Putting a price on bag waste
Plastic bags aren't just containers; they're a habit that might sink to the level of addiction. Americans use 380 billion disposable plastic bags each year, 100 billion for grocery shopping alone - production of which requires about 12 million barrels of oil.
Less than 2 percent of all that plastic is recycled and plastic bags are prime source of litter and deadly hazards for animals that ingest them.
State Sen. Daylin Leach has reintroduced a version of a bill, based on successful waste-reduction programs elsewhere, that he championed but failed to get to passage in 2011.
It would require retailers to charge consumers 2 cents per plastic bag. One cent would go to the retailers to improve their internal recycling programs and the other would go to the state to help fund recycling statewide. The bill does not include in-store plastic bags that are used to protect produce, fish and meat.
Such programs in cities, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles, have reduced plastic bag usage - and attendant waste - by as much as 50 percent. The program has worked so well in Los Angeles that it plans to outlaw plastic bags.
As Leach noted, the objective ultimately is not to generate revenue but to create an incentive for consumers to use less plastic.
As they have elsewhere, Pennsylvania consumers likely would recognize that they don't need to use so many plastic bags, and many likely would switch to sturdier reusable bags.
Lawmakers should embrace the bill and help to reduce waste.