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Plastic Bags to Be Banned in New York (nytimes.com)
291 points by pseudolus 49 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 271 comments

Anecdotally, the SF 10¢ bag fee has 1) caused me to skip bags for small numbers of items I can carry, and 2) retain this behavior even outside SF where bags are free and given by default.

Took a little while to get used to but I think the program was successful in terms of behavior modification.

Similarly here. Used to always get disposable bags before Austin banned them. I’ve moved around a bunch since and continue to bring my reusable bags with me everywhere.

Yea, I realized I was just carrying my little motorcycle givi box up the stairs anyway and the bags were pointless - now I just borrow the shop basket for "bagging" and it's indistinguishable from my previous system of bagging the groceries and carrying them out.

Seconded. Boston and Cambridge have a five cent tax on plastic bags, and that's been enough to cause me to simply put my groceries in my backpack (which I was already carrying anyway) or, when we know we're going to be getting a lot of food, to bring our reusable cloth bags, which we've easily made use of the 100 times to recoup their $5 cost.

I reuse every single plastic bag. I live in a tiny studio in Manhattan and they serve as small, free garbage bags.

Without plastic bags, I'll have to buy garbage bags (which are too large). I'll also have to carry around a reusable bag when I go shopping—which prevents me from going shopping on a whim, since I can't keep bags in the trunk of my nonexistent car—or use the paper bags which are still allowed. Ironically, this will cause me to be more wasteful, since I can't reuse paper bags!

They should just charge 10 cents per plastic bag. Heck, charge 20 cents. Lawmakers seem to have rejected this as a "tax on the poor", but is taking away the option from everybody any better?

Lucky for you, you can get your plastic trash bags you so adore for exactly the price you suggested: 10¢ per bag


And in the meantime, the rest of us don't have to deal with the millions of bags that are bought every week just to be thrown away the same day.

This helps but doesn't really solve the problem—I don't have a good way to carry a reusable bag around with me, and doing so doesn't help the environment in my case.

I understand why a law was needed, I just wish they'd gone with a surcharge, which would likely have solved the core issue.

Try one of these. They fit on a keychain:


This is super cool, thank you. I'm not sure from the Amazon photo if it's actually small enough to comfortably leave on my keyring, but it might work!

It depends on where you keep your keys. If it's in your pocket, the Chico Bags are too big: these things are about 3"x4" and at least 1.5" thick.

You can easily clip them to a belt loop if you don't mind the aesthetics of the result. And if you have any sort of purse, bag, fanny pack, etc, they would probably fit in there, or clip on to it, fine. But actually putting them on a keyring that lives in a pocket doesn't work, at least for me.

I have them. They would fit in normal [men's] jeans pockets, but they would bulge out and probably be uncomfortable. You can easily have them in a backpack, briefcase, purse, or messenger bag, though.

These[1] are not quite as durable, but one will fit in my back pocket easily enough.

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007V6I71K/

As another suggestion, i've been using the 'sea to summit ultra-sil sling bag' for years and have gave them as gifts. They compress into a small bag if needed, can be zipped up (if walking back through rain), and tend to double when travelling as a clothes-packing bag. - https://www.amazon.com/Sea-Summit-Ultra-Sil-Sling-16-Liter/d...

That price is hard to believe.

Shop around, amazon's being weird. They've been retailing for ~$30 for several years, usually on other sites you can combine it with some 20% discount too.

It may be too much for some people's needs, but it's been worth it for someone that regularly travels & walks to the grocery store in a rainy region.

You don't have pockets? A bag? I have one on my bike, wrapped around the handle bars.

I don't carry around a backpack or anything like that, no, and my pockets are pretty full between my phone, wallet, and keys.

sounds like a good time to start using a bag!

We should form a committee that will help him decide what to carry throughout the day and how to do it. Perhaps the NYC regulation should have included that provision.

I often carry a canvas tote bag. They fold up to be about wallet-sized - maybe not quite small enough to fit in your jeans if you're already carrying a wallet+phone etc., but easily compact enough to go in a jacket or hoodie pocket.

If you really want to use this type of bag for trash you can buy 900 of them for $15 on Amazon, 1.7 cents/bag:


fold one up and keep it in your wallet when you go out and you always have one ready for impromptu shopping trips.

I stopped using shopping bags as garbage bags long ago 'cause too many of them were leaky, and more than once I left a dripping trail on my way to the garbage chute.

I just keep a folding reusable shopping bag in my laptop bag (that I always have with me when I'm commuting), so when I stop at the store on my way home it's always ready. If I don't have it handy, then I just pay the 25 cent fee for a paper bag.

ITT: this person is provided with many alternatives to help not use plastic, but is somehow able to find a problem with all of it.

Newsflash: we fucked up. big time. we're all very comfortable with our wasteful lives. It's going to be uncomfortable to change our behavior. It's worth it.

Newsflash: plastic bags are only wasteful if you don’t reuse them as small garbage bags. If you use paper bags and buy small garbage bags, you are worse than the person using the plastic bags.

Yeah. I do feel a bit like I'm making excuses to everyone's (much appreciated) suggestions, but I also feel like my problems are legitimate when, as far as I can tell, this won't actually reduce my carbon emissions.

That's the core issue. Global warming is an urgent problem, and I'm more than okay being inconvenienced to help with that. I don't think this helps, at least not relative to a surcharge.

As an aside, all of this stuff is effectively scribbling in the margins. Same with plastic straws and biodegradable utensils. That doesn't make these moves bad or even unnecessary, but I worry they're distracting from what is most urgently needed: major taxes on carbon emissions.

I've always seen these plastic bans as being more about litter prevention than carbon emissions. It's unconscionable that we've invented a material that doesn't biodegrade, and we use it for single-use items that end up in the environment, there to accumulate until everything we eat and breathe is riddled with tiny particles. Quite honestly, even plastic garbage bags are a travesty that I hope we can figure out a way to get rid of someday.

> I also feel like my problems are legitimate

Listen, refusing to carry a book bag when you know you are a compulsive shopper is not a legitimate problem.

You're being awfully high and mighty jumping around this thread to criticize what is, on the scale of typical human consumption, really quite minor.

Do you own a car? Have you flown in the last year? Do you eat out or get food delivered to you? How often do you get a new laptop? Do you use air conditioning?

Apparently it's socially acceptable to look down on someone for using plastic bags, but it would be uncouth to suggest that someone use public transport or vacation domestically.

The latter examples would be an actual sacrifice, and we only want to make token gestures to feel good about ourselves and move on with our lives.

>You're being awfully high and mighty jumping around this thread to criticize what is, on the scale of typical human consumption, really quite minor.

It may be minor, but if OP is complaining about things as simple as "I don't know when I go to the store, so I MUST use plastic bags", then imagine what else they are unwilling to budge on. Not to mention, broken windows theory is real, remove plastic waste from the streets like plastic bags and people will modify their behavior.

>Apparently it's socially acceptable to look down on someone for using plastic bags

I am not looking down on someone for using plastic bags, I am looking down on them for making really bad excuses for continuing to use plastic bags. It's literally a lack of effort.

That's an unfounded assumption. They might simply be frustrated at politicians rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I don't oppose banning plastic bags in a vacuum, but I think spending political capital to do so is insane. The vast majority of the waste comes from the products and packaging that go in to the bag, not the bag itself.

So now the activity of shopping has essentially been greenwashed. I wouldn't be surprised if total consumption actually increased as a result, because it reduces the guilt one feels.

