Customers should pay for plastic bags


POSTED: Friday, February 13, 2009

Just as there's no such thing as a free lunch, there are no free or “;complimentary”; plastic shopping bags even though stores don't punch in a price for them on customer receipts.

As they do with labor, electricity, lease rents and other expenses, retailers factor in the cost of bags when they set prices for goods they sell.

Litter and other environmental concerns are behind the move to ban the use of the fossil-fuel-based sacks. Three bills being considering in the state Senate would either prohibit them, require refunds for customers who bring their own or create a statewide recycling program with retailers' participation.

All of the measures are opposed, primarily by retailers but also by people who find them handy for uses other than carrying home groceries. In addition to touting environmental benefits, proponents argue that customers who bring their own bags are still paying for plastic, so refunds of a few cents are warranted.

The solution might be to charge customers who want store bags the same few pennies. That way, people who like them for lining trash cans, picking up pet waste or other uses bear the cost.

The small charge could work better to lessen the millions of bags that end up in landfills, fluttering from bushes and trees or polluting the ocean and harming sea creatures.