for life"s (thicker plastic) and do not have any of the 'normal', thin, carrier bags. That's happened within the last year.

I now have loads of "bags for life" because sometimes you forget to bring one, don't bring enough or shop on a whim.

Fair enough but I wonder how much of that has to do with simply being asked? Being given a bag was standard, as normal as expecting the store to be heated. An invisible service.

Now, you don't get given a bag for your Sandwich & Water at lunch, and you don't get a free bag with your McDonalds meal to name just a couple of services.

1p or 5p wouldn't make much of a difference? A Family paying 100 pound a week on shopping at a super market, can easily just spend 100.35 on 7 bags and won't bat an eye lid.

If that was 107.00 that would make a real difference and I bet the decrease would be much greater.

Behavioural economics teaches us that the jump from a price of zero to a price of 1 penny has a much, much larger effect than going from 1 penny to two pence.


The same acts in reverse.

I personally reuse the same bag every time I go shopping until it is damaged. When I walk to my local, I carry the two or three items I bought directly, rather than in a bag. I could afford to buy over a million plastic bags a year, yet I've changed my behaviour to avoid buying them whenever possible.

(In my case, it has nothing to do with being asked, as I invariably use the automated checkout machines. Bags are available for purchase adjacent to these machines, so it's not an availability problem either.)

Having spent 18+ years without a car, walking or cycling or taking the bus, I always had a backpack with me. I would often tell a clerk I didn't need a bag and I'd be ignored -- they just automatically put items in a bag. Once a 5 cent bag fee went into effect and they had to ask, I never had a problem not getting a bag. (To be fair, other places knew me and knew I didn't need a bag.)

That's broadly where I'd go with plastic bottles - £1 deposit, rising to £5 and compel supermarkets and manufacturers to take the returns. I'm old enough to remember the 20p(?) deposit on glass bottles of fizzy pop. Also when supermarkets were selling milk in glass bottles - and provided crates in the same section for customers to return the empties.

This used to be a solved problem.

This approach is used in California and other states and it generally works. The deposit is 5 cents and certain "healthy" drinks (juices, milk) are not charged. [If you live in CA, know all this, and are just arguing for a much higher fee - my apologies.]

Most middle-class people don't take household bottles in for the 5c back -- they recycle them in bulk for free -- but bottles in public areas are scooped up by poorer people.

Also, some people game the system in various ways, like importing out-of-state cans for the return value, or other types of fraud, which can be abetted by shady recycling firms.

So basically, a micro-economy was created with all its attendant functional and not-so-functional aspects. But the basic problem of roadside litter was largely solved.

I didn't have the time to wait in line every few weeks to turn in my recyclables in LA so I put them all in a bag next to the dumpster for the complex. I didn't start doing this until after I noticed the dumpster divers were coming anyways.

Surprise, surprise, corporate greed and lobbying are the cause that it's no longer a solved problem:


I think the idea of loss aversion suggests that people would be more likely to avoid taking a bag at the time than they would be to return them for a deposit (not that this is an option with bottles).

I really want a deposit/membership at my local grocery store for reusable bags. I don't want to remember them. I want to use some standard, reusable ones at the store, and then be able to return them in bulk for my deposit back. I end up taking paper bags in SF because I constantly forget to bring reusable ones, despite having dozens at home.

The habit to get into is have a non-bulky resuable bag that folds up nice and flat and keep it in a jacket pocket or some other location that's available when you're out and about; and to put the bag back in that place when you finish unpacking at home.

Relying on remembering before you leave the house or whatever is much less effective, I think.

I had the same problem. I keep mine in my car now, which had helped.

That is how it works in places like Sweden and Norway. The deposit doesn't have to be as high as you suggest to make it work.

I do agree. I was just looking at the selection of regular-size bags today at my local Finnish grocery store:

- 0.20€ for a biodegradable bag - 0.20€ for a plastic bag

It's good that they offer bio bags that are no longer more expensive than plastic bags but it should definitely be the other way around.

If they priced bio bags at 0.20€ and plastic bags at 1.20€ you would not hesitate to guess whether people would move to carry their own reusable nylon/cotton bags or buy the biodegradable bags instead (or, rather, two of them instead of one plastic as they break more easily).

I rarely buy a new plastic bag myself but when I do I don't even blink at the 0.20€ price. The price should make me stop for a moment and reconsider.

It seems you have a financial interest in this. When you say you have £20 worth of bags, is this at the 5p per bag rate, or at your proposed £1 per bag?

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