You didn't reply to my list.


lol? so you consider using your own bags instead of plastic bags greenwashing?

and as to that list, i don't think this strawman needs attention. The issue we are talking about here is using plastic bags, if you want to start a different discussion on these things, feel free to dm me.

Yes, I do. By using reusable bags instead of disposable plastic bags, you might have reduced the environmental impact of your shop by a tenth of a percent. But you'll get a hit of dopamine for having done your bit, even though you actually haven't done shit.

You are the one strawmanning. You decided that OP is completely unwilling to make sacrifices to benefit the environment merely because he is resisting making an insignificant, feel good change. Based on this you jumped around the thread harassing him or her.

I then followed your line of argument and asked you if you personally had actually made a sacrifice for the sake of the environment, or are we just condemning OP based on a theoretical here.

Frankly, if conservation is important to you, you're being a poor ambassador for the cause.

we have to start somewhere. if we're unwilling to even budge on small things like carrying your own bag, do you think we're going to be able to stomach the large scale changes?

There are things I can control and there are things I can't. I can't control how much fossil fuels are used when flying a commercial airline. But if everyone makes daily changes in their lives, we can force the capitalists to make larger impact changes by sheer lifestyle. THIS IS A TEAM EFFORT and you're on the team that loses the earth.

You can absolutely change how often you fly. If you're unwilling to make real sacrifices, get the fuck down off that high horse and realize you're also on the team that loses the earth.

same can be said about plastic bags.

Except not flying makes a meaningful difference. Banning plastic bags is only relevant to dipshits. Skip a single flight and you’ve saved more petroleum than a lifetime of plastic bag use (as far as co2 emissions goes).

If you want to make a littering argument, that has legs to stand on. If you think it helps with co2, you’re in the same camp patting themselves on the back for saving water by banning automatic water at sit down restaurants.

If you are unwilling to change small things, how will big things ever change?

>Do you own a car? Have you flown in the last year? Do you eat out or get food delivered to you? How often do you get a new laptop? Do you use air conditioning?

No, no, yes, not in more than ten years, no.

Not really that hard.

You do realize saying yes to a single one is enough to absolutely dwarf plastic bag use, right?

Yeah, just carry a freaking book bag or backpack everywhere with you that you don't actually need because you might go to the store. WTF is happening here :-D

Also, compulsive shopper was probably not what you wanted to say.

I've noticed that as a difference between Car People and Non-car People.

The latter tend to have a backpack or other general-purpose bag with them at all times containing wallet, keys, bottle of water, waterproof jacket, reusable grocery sack etc. After a while it feels naked to go out without it.

Whereas Car People leave that stuff in the car or shove it into bulging pockets.

It's called being a human with needs and solving those needs. yes carry a back pack wherever you go. Am empty back pack is light and you won't even notice it. I guarantee there are things that you use everyday that you can put in there. Like a user below me suggested, a water bottle is a great first thing to carry with you everywhere.

It's not that you might go to the store either. OP explicitly said they do not know when they are going to shop. It is random, therefore either change your behavior to be more predictable or prepare yourself for your known unknown. Excuses like these are childish unless you have accessibility issues.

Hell, not just as garbage bags.

I reuse my grocery-store plastic bags whenever I need to transport a bunch of small objects somewhere.

Let's say I have some snacks at home, and I want to bring them to the office. What to do? Grab a Kroger bag and put my snacks in there!

(edit: also, since I check my mail infrequently, they come in really handy when I go to the mailbox, especially if I'm doing so on the way to work)

Does anyone buy trash bags that small?

Either way, I don't generate nearly enough by trash to keep up with the stream of grocery bags I bring home.

> Does anyone buy trash bags that small?

This is one of those areas where I think it makes a big difference whether you live in a proper house or a tiny apartment.

In a small studio, a large trash bag can take a week or more to fill up, but can start to smell up the small space after only a couple days. So I—and a lot of people I know—use smaller bags and take them out once every couple days.

> Without plastic bags, I'll have to buy garbage bags (which are too large)

Use produce bags for trash instead. I don't even bag all of my produce - just delicate leafy greens and things like green beans that's hard to keep together - and even then I have enough bags for my trash.

> since I can't reuse paper bags!

Why not? Is it because they fall apart or something?

1. Buy smaller garbage bags. They definitely exist here in Europe; I can't imagine they don't in the US?

2. Why can't you use one of the paper bags provided by the retailers to support your whimsical impromptu shopping trips? Or are you really a very regular whimsical shopper?

> Or are you really a very regular whimsical shopper?

All the time, yeah. I don't usually plan to go shopping, I just walk into the grocery store when I pass by.

I probably will use paper bags—but, ironically, I feel crappy about the environmental impact, since I can't reuse them as garbage bags.

Here in San Francisco, we use a paper shopping bag with a flimsy biodegradable plastic bag wrapped around the bottom as a compost bag (the outer bag keeps in water/grease and keeps the paper bag from falling apart). The SF compost bin accepts a wide variety of material, and as a result we don’t generate much landfill trash.

What do you use for recycling? I use the paper bags for paper and cans

I use boxes from Amazon or similar. I have far too many of those already.

I use one garbage bag 5-8 times. I continuously sort what I can to be recycled then dump the rest out of the bag directly into the bin. The bag will last for two months or so before I need to get rid of it and use it when I dump the trash. Try this?

I almost never use garbage bags. The trick is separating out food scraps / recycling / non-recyclable garbage. Most of the actual 'garbage' is...plastic bags from packaged food items and dental floss.

Disclaimer: I live in a city where composting / recycling / trash is done in separate containers. Even if one doesn't life in such an area it shouldn't stop one from pre-separating anyway even if it gets merged.

Won't work sadly, my building has a garbage shoot. I can't just dump loose trash down that!

(Also feels kind of gross? The point of a small bag is so the trash won't stink up my tiny apartment.)

Get a little covered bin for under the sink or something then get a mini bag. U will easily be able to dump it into the chute. No excuses!

There's actually a sign on the trash chute that says not to dump loose items in there. Has to be in a bag of some kind.

You're not the use-case this is trying to solve however.

Wouldn't charging 10 cents per bag (or more) solve the problem and allow for my use case?

I also don't think using plastic bags as garbage bags is all that unusual for people in small NYC apartments. A coworker was voicing the same complaint on Friday, for instance.

It's definitely not unusual.

Source: I do the same thing and I live in New York

Me too

Seattle permits retailers to charge 5 cents per large paper bag.

What’s wrong with paper bags for your use case?

I can't use them as garbage bags because they can't hold anything even slightly wet, like food scraps.

I mean, I use paper bags for recycling and doubled up for compost. And then I buy garbage bags for extremely cheap of amazon or the corner store.

For food scraps, get a bag-free composting bin. I use one that uses one big silicone reversible thing that inverts to push food out and can be thrown in the dishwasher: https://www.amazon.com/Polder-Composter-Flexible-silicone-em...

For other things (kids/pets/etc.), purchase biodegradeable bags. There was a recent article on this subject: https://theconversation.com/plastic-bag-bans-can-backfire-if...

"Who were the people who reused plastic carryout bags pre-ban, and presumably bore the burden of buying trash bags post-ban? I found that bag reuse was higher for people who purchased pet items and baby items – in other words, who needed to collect and dispose of excrement. In 2017, nearly 6 percent of U.S. households had a child under 5 years old, 44 percent owned a dog, and 35 percent owned a cat." My take on this is that if you express the interest in having a child or a pet, you can afford the burden of buying biodegradable bags to handle waste. Perhaps there could be some assistance program for some low-income affected segment (i.e. adding biodegradable bags to a WIC-friendly item list).

