Maryland Delagate Al Carr (D-Dist 18) has once again introduced legislation that would impose a fee on shopping bags. The law would follow the introduction and implementation of a similar law in DC this year, and money raised would go to fund restoration projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
A lot of environmental groups are pulling for this bill. Anyone who has ever walked along any creek in the area can easily understand why. Those damned disposable shopping bags are are nuisance and they are everywhere, waving noisily from trees, tangled in the roots along the banks, and appearing like jellyfish under the water as it speeds through the watershed on its way to the ocean.
When any of the local stream groups hosts a clean up, the sheer number of bags reported in the trash heap is astonishing. Friends of Rock Creek, for example, reported that at a clean up last year they pulled 7000 bags out of their system. The Anacostia Watershed Society has reported similarly horrifying numbers.
Carr introduced similar legislation last year in coordination with the bill passed in DC. Carr pulled it out before it left committee level, reportedly to give the DC bill a chance to succeed first. (You can read the Gazette's story on the topic here.)
What is funny to me about this is that any retailer would fight this. Plastics manufacturers, sure. I see that. But retailers? C'mon. They stand only to gain from such a bill, especially if everyone in the whole state has to comply. For years they've been giving away something for free that they themselves have to pay for, and now they will be able to charge and recoup some costs.
I suppose one could argue that all of the added "free" advertising on each "free" disposable plastic bag has been good for the stores' bottom line.
But it doesn't make me feel good about a store when I see their logo emblazoned on a bag which is caught in the branches of a lovely old tree when I'm out on a walk. It doesn't make me think positively of their store. It makes me depressed. It makes me think of their store as a giant pollution source.
Better advertising comes in the form of the reusable bags that people so proudly tote to places other than the grocery store, like the ones you see being used to carry library books, or pool toys, or Christmas gifts when people aren't going to the grocery store.
Most of us don't need a bag when we shop anyway, and changing our habits by keeping shopping bags in the car is really just NOT that hard.