I did not know the bag tax was coming to D.C. before I returned from my trip to Florida and started seeing signs at stores all over town. Since I never saw an original plan or proposal, I do not know what the official goals of the bag tax are, nor do I know where the money is going. That being said, I would like to say that based on my evaluation the bag tax has been extremely successful.
I graded the bag tax using three different categories. Most of the data I am quoting came from this Washington Post article that was published on Saturday January 23rd.
1. Number of bags used-
- Managers at stores that sell food or beverages say the switchover has cut the use of plastic bags by half or more.
- One Safeway in Northwest reports a falloff of more than 6,000 bags a week, about half of its former volume.
- Spice Express on Vermont Avenue, said his Indian takeaway is using about 60 percent fewer bags than before the year began.
2. Changes in behavior.
- More and more are bringing the reusable bags that many grocery stores have been giving away in recent weeks
- People are putting small purchases in their purses or briefcases
- Planning out your day before hand, to avoid getting bags
- Not shopping in DC
3. Increase conversation
- My poker group
- Additional Washington Post articles
The Post article above talks about the crazy lengths people are going to avoid taking bags. It is completely irrational to risk breaking $71 worth of wine to save $.10. But as people avoid paying the tax and plan their days around when they are shopping they are thinking about the bag tax. Eventually, paying $.05 per bag will become part of shopping, but right now it is causing a lot of chatter and personally, I believe that, that in its own makes the bag tax a huge success.
As a country we are not making huge steps toward reducing our carbon emissions or preserving our natural resources. This weekend alone, Congress announced that they will not sign a bill to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions (stating that it will cost the economy too many jobs, in a time when unemployment is already very high) and there was a huge oil spill (11,000 barrels of oil).
So if the big things aren’t getting better, maybe we need to start small and change the things we can.