Sigh, I know I should be composting, but it's difficult. It's not offered in my area, and I don't want the smell in my tiny apartment.

> My take on this is that if you express the interest in having a child or a pet, you can afford the burden of buying biodegradable bags to handle waste.

If the law said that stores were allowed to give out biodegradable plastic bags (maybe at some small surcharge?) I'd be fine with that. Doubly so if the law actually suggested or incentivized switching to these types of bags. As far as I'm aware this isn't what's happening.

The numbers in that article were pretty striking to me, btw:

> A shopper would need to reuse a cotton carryout bag 131 times to reduce its global warming potential [...] below that of plastic carryout bags.

> To have less impact on the climate than plastic carryout bags also reused as trash bags, consumers would need to use the cotton bag 327 times.

>Sigh, I know I should be composting, but it's difficult. It's not oferred in my area, and I don't want the smell in my tiny apartment.

Even if composting isn't offered, you could still 'fake' compost (i.e. use a composting bin anyway to reduce the need for plastig bags, but toss the food scraps in the main trash bin outside) I live in a small apartment and cook most my meals and haven't noticed much smell. You may need to double check your local rules, but last I checked mine there was no requirement by the waste-handling authority for apartment tenants to put their waste into separate bags.

>The numbers in that article were pretty striking to me, btw

Yes, wish the article did a better job of measuring it in years or months though it gets very subjective. Assuming you grab groceries weekly, the par is reached within a bit over two years. That doesn't seem too bad.

The comparison of trash bags to reuising a cotton bag 327 times doesn't make sense as that's not generally something one would do. I interpret that as saying that you can retire a cotton shopping bag, assuming shopping weekly with it, after a bit over ~6 years.

> The comparison of trash bags to reuising a cotton bag 327 times doesn't make sense as that's not generally something one would do.

They're saying: "Compared to plastic shopping bags which are also reused as trash bags, you'd have to reuse a shopping bag (just for shopping) 327 times before there's any carbon reduction."

Have you ever tried to carry a paper shopping bag farther than your driveway to your kitchen? They tear at the slightest movement, the handles fall off, even condensation from a cold beverage bottle is enough to cause them to disintegrate.

I'm all for getting rid of plastic bags, but paper bags are not at all viable for grocery shopping on foot. You can't walk three city blocks with arms full of paper bags. Your groceries will explode all over the street.

None of this is a problem if you plan your shopping and keep a stock of reusable bags, but the original complaint about spontaneous shopping is a valid concern.

I end up buying new reusable bags very often, and while that may feel like it's beneficial to the environment, it's not as good as it seems. Each reusable bag has as much plastic as dozens of single-use ones, and eventually they end up getting thrown out too. People don't reuse them as often as they should. I think it's better, since they end up in landfills instead of blowing around the environment and landing in water, and overall it's helping change attitudes.

> Have you ever tried to carry a paper shopping bag farther than your driveway to your kitchen? They tear at the slightest movement, the handles fall off, even condensation from a cold beverage bottle is enough to cause them to disintegrate.

Yes, and you're exaggerating. You need to considerably overload a paper bag to cause it to tear, and even when I load up a bag with beer and milk cartons and everything I haven't had this happen. Maybe your supermarket doesn't know how to make a good paper bag?

All of us don't live in sunny California. What happens when it's raining?

I live in Seattle, and paper bags hold up remarkably well, even in the rainy weather- and in my experience, they’ve been more sturdy and hold more than than plastic bags, especially when doubled up.

We also use them for our recycling- in my opinion they’re much better than plastic bags in because they stand up on their own.

Use case? :O

FWIW they did this in Austin, TX (before, as usual, it was overturned by the state lege a couple years later) and IMO in was a really big success. There used to be a ton of plastic bag litter downtown, especially along the creeks that empty into the river that runs through downtown Austin, and after the bag ban there was a huge visible reduction in this litter.

How did they handle the fact that transport of paper bags has a significantly higher energy cost?

You've failed to count the energy cost of removing that waste plastic from the environment.

If that’s true then it is a solvable problem, use green energy. How to get people to do so? Carbon taxes for example, and other means.

They developed a new transportation system in Austin running on renewable energy? I didn't suggest, and wouldn't, that the problem wasn't solvable. It's simply not a foregone conclusion that paper bags are 100% upside with no drawbacks. Their increased weight has to be paid for. This may be an acceptable cost, but one can't simply wish it didn't exist. It's disappointing that I asked a very straightforward question about what Austin did in support of their effort and got such an answer.

Problems can be solved incrementally and/or converted to other types of problems. In this case it would be converting destroying the environment with plastics pollution to destroying it with climate change. But its imho easier to switch energy source than fishing microplastics out of the ocean.

It’s dissapointing that you take this as an attack.

I am aware that problems can be solved incrementally. I haven't the slightest idea what any of this has to do with what Austin, Texas actually did which was the question asked.

Except for whole foods and central market. Always poorer people have to deal with this kind of unproven laws.

What? The ban was applied the same, everywhere. Stores were allowed to give out paper bags with handles on the idea that those are more reusable (and, IMO this is true, and in any case those bags are much easier to recycle, or heck compost, and they don't cause anywhere near the litter problem).

If anything, who do you think has to deal more with the problem of plastic bag litter, folks in Tarrytown or those in East Austin? Poor people want a clean environment too you know.

Poor ppl have to carry groceries using public transport. Paper bags are not good

So get reuseable bags? They're $1/each at Trader Joe's and last years and years. You won't need more than 4 over the course of 10 years.

I've had them since I was poor.

Here we use the big hiking backpacks for a big purchase. How would you even carry those amounts in plastic bags? You plan these trips, so you bring enough bags with you.

I carried wet vegetables in paper bags on public transportation for years with no problem. Where are you hearing this?

from personal experience. have you ever carried a cartons of milk in a paper bag?

No, I don't do that, I use the handle on the milk cartons.

I am talking about boxes of milk. Ppl aren't just buying vegetables.

/shrug the jugs were always cheaper by like a dollar so I bought them

and your point being ?

Originally, that I've carried wet heavy things in paper bags without issue lol. I can see though that we've gotten sidetracked.

When I was poor I carried groceries on public transport using a large rolling suitcase on wheels. Worked pretty well and would not have been a problem with paper bags.

Superthin plastic bags are better? I walk home with groceries all the time, I've had many plastic bags break on me, but never a paper or cloth one.

Perhaps instead of destroying the environment to help the poor, we should simply give the poor more money and stop them being poor at all.

Reusable bags are cheap and durable.

paper bags are far preferable for walking around with to thin plastic bags with weak "handles"

The paper bags I get from whole foods with the glued on handles routinely break before I even get to my car.

I don't think I've ever had a disposable plastic bag handle break on me, and I used to walk about a mile to get groceries for a number of years.

Poor people in America drive. The rich live in places that are served by transit.

Actually, a lot of poor people can't afford cars and have to use busses or similar, in areas where they take vastly longer than driving.

Poor people simply don't buy grocery, in fact many of them haven't "bought" anything except lottery tickets and an occasional pizza in decades.

Could cities be served better if instead of completely banning plastics, they put a huge tax on most kinds of plastics and used the proceeds to cleanup the environment?

The simple logic here is it would force everyone to use plastics only where they are absolutely necessary and avoid the unforeseen problems that usually accompany complete bans.

