Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Great Plastic Bag Caper

My dad is now rolling over in his grave....

I know what my dad would have done... He would have collected up all the plastic bags he could find, and he would have delivered them to the doorstep of the Councilperson involved in this little endeavor. I went to Walmart last night to get groceries. When I went to the self-checkout, no one was using it because there were no bags. I thought that was odd, as the people there weren't trying to refill them. So I went to a regular line, which was much busier than usual, and waited there. When I got to the cashier, she asks me if I want her to put the groceries in plastic bags... I said, "Of Course I do." I told her that I would have done this all by myself at self-checkout if they had had bags. She then explains to me that they are now charging 5 cents per plastic bag, so they took all the bags out of self-checkout. I sighed, having been familiar with the practice in far off Los Angeles or San Francisco. But here, in Dallas? So I paid the 20 cents for the 4 bags she used and left, grumbling and complaining about the Democrats in Dallas. And truthfully, Dallas, Texas is a Blue city, with the Republicans having left and gone to the suburbs around it. Just like every other major city in the US.

I posted about it on my Facebook Page, and got this reply from one of my progressive-leaning friends: Politics aside, the world is a better place without cheap plastic bags clogging storm drains and swirling down alleys in the wind. These kind of bags are terrible as bags. Except for Target's bags, they are all so thin that they break when you put more than 2 things in them. Good riddance to them. Suck it up and get yourselves some sturdy reusable bags. No matter how you vote don't we all want clean streets and waterways? 

To which, my reply was: Definitely! I reuse my plastic bags as much as I can for lunches at work, and given the choice between plastic and cloth bags...etc... I wouldn't hesitate to use the latter. However, I don't have the money to go spending it on tote bags (although the ones Lifeway usually has are cheap enough if you can find them on sale), and I resent the way they've just decided to take nickels away from me. I can't afford much more than basic food, gas, utilities, but I am making it. Any excess expense, especially because the government wants to use the environmental issue to gain power and money, is something I can't afford right now. And since I can go to Kroger near my work and save that money, that's what I'll do.

I hate pollution, since I walk all over the place and see it in the woods, on the trails...etc... and everyone can do their part to keep their part of the world clean, individually. It's when the issue is used for political purposes that turns me against the whole thing. Take light bulbs, for instance. I'm all for the newer bulbs, cause I'm lazy, and I don't want to change the dumb things. But the regulations against the incandescent bulbs were done just to extend government control, and I don't like that. I'll use the newer bulbs when I can, but if I can't afford the things... I'll sit in the dark. I'm used to it.

I've talked about my stance on Environmental issues at great length in the past. So this post is more about this particular issue.  I've walked on trails in Dallas, and so I've seen first-hand the areas that the Councilman is referring to when he proposes to clean up the city with the proposed money collected.  I for one have seen how money collected in the name of "transportation" or "education" never really gets to those places at all.  It gets put into the General Fund, and then it all gets worked out with the budget and spending bills coming from the state.  This never has worked properly. But let's say for the moment that the money is collected properly. I would hope that it would be used to pick up all the other things I see walking down the trails of Dallas.

The thing is that I've not seen so many bags in my walks as discarded plastic water bottles, aluminum beer and soft drink cans, and glass beer bottles. What if we, instead of charging a tax for them, offered money back for their recycling. I know some companies used to do that. That would make sense, and it would train people in a positive way instead of punishing them by making them carry all their groceries loose into their apartment buildings. It should be about the training of people to behave in a certain way, to care more about the environment as a whole. The idea about cans and bottles (which I think is a greater problem than the bags) would have the positive effect of rewarding those who do the right thing. When training a dog, do you reward them for sitting on command, or do you punish them for not sitting when you tell them to? You could do both, I suppose, but the latter will come back to bite you, most literally. It would cause fear and dislike, which is what the government's fee on plastic bags is doing. It's also going to drive customers away from the grocery stores inside the city limits of Dallas and lower the amount of taxes (on those items which are taxed, which makes no sense. In Georgia, everything is taxed. Here, groceries are not taxed unless they're deemed not good for you (or the lobbyists can persuade (as in the corn chip industry) the lawmakers that it shouldn't apply to them)). So the city loses out either way. It makes no sense to pass a law that will only end up hurting the revenue streams they were depending upon to clean up the pollution they were seeing.

And of course there's the argument of how multi-use bags will effect the health of the citizens.  If people continuously use canvas or cloth bags, especially to carry something like boneless raw chicken breasts or leaky milk bottles, those germs will collect onto the bags.  Then, the next time, when apples or some such are put in there, you gently get a case of salmonella or food poisoning.  Sounds like fun, don't it?

Don't think that the people won't change their spending habits because of a little plastic bag tax (which is what it is). They will, and it will hurt enormously the places inside the city limits.  But, as I'm also determined not to pay said tax, but I don't want to wind up driving farther to get groceries, I'm going to do something else.  In Georgia, I went to Ingles to get groceries and any time they had their huge Egg Boxes available, I took one to use for the Friends of the Library booksales.  So instead of bringing in all the groceries in the bags they were in, I put all the bags inside the boxes (which admittedly, wouldn't be the best thing to do if the groceries were loose, because, as in the paragraph above, they are egg boxes.) and carried them into the house.  So I will bring one or two of the many paper boxes I have here (I haven't thrown them away yet from the move to Dallas) and I'll just put the groceries in them.  They have handles, and are sturdy, so they can keep their bags and their 5 cent charges, and I'll be able to carry the groceries in easier.  Killing two birds with one stone, as the saying goes.  The plastic Christmas Trees they won't have to cut down will thank me for it.

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