| Jun 04, 2009

Back to HomeEditorial - June 4, 2009 What's in a Nickel: Plastic bagsEditorial by Jeff Green

An op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail this week by a Marcus Gee argued that the new Toronto City bylaw enforcing a 5 cent charge for plastic bags was an unnecessary imposition. The article said that plastic bags are such a small portion of Toronto's garbage that the charge is dumb idea, designed only to placate environmental do-gooders.

Marcus Gee would be no match for the Sustainability Group: Alex Green, Sarah McFadden, and Kayla Gibson, grade 7 students from Loughborough Public School who took their campaign for a ban on plastic bags to South Frontenac Council this week.

The three are adept at pointing out the hazards posed by the billions and billions of bags that are littering the planet.

But the way Toronto has handled the issue is something I am familiar with because the same policy has come into force at all National Grocers stores this past month or so, including at my own local Freshmart store in Sharbot Lake.

For people like me, who have been carrying cloth bags in their vehicles for a couple of years, but keep forgetting to bring them into the store, the 5 cent fee is enough to make me run out and fetch the cloth bags.

If I am only getting a few items, I don't get a bag at all any more; I just carry the items in my arms or put one or two in my jacket pocket, which sometimes leads to problems later on, but that's another story.

The amazing thing is that suddenly, because of a simple 5 cent charge, I no longer fret about the stock of plastic bags that has been clogging my pantry. I now look at them as a precious resource.

Now, I admit that not everyone is as penny-wise, or as pound-foolish I dare say, as myself, but the nickel a bag plan has immediately had the effect on me that common sense environmentalism never had. I no longer waste plastic bags.

People who know me won't believe this, maybe because it is really only self-delusion, but the 5 cents is not the reason in itself. It is the reminder that there is a cost to disposing of these bags, that I don't need the bags.

The simple argument that we are so ideologically trapped by the market system that only putting a dollar figure on polluting will make us change our behaviour works like charm in my case.

Now, if the rest of you were as cheap as me, the world would be a better place. 

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