Yeah. A more nuanced approach would probably have just as much positive outcome without the collateral damage of a straight up ban. However, the politicians are not incentivized to do this because it does not come with the virtue points that you get by taking a hardliner stance (e.g. a ban) so it never happens.

From my very limited understanding pigouvian taxes do not work well if they're dealing with leaky faucets. That is, if I can just drive across state lines from New York to New Jersey to buy plastic bags, New York's plastic tax wouldn't work too well.

I don't really understand the scenario. You're at the grocery store, and you would drive to New Jersey to get a plastic bag? If people can actually think of bringing plastic bags when going shopping, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

I think the GP's argument is that retailers (not consumers) would cross state lines to buy plastic bags for their stores.

There are pretty simple ways around this, though. For instance, tax based on number of plastics handed out, not the number purchased.

You can sell reusable plastic bags so if absolutely necessary you can always buy them.

Our local Aldi's is like this - they don't provide free disposable plastic bags, but if you forget to bring canvas ones you can buy thicker reusable ones for $1 a piece.

Huge tax, no, but making people pay for externalities is fair and a bit less extreme than an outright ban.

We need exactly that for the really big environmental problem - global warming. So far it's not great, only Europe has a CO2 credits system and while it's designed to be plugged into a global system they're mostly a joke.

But then the appeal of the likes of Green New Deals are stealing away the attention.

I find there is a worrying lack of thorough quantitative analysis with these types of bans and attempts to internalize externalities. This law is a statement by lawmakers predicated on the cost of single use plastic bags and even paper bags to be greater than the efficiencies they introduce to society at large. It seems to me that such a statement is extremely hard to quantify. Furthermore this may also be a regressive tax where poor people disproportionately benefit from the benefits provided by single use plastic bags and the rich pay more of the consequences. This is without even taking into account the unintended consequences of such laws. Another poster even mentioned the health hazards that could be introduced.

The “efficiency” cost is being absorbed by other communities: https://www.riverkeeper.org/blogs/docket/plastic-pollution-d...

Many European cities have done fine without single-use plastic bags for years. The cost of a reusable bag is still negligible and should have no impact on purchasing power.

Finally, there is a ton of data on the impact of plastic pollution in local rivers, sea life and other ecosystems. What other data are you looking for?

How do plastic bags end up in the river? Do people just throw these things on the ground or into the river?

I wish anti-littering laws could effectively be enforced, but I realize it's tough to do.

Studies show landfills are the source for 80% of plastic waste found in the oceans, presumably coming from badly managed landfills where garbage washed out by rain, or illegal dumping.

Can you share a link to studies?

There was a discussion about sources of ocean plastic pollution and good amount of source-digging done by fellow HN user here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18731171

There does not seem to be definitive data on the source of plastic pollution in the oceans, so I would really like to see the sources for "80% ocean plastic is from the landfills".

Who cares how those bags end up there?

To figure it out and then properly enforce you'd need spend resources that could be better used elsewhere.

If we know how they end up there it will help understand how well solutions will work obviously. Are people flushing them down the toilet? Does the wind catch the bag before anyone can react? Do people throw them on the ground because their pockets are full and there is no trash bin for miles?

Hint: they don't disappear after use.

The sarcasm doesn't explain how they end up in the environment instead of being buried in the landfill or burned at the garbage-burning facility.

The minutiae doesn't matter. Every bag that doesn't end up in a landfill or incinerated, will end up causing trouble in the environment. You know the disposal rate won't be 100%. Why worry about the specifics?

Because every environmental policy should be based on cost-benefit analysis. Otherwise we could just ban all plastic, all fossil fuels and much more.

It seems to me that you, in this case, intuitively think that cost-benefit analysis sways entirely one way even though you don't know the specifics. But the bar for banning stuff should be higher than that.

It's not just about this particular policy. Every time a restrictive policy is introduced by hand-wavy feel-good arguments (even with best of intentions) it becomes more acceptable to introduce other future policies in a similar way. And if it doesn't actually produce results it's actively harmful - we feel like we're doing something but we're not. Maybe we should just forget about plastic bags and invest in putting more garbage cans around the city or ramp-up inspections on landfill management (thus potentially solving the problem with plastic bags, straws, bottles, utensils etc. with one stroke). How could we even tell? By knowing the specifics.

And we have not even started to discuss alternative, less heavy-handed measures, like levying a tax on each plastic bag or compulsory minimum prices for them at the store (seems to work great, according to some commenters. It was introduced where I live some time ago but I didn't notice any change because there wasn't much litter even before the change).

Is the disposal rate of garbage bags 100%? Should we also ban them?

I imagine it's much higher, at least 5 nines, mostly because they tend to go straight from their rolls to containing garbage. They also don't blow away so easily.

However we probably should stop using them. Merely banning will just be met with confusion, since they're an integral part of the waste disposal system. But in my experience, and the experience of others in this thread, a good food waste + recycling system virtually eliminates all solid waste, and therefore the need for garbage bags. All solid waste, that is, apart from plastic packaging. Probably we should get rid of that too.

Are you serious? You don’t even care if the bags are actually coming from the the locations where the bags are being banned?

To play devil's advocate a bit: If most of the plastic bags in NYC were coming from New Jersey, that wouldn't be a reason to allow them in New York. It would just emphasize that they should be restricted in as many jurisdictions as possible.

I don't think that particular reasoning works - perhaps New Yorkers (hypothetically) behave very nicely and properly dispose of plastic bags, so there is no need for ban.

> Do people just throw these things on the ground or into the river?

Sadly, yes. I have seen people in NYC literally drop plastic bags on the ground.

No issues in cambridge. They've had this ban for a few years now. I dont see riots in the street demanding free plastic bags.

That's the fun part about this debate: there's data. It works.

I was doubtful before my local area banned them, now most people love trading a slight inconvenience for a lot less litter.

And then the next area to propose a ban has a similar debate, usually without considering the results of the previous experiment.

A lot of the smaller shops just ignore the ban, though. It's still helped quite a bit, but it hasn't been complete.

Why are you sure there hasn’t been a thorough quantitative analysis? Since many laws require strong reasons, evidence of public support, periods for public comment, votes by politicians, etc., I’d probably assume it was at least somewhat vetted. Did that not happen in New York?

I would agree that the efficiency benefit to society of single use plastic bags is probably difficult to measure, perhaps because the benefit compared to reusable bags is very small, and maybe even goes away completely after there’s a public behavior change and widespread expectation that free bags aren’t available?

There are some known and large and already quantified downsides to single use plastic bags, plastic production is a health hazard for the workers and nearby communities, and consumes non-renewable resources both in production and transportation. Litter on the streets and in the oceans are causing problems. Plastic in landfills leaching into groundwater is an ongoing issue. All for the “benefit” of being able to carry something 100 feet once and then throw away? It seems so incredibly costly and wasteful in return for an immeasurable convenience... how much proof do we really need?

I think I may have misunderstood you, but just to clarify: By “Furthermore this may also be a regressive tax where poor people disproportionately benefit from the benefits provided by single use plastic bags and the rich pay more of the consequences,” are you saying it’s a regressive tax that is biased against the rich and therefore unfair to the rich?

I mean disposable plastic bags benefit the poor more than they hurt the rich. For example, perhaps the poor use those plastic bags as trash bags for other waste instead of buying proper trash bags. I know I often did.

From a European perspective, they can be regressive in the sense that poorer people tend to walk / bus to the shops, where carrying bulkier bags is a pain, whereas car owners can just stash them in the boot.

From what I understand in New York, that dynamic may be reversed though.

