In nearly two dozen California cities it is business owners are legally required to charge customers for shopping bags. Fees—generally 5 or 10 cents—are meant to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags.
In Santa Cruz County, California, the fine for not charging customers for bags can reach $500 and businesses are not permitted to build the bag price into their pricing. Some retailers, especially those dealing in luxury goods, worry that asking a customer who has just forked over thousands of dollars to pay 10 cents for a bag to hold their goods, will be viewed as insulting. Because travelers aren’t likely to bring their own bags or have spare room to pack newly purchased reusable bags, retailers in tourist-driven economies are calling the fees and bans wasteful and impractical.
The idea of the ban and fees in Santa Cruz and across the country is to shift away from our single-serving-throwaway culture. Many in favor of bag bans and fees see the checkout register as a logical place to encourage this shift others feel it’s a violation of rights.
The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition sued the city of San Francisco arguing that plastic bags have a place and purpose (especially as it relates to take out food). The court rejected this notion. San Francisco will this month introduce one of the nation’s most impressive bag ordinances. The ordinance will ban all plastic bags at retailers and eventually require a 10 cent charge for paper and even compostable carryout bags.
Unlike other environmental movements which are largely voluntary or incentivize the consumer, bag bans will force people into changing their behavior.
Despite objections, bans and fees seem to be the future of retail. A ban in New York City is expected in the near future.
With reporting from Matt Ritchel of the New York Times