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The pros and cons of the bag tax

January 20, 2010

In June, the DC council unanimously passed a 5-cent tax on all paper and plastic bags in the District in order to discourage their use. This law went into effect last week. I had only “shopped” in the District twice since then, and both times were just to buy a tiny egg sandwich that was easily carried in my hand.

Today I borrowed money from a coworker because I forgot my wallet (ugh this has not been a pleasant morning so far) and purchased three things at CVS. They were a little too awkward to carry, so I opted for the bag when asked, totally forgetting about the new tax. Then I felt like a jerk.

Here’s the thing: I 100% support the idea that you should use reusable bags. Obviously. However, my food-store-sized bags are no good for the items I just purchased at the CVS. It would be like putting a baby carrot in a gallon sized bag to take it home (ha, for all of you who get that joke).

I’m not really sure it’s practical to invest in a small or medium-sized reusable bag. (Except….this one is really cute. I might have to get it.)

So you either get the bag, pay 5 cents, and look like a jerk, or you carry your items awkwardly, or you have to remember to bring a reusable bag with you wherever you go. This doesn’t seem hard until you consider random errands and places you go where you don’t even think about bringing a bag. (Running into the Borders? Stopping at the liquor store? Going to Subway?)

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re in the Giant with a huge order in front of me and you get and use 15 plastic bags, I will definitely give you a dirty look. But when I’m at CVS getting 3 things, is it really the same? I feel a bit like this tax will affect men more than women, since most women carry giant totes and purses anyway. But I guess my point is that 5 cents isn’t really enough of a deterrent to get people to stop getting bags… is it? It’s just enough to be an annoyance for the little things.

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