Carrying the reusable bags that are typically sold at grocery stores or given out at events would be a pain.

I have some bags that are made of a very thin nylon fabric that fold up into a built-in pocket. They take up very little space. I just keep one or two in my regular "going out of the house" bag, so they're always handy. They're sturdy enough that filling both of them with groceries would be more bulk than I actually want to carry home from the bus, so, AFAIC, the problem is handled.

I guess losing plastic grocery bags as garbage bags might be minorly annoying if they were the only source of plastic waste in my life, but, realistically, there are so very many other single-use plastic bags that aren't covered by any of these bans: Chip bags, bread bags, produce bags, etc. My "bin liners for very small bins" needs are still well covered.

Long story short, I have a hard time believing this will actually hurt less wealthy people in urban areas all that much. It's going to be much more annoying to people who drive to the grocery store and now have to remember to keep enough bags to contain $250 worth of groceries at one time in their car.

I've experienced it from both sides.

First job, living in town within walking distance of shops and work, didn't want to carry a bag of bags, especially in summer without big winter coat pockets, so trips to the shop after work had to be pre planned.

Now have a car with a bag with 20 bags permanently in the boot, easy, no planning required.

In Boston, I usually saw pedestrians bring with them those little folding grocery strollers so that they don’t have to carry the bags. Anyone with that sizeable regular haul of groceries isn’t carrying them by hand all the time.

There is still a surprising amount of plastic bags left even if you eliminate the ones for carrying. The bag toilet paper comes in, for example, works pretty well.

Toilet paper companies in my EU country are already replacing those with paper versions.

OK, I misunderstood you completely and was astounded at my interpretation, thank you for clarifying :) In Turkey they introduced a fee for plastic bags and many people were upset because of what you wrote. My mother would never buy garbage bags except the largest ones that could not be substituted by grocery bags.

Why we do that at home (uk) and we are by no means poor

You can use paper bags for the same

Not for anything wet...

Paper cups....

> the efficiencies they introduce to society at large

What are you talking about?

The most dogged of all reductive points of view is that (1) all processes are Darwinian, and (2) market economic, so therefore (3) if people want plastic bags and get them for a long time, therefore it must be efficient.

It never occurred to people that those premises could all be true, but it’s actually all about what you call efficient, or what the meaning of long time is, or basically any sufficiently arcane detail that would require like, actual knowledge or reading a book.

I usually have reusable canvas and plastic bags, I just don't have a strong incentive to remember to carry them with me. I suspect you'll find people will own a multitude of reusable bags, and given that their value will be driven down by necessity, the higher quality bags will end up becoming trivially affordable and accessible to everyone.

You might ask yourself, "What's already happened at all of the places that have already banned single-use plastic bags?"

I agree. Its hard to decide when to let the market and efficiencies deal with a problem or regulations. I don't have the answer but I always appreciate the discussion and appreciate someone making a decision and finding out what happens next.

> I find there is a worrying lack of thorough quantitative analysis with these types of bans

Maybe monetary cost isn't the most important thing to factor in.

How about an ecological analysis?


Would you please stop breaking the site guidelines? You've been posting political flamebait, which is against the rules, as well as name-calling, in the sense we use the term here.

If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules when posting to HN, we'd be grateful.

Prepare for a hepatitis outbreak...

"Some health officials speculate that one trigger of the outbreak might have been the state’s plastic bag ban, which went into effect in November. What had once been a practice of last resort — defecating in a plastic bag and tossing it in the trash — is no longer an option"


A good amount of countries have already banned plastic bags without such issue. If this outbreak was really rrlated to plastic bag ban, there must be another factor that must be much more relevant than the plastic bags themselves. Just look at the list of countries that already banned those: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase-out_of_lightweight_pla...

I wonder what that other factor could be?

Maybe people living in abject conditions in the street and defecating in the open? Just a hunch.

Obviously homelessness is the core issue, but unfortunately most countries let people live in those conditions. Nonetheless, there was no outbreaks like the one mentioned in the article in other places banning plastic bags. So assuming that there will be the same sad consequences in New York is just wrong. It would be great that nobody had to leave in street, but in the current situation there must be something specific in San Diego that caused the outbreak, and it's obviously not just banning plastic bags.

This is anecdotal, but having lived on both coasts, public defecation is not nearly as prevalent on the East Coast.

New York doesn't have a public bathroom system per se, but government offices like libraries are extremely prevalent, and those will have public bathrooms. Some stores also have bathrooms that are more or less open to the public.

US cities in my experience have very few public toilets. The only exceptions I can think of are the ones in parks & beaches.

If society has to rely on "defecating in a plastic bag and tossing it in the trash" for its health safety - it has much bigger problems than banning plastic bags imho.

Sure. But playing the devil's advocate. If that's the case then society had a working solution with plastic bags.

I don't understand how anyone could think that forcing the homeless to sh*t in plastic bags and disposing of them safely is any kind of solution to a hepatitis outbreak?

The root cause was mentioned in the linked article:

"At the same time, the city was locking and removing bathrooms to help control the rampant drug and prostitution trade they’d spawned"

As was a more humane solution:

"Today, the tents are gone. There are clusters of newly installed portable toilets open and guarded 24 hours a day. More than 60 new hand-washing stations dot the city."

A solution to a symptom, certainly... But not the disease.

If removing plastic causes this sort of thing, then something critical has been ignored. It's probably best if the society faces that problem and deals with it.

If locks are needed to protect property and safety, something critical has been ignored. It's probably best if society faces that problem and deals with it.

If formal schooling is needed to educate children, something critical has been ignored. It's probably best if society faces that problem and deals with it.

If medication is needed to keep people healthy, something critical has been ignored. It's probably best if society faces that problem and deals with it.

There are no silver bullets, only bullets. Ignore them at your peril.

Having worse sanitation than the Roman Empire is not comparable to the inevitable breakdown of human form that comes with age.

Platitudes are cheap.

Examine a statement to see if it's logic bears out before saying that it's impossible to approach safely.

Formal education is helpful in treating the root cause of the problem it's addressing, that of knowledge and skill.

Complaining disposable plastic bags are necessary for sanitation because of a large homeless society doesn't treat the root: Why are so many people homeless? (And yes, that problem is difficult and requires a multi-faceted approach... But plastic bags to pick up human shit isn't the solution.)

a) Taxing workers to give non-workers free homes in premium markets violates most voters' intuitions about fairness.

b) Restricting internal migration or treating people from certain places preferentially also violates most voters' intuitions about fairness.

If American democracy is to end homelessness, anyone must be able to move to New York/San Francisco and immediately obtain a home there that neither they nor anyone else pays for.

Holding out for this doesn't seem like a good plan.

Ok, now we can bring even more visibility to the terrifying issue that people apparently are forced to shit in plastic bags.

New York has much stricter laws around getting homeless into shelters than California does.

California could clearly benefit from this. Housing here is treated as a luxury rather than a right. There are plenty on the streets that should arguably be in institutional care.

NY is the same, just you'll get moved on if you try to set up camp on the street.

No, New York mandates that everyone who wants a bed in a shelter gets one. The City does a lot to try to get people into shelters, unfortunately, some people would rather be on the street than in a shelter (some due to mental health issues, some due to concerns about safety in shelters).

Any tent or cardboard makeshift sleeping spot will get destroyed if reported. This isn't SF.

It's regrettable that there are people living on the streets, but whose housing in particular do they have a right to? Or to whose labor to provide them with housing? Is it more just to provide them with housing by coercion, or to make laws and regulations in such a way as to encourage and reward charitable activity? Or is there another way that doesn't require an implicit gun at the givers' heads?

Natural resources are fenced off by society, to great profit of the wealthy class. It's not unreasonable to ask society to provide the bare necessities for the least fortunate.

Society doesn't have to be a raw libertarian "paradise" - it's acceptable to say "we should all, together, help house the homeless (with our tax money).

Banning childbirth or immigration if a fully owned home is not owned by the new person.

> owned by the new person

You think that unborn children should be required to legally own property before they are allowed to be delivered?

I've heard of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" but this is a new level of absurdity.

Yeah, as in parents should commit to donating them a home pre-birth, along with insurance on it and they should not be allowed to sell unless they own another home

Then no one will ever be homeless.

That's the only non-state solution that guarantees this outcome (well, barring major catastrophes that destroy the home and cause the insurance to not be effective at replacing it).

The climate will do that.

Is America even a first-world nation?

"Sorry, we can't get rid of plastic problem because that's actually how we address our public sanitation and homelessness problems."

This seems like a problem to be solved by increasing access to public restrooms.

Counterpoint: increasing access to public restrooms results in unuseable public restrooms. As someone who (a) likes to 'hike' in-city but (b) has a small bladder, I rely on public restrooms on city trails, and in my admittedly small experience (Fort Worth and San José) they don't just become disgusting, but actively get vandalised within a very short time, after which repairs understandably take a very long time.

Somehow the ones in Ann Arbor and Chicago don't seem to get such harsh treatment. I'm not sure why; maybe those cities just budget a lot more for maintenance.

"Some ... speculate ... might have been..." I'd need a lot more convincing to say something as bold as "prepare for a hepatitis outbreak."

This is a great example of intended consequences of making laws. Thanks for sharing never would have thought of that

You mean unintended?

NYC at least has tons of public bathrooms that are currently closed but could easily be reopened again.

Why are they closed?

Because they're a maintenance nightmare.

Wow, I didn’t realize that was an option.

Are people really asking themselves “what am I supposed to shit in now?”

The ban in California has backfired, in my opinion. Many stores, including major chains like Safeway, still give out plastic bags. However, they are very thick plastic that they call "reusable" to get around the law banning "single-use" plastic bags. It obviously goes against the intent of the law.

They are fairly sturdy, reusable bags, so it isn't really going against the intent of the law. I don't see them blowing around or find them in our yard like I used to with the disposable plastic bags. The stores I shop at don't give them away either, they charge ~$.25.

I think it's met the intended goal of less plastic litter. I live in SF and hardly ever see a plastic bag lying on the sidewalk or blowing around. It's pretty typical to see people bring their own bags to the store which hardly anyone did in Pennsylvania where I grew up. Also, the reusable plastic bags are heavier and less likely to blow out of trash cans.

> I live in SF and hardly ever see a plastic bag lying on the sidewalk or blowing around.

I haven’t noticed any difference. SF still has tons of litter. Less of it is plastic bags, but that wasn’t much of the volume of litter anyway.

If we’re going to tax things based on their negative externalities, how about starting with hypodermic needles? The SF DPW picks up over 13,000 used needles per month.[1] They’re often left in parks where dogs and children investigate them and risk contracting hepatitis or HIV.

If a plastic bag ban is worth it for the visual improvement, then restrictions or taxes on needles should be a slam dunk.

1. http://www.ktvu.com/news/discarded-dirty-needles-on-sf-sidew...

> I haven’t noticed any difference. SF still has tons of litter. Less of it is plastic bags ...

Sounds like you have noticed a difference?

Unless you are suggesting that there is some "conservation of litter" principle that ensure that the total amount of litter is fixed, so reducing one kind of litter causes other kinds to increase?

As for your needles argument, would a tax on needles really reduce the total externalities? Sure, it would result in less needles being bought, but that may result in move people sharing needles and transmitting diseases resulting in a much more significant cost. Something should be done about the needles, but it is not clear (a) that taxing them is a good idea, and (b) what this has to do with plastic bags.

> It's pretty typical to see people bring their own bags to the store which hardly anyone did in Pennsylvania where I grew up.

I moved from CA to Pittsburgh, and people look at me like an alien when I take out reusable bags at the local grocery store. It’s pretty bizzare.

I think the constant reminder that reusable is the only option probably injects the idea of just carrying your shyet into the collective consciousness. To what degree I don't know, but the few times I've bought one of those reusable bags I just never used it and brought a backpack or opposable thumbs next time.

By the way, does anyone know why a lot of shops on the east coast will bag single items? I went to a CVS to buy some sunscreen and they put it in a plastic bag without even asking if I needed one.

I'm from the East coast and wonder the same thing. In one supermarket I go to, they double bag everything. I have to tell them not to do that and they get all confused and look at me weird. I would lift up the single bag with two half gallons in it to show them that one bag is enough.

Double-bagging has got to be the most ridiculous thing ever. If a single bag is not strong enough to carry the groceries so that double-bagging becomes standard... Why not improve the bags so that a single bag is enough for all cases? The cost per bag will increase, but you'll also cut the bag use in half?

My friend had a cafe in the Houston suburbs once ages ago. He splurged for these dank cardboard cups that didn't need the little circle of extra cardboard to keep from burning your hand - he didn't like those cause he'd see them on the ground everywhere and he believed they made people more likely to accidentally drop their cups.

Anyway, something like 90% of people would ask where the little cardboard sleeves were in his shop or through the drive through, even if he explained he got good cups that don't require it. It just wasn't a concept for people - they needed their sleeves or they'd burn their fingers, of course!

I think it's worked out quite well, honestly. The ones you now pay 10¢ for are much higher quality, and I can use them for a bunch of stuff around the house, where the old ones were so feeble as to be only minimally useful even as grocery bags (tended to tear/rip even on the walk in from the car, etc)

As for their effect on plastic pollution in the biosphere, developed countries already contribute very little, simply because they have sanitation services that collect trash and use landfills. And plastic in a landfill isn't hurting anything. The major source of plastic pollution in the environment comes from rivers that pass through countries that have minimal to no garbage collection. That's the pressing issue to solve. Plastic bans in single-use bags in cities is, IMO, minimally to not effective in terms of plastic pollution per se, although the quality of the bags in use has now gone up, which is nice.

Single use plastic bags cannot be processed in a lot of recycling centers (obviously: varies by state, but my area can no longer process the thin plastic bags).

They get clogged in the conveyor belts, and China has stopped accepting them in single-stream recycling. There was a time, just a few years ago, when cities would gain money from the plastic bags that were recycled. That time has gone, it now costs cities money to separate plastic bags from recycling streams and put it into landfills instead.

Its basic economics: its no longer cost efficient to recycle, so it won't be recycled. And now its a net-negative to recycling programs.

Dallas had something similar during the short period of time we had a 5¢ (or was it 10¢?) plastic bag fee [0].

CVS and 7/11 replaced their bags with "reusable" plastic bags that were thicker and sturdier than the usual bags. They made a huge stink in the press about how instead of providing single-use bags for the fee, they were getting rid of them entirely, but it was just a smokescreen.

This at least was a better solution than what everyone else did. Walmart brought their self-checkout lines to a screeching halt, because you had to go up to an attendant and tell them exactly how many plastic bags you wanted before you could bag anything. I came close to just getting rolls of quarters and saying "as many as this can buy". Other supermarkets, such as Tom Thumb (owned by Safeway and later Albertsons) would've been seamless if not for the cashiers insisting on overstuffing the bags to the point stuff falling out and the bags ripping because they "just want to save you money". I had to keep asking them "please split that into two bags, because it's going to rip open on the way home", and the cashier would shout at me "But I'm trying to save you money!". Again, I fantasized about handing them whole rolls of quarters and saying "this many bags, please", just to shut them up.

[0] Yeah, that was a disaster. It was massively unpopular, and less than a year later, we had city council elections, and the new council voted to repeal the fee. Not terribly long after that, there was a court ruling that determined that cities in Texas couldn't put any kind of restrictions on plastic bags because Texas has a really ambiguously-worded law about reserving waste-management decisions to the state government only (the legal challenge had actually begun before the Dallas bag fee even began, and there are still a lot of arguments over that ruling because that law is so poorly-written that it can be interpreted in so many ways).

> Walmart brought their self-checkout lines to a screeching halt

Yet self-service works fine in the UK despite a ban on free bags. Shoppers are incentivised to bring their own by peer-pressure of people waiting for the checkout to clear.

When I had a small family, I reused most single-use bags for my trash cans, but nowadays I can't be switching the bag every two hours... now I buy larger bags and "recycle" most shopping bags (they probably burn them).

Here's a hot tip: you can reuse those plastic bags!

They've been out of use at the major supermarkets in Melbourne since last year. I support the change.

However, I find the "bring your reusable bag" system unworkable for the following reason: I don't always know I'm going to go to the supermarket in advance, and don't always go straight from home. Sometimes I'd like to go on the way home from work, but I can't, because my bags are at home.

Can anyone explain why we don't simply have a system where you borrow reusable bags for a refundable deposit, then bring them back all at once when you're ready? I want to just pay 50c for each bag I borrow, let them pile up at home until I have 10 or 20, then bring them all back and get my money back - maybe minus 10 cents to run the system. This was we reuse bags, but I don't have to bring them with me, which is just impractical sometimes. This seems obvious to me, but I haven't seen it anywhere. Obviously, people would be free to still bring their own bags if they prefer.

That's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure the problem it solves is worth the implementation cost. It's really trivially easy to bring a reusable bag with you when you go to work, on the off-chance you might go shopping. We're talking a couple cubic inches of volume and a few dozens of grams of weight.

Why did they forget Washington which has also banned single use plastic bags earlier this month?


There doesn't seem to be a clear concensus on how well these bans work. The clearest win seems to be a decrease in ocean plastic and street litter. But the advantage in terms of landfill or carbon emissions seem to be a wash at best and a net loss at worst.

I'd accept even a very slight net loss to be rid of the never-ending sight of plastic bags littering sidewalks, roads and parks. Call it a step towards eradicating an aesthetic externality for which industry has failed to come up with a viable solution.

Exactly. The main downside to plastic bags is not the carbon emissions or landfill contributions, it’s just what the OP said: ocean plastic and street litter. Each factor isn’t equally weighted.

Well, for Kenya, we do see a decrease in the amount not plastic in use. In fact, I now regularly have more than five reusable bags in my car boot. The only time I see plastic bags are in new purchases (wrappers for electronics...) and garbage bags. A total plastic ban does work!

Plastic bag usage by itself is neither positive nor negative. The parent comment was referring to the effects of plastic bag usage. What are the implications? What does it affect?

England introduced a 5p charge for plastic bags, and use dropped by 85% https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/30/england-...

> More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge, but this figure plummeted to slightly more than 500m in the first six months after the charge was introduced, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

That's a reduction of roughly 6 billion plastic bags.

The street litter win cannot be understated. Little black bodega bags are a plague on New York's streets.

Combined with the crazy wind here it also ends up everywhere (like at the top of tall trees)

> the advantage in terms of landfill or carbon emissions seem to be a wash at best and a net loss at worst

Is it even worth researching those two? Plastic shopping bags is so far down the list of landfill use and CO2 emissions that I feel there's better things to spend our time on.

Which I wish governments would get. Rather than ban plastic shopping bags, maybe work on funding MTA?

Emissions are far from the main problem here. Plastic is the #1 pollutant in oceans and rivers: https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58fed37be4b0c46f0781d426

And 80% of it originates from the land.

Read my comment again. I didn't dispute that point; I was talking about carbon emissions and landfill space.

But how much of that plastic is bags? And how much is consumer plastic and how much is industrial?

It's hard to find sources measuring weight/volume, but usually goes something like this:

> Extrapolating with the help of estimates from the 2017 National Geographic report that 79% of plastic in landfills ends as free floating waste worldwide (6.3 billion tons), it can be estimated that the U.S. is responsible for 327 billion bags that goes into the seas. And the global contribution to ocean debris is 3.95 trillion bags each year

I used to be a little pissy when first SF and then CA banned single use plastic, but now cannot imagine life with plastic bags for groceries. I have a few reusable bags and use them for 90% of my grocery shopping. I keep them in my car. In the rare situations I don’t have my bag, I can always pay 10cents and get the paper bag. Such a no brainer.

In Scotland instead of banning then they added a 5p charge. It seems to have worked reasonably well though I've not seen any actual figures on usage.

There's some precedent in NYC that suggests that such a charge would probably be effective. When Metrocards (renewable subway transportation passes) were introduced they were initially free so people didn't hesitate to simply jettison their old passes and simply obtain a new one rather than reload the old pass. The net effect was huge piles of discarded Metrocards near the turnstiles and dispensers. After the price of a card was raised to one dollar those piles of discarded Metrocards immediately disappeared.

The fact that this works is so irrational. I just spent $40 on groceries (and got $1.20 cash back). What's 10 cents for a bag?

It makes you actually think and opt-in, instead of go with the default.

It's 10 cents that are better in my bank account.

The parents Scottish. 5p isn't irrational!

Same with Seattle.

Has anyone recently and earnestly looked into degradable plastic bags? I’m really surprised that an acceptable substitute has not been adopted. It seems like the utility of plastic bags along with the substantial environmental costs would create a great market opportunity.

I think that one possible reason this idea hasn't taken off is that banning plastic bags means retailers can sell their own reusable bags. Often if I go to the grocery store and forget my bags, I'll just buy a new once since they're like $1.50 at the register. Sure I could just pay the $0.10 for a paper bag, but for some reason I often don't. So now I have like 10 reusable bags in my pantry.

It's such a shame, upstate NY is such a nice place but the state legislature (often catering to NYC) is a persistent thorn in our side. Most I know up here would eagerly vote to secede from Long Island given the option.

I live in North Florida and feel the same way about central and South Florida (Florida man anyone?) I think the State of Jefferson in California also feels the same way. Local government should decide these things, not state government.

Progress will be when single use plastic bottles and packaging is banned.

The EU parliament just approved a ban on some single use plastic packaging. Let's hope it will become more strict and widespread the coming years.


Does everyone else plan their grocery shopping in advance?!?!

I don't have a family. I work non-regular hours and in non-regular locations. I live in New York City.

I can't plan when I go grocery shopping. It's always when I'm coming home from... somewhere... and I have a free half-hour, and I'm lucky enough for it to be before all the grocery stores have closed... but I simply don't have a way to carry reusable bags with me all the time. And when I get a chance to shop it's usually ~3 bags' worth.

What exactly are people like me with non-predictable schedules and no car to keep reusable bags in supposed to do? This is a genuinely serious question.

Reusable bags are great for people with cars. I don't get how it fits NYC though.

Plus, I re-use every single bag for trash anyways. So now I'll have to buy trash bags, which are always much thicker than grocery bags, i.e. far more plastic. :( This will be inconvenient AND much worse for the environment in terms of plastic used. Literally lose-lose.

For most of the country with cars, I get it. But here in NYC, I'm not getting it. Especially since pollution/littering from plastic bags doesn't seem to be a problem here locally.

I'm really not trying to be difficult here. And I already do my best to live environmentally responsibly -- public transport and shared bicycles (Citibike), small apartment, responsible consumption, I recycle everything I can. But this just isn't thought-out.

IME these discussions are almost always driven by people that drive to the grocery store once a week to do their shopping and can't imagine life any other way. Then they can get on their high horse against people like us with much lower carbon footprints. Like you I don't know ahead of time whether I'm going to go shopping until I do and my plastic shopping bags become rubbish bags on a nearly 1 to 1 scale.

Things like this are usually just feel good measures all around, in the western world most of these bags will end up at rubbish sites and there are a million other sources of plastic waste that get left unaddressed. When they introduced laws against single use plastics here the number of bags used dropped 80%, but the 10c "reusable" ones have a lot more plastic, making it a net wash. And even then when you buy fresh veggies like potatoes and carrots they'll be bundled into a single use bag, either by the shop themselves or the customer.

They're are tonnes of ways to cut down plastic and other waste but everyone is preoccupied with this one convenient and hard to avoid use.

> when you buy fresh veggies like potatoes and carrots they'll be bundled into a single use bag

Simple - don't bag produce like potatoes or carrots if you're buying them loose. You can put them directly in your shopping cart/basket and transfer to your grocery bag after checking out. The only produce I bag is leafy greens and stuffy like green beans/okra (many small units hard to keep together).

Might I suggest carrying a small bag with you for your personal effects? Sure it's a change of habit for you, but with the ban you're going to have to change your habits anyway, and this means you can buy a nice, durable canvas shopping bag or something to that effect.

> So now I'll have to buy trash bags, which are always much thicker than grocery bags,

I re-use produce bags for trash. And I don't even bag all of my produce.

The produce bags at my supermarket are significantly smaller than the (normal-sized) grocery bags -- they can hold maybe 4 green peppers or large potatoes. (I've seen other supermarkets with much larger produce bags, but not at my local ones.)

They just don't hold enough volume to be useful as even small trash bags, on top of which they don't have handles so you have to use the top 1/3 of the bag to tie off, which makes them even smaller.

So they're too small to line even a small trash can with, or to hang from inside a cabinet door.

I have a 32oz yogurt container that I keep on my kitchen counter and line with a produce bag. That's the only "trash can" I need and most trash fits into it, believe it or not. I also compost food scraps at home though, which isn't an option available to everyone. If you compost food scraps and recycle, there honestly isn't that much trash left over. Most of my trash these days is non-recyclable plastic packaging.

> What exactly are people like me with non-predictable schedules and no car to keep reusable bags in supposed to do?

There are full-size reusable bags that fold into the approximate size of a pocket square; three of them can probably be carried easily in a typical pants pocket.

> So now I'll have to buy trash bags, which are always much thicker than grocery bags, i.e. far more plastic.

The trash bags that are roughly the same capacity as grocery bags are much thinner, and less plastic; large kitchen bags are thicker, but also hold several times the volume and mass that a grocery bag would handle.

My jeans pockets are already full with my wallet, keys, and cell phone. The idea that I have room to keep three folded up bags as well in my pockets at all times is ludicrous.

I mean, seriously, I couldn't even wad a single existing super-thin grocery bag into my pocket without it bulging uncomfortably and no room for anything else, let alone three.

And I have never in my life seen trash bags sold that are thinner that grocery bags. Grocery bags are the thinnest plastic I've ever seen, which makes sense for economic reasons. (I'm not talking about some gourmet thick grocery bags, I'm talking about your cheap-supermarket ones, which is where I shop.)

That's great, and I support it. It took a change in legislature for this to be possible.

You know what else is really missing - much harder than a plastic bag ban - enforcing a litter tossing ban. There's a --yes, I will say it-- culture in NYC of people tossing litter on the ground. A lot of this litter is plastic - bottles and then you have the disgusting candy and chip/junk food wrappers.

Unfortunately that is much harder, because there's no political appetitite in NYC now for punishing anyone for any crime that isn't a major violent crime. Almost all other crimes are to be ignored, because we're told, criminal justice reform of not enforcing "quality of life crimes" (and this is always said in quotation marks) is a path forward to redressing unequal and unfair enforcement. [edit: grammar]

So where do we stand, NYC, with our litter all over the street and sidewalk in both rich and poor neighborhoods, on subway platforms, inside subway cars and on the tracks (where they're responsible for a certain percentage of fires)?

I'll be glad to not see those damned plastic bags flying around in a spiral in the air and getting stuck in branches, but what about all the rest?

I wonder what it would take to eliminate all plastic bottles and candy wrappers at the source. I'm sure such a suggestion would be met with incredulity, but we survived half the 20th century without them - paper cartons and wrappers worked just fine. Look at the noisy reactions to the plastic bag ban - and yet nearly everyone who lives in such area now says it's great and they prefer it. Can it be done?

I've been using reusable material bags for grocery shopping for over a year. Nothing hard about it, just remember to take the bags back to the trunk. However, I am still using plastic bags for things like loose produce, or meat containers that I don't want to touch other things in my bag, so I don't know the alternatives if plastic bags go. Most of these plastic bags will be clean when empty, so I'll recycle them, and hope they will be recycled. As a millennial, I didn't know what it was like to live in a world without plastic, but reading https://www.onebrownplanet.com/life_before_plastic/ surely left me fascinated. Just half a century ago, people used to buy food wrapped in paper, and swap empty milk glass bottles for full ones. Although food was way harder to preserve, I bet it used to be way more healthy and preservatives free.

I'd love to hear more if anyone comes from that era, or knows stories about those times.

why do you need to use a plastic bag for loose produce?

For example, loose legumes (ie tomatoes) that need to be weighed. Can't think of an alternative to plastic bags

...don't use a bag? i can't see an alternative for things like snap peas, where the item count is very high and the items are small, but tomatoes don't need to be put into a bag.

and if you're worried about the germs it gets when put on the belt or when the cashier handles it or in your cart...well trigger warning: your food travels from a farm to the grocery store and is handled by at least 10 people before it gets put on the shelf.

Since stopping use of plastic bags I've found that loading and unloading the car is easier. I put items that I am not worried about getting damaged (cans, milk etc) in my 50 Liter back pack. Everything else generally fits in just two reusable bags that I bought from Amazon. I also have a set of re-usable bags for vegetables.

I'ts way easier bringing a backpack plus two bags in from the car.

I also use a backpack, since forever. Especially good if you don't have a car and need to walk the stuff home. These things last years of daily use - much much more, than even a reusable plastic bag can.

Right and it's great for travel too. I love it.

Now all that reminds me we got a plastic ban as well in Belgium a year or two ago. It had been coming for some years. After a month or two of sporadic comments in the media I noticed that somehow we now still have plastic bag in stores. For 5ç or something. Some are made of recycled material or environmental friendly. But we still have plastic bag. Meanwhile I have this americana picture of brown paper bags everywhere.

So maybe in a year NY'll be back somehow to some kind of plastic bag and that'll be it.

My guess is stores will give out extra-thick plastic bags and call them "reusable", which is what CVS and 7/11 did during the short time Dallas had a single-use plastic bag fee, and what someone else in this thread says Safeway does in CA right now.

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