Financial Incentives for Going Green?

On June 1st Shenzhen, China (our home for our international assignment) implemented a tax on plastic bags. It now costs 0.3RMB for each plastic bag we get at the store.

Granted its not a lot of money - about $0.04USD per plastic bag. However it has immediately changed my behavior. I had to pay the tax for a couple plastic bags the 1st time, but now I bring my own plastic bags and my wife has started carrying a cloth bag with her for trips to the store.

I like the idea of an economic incentive for going green. It amazing how simple yet powerful this one is. I'm surprised more places in the US don't adopt it.

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Comments (17)

I think it's only a matter of time. Just about every grocery store is selling the canvas bags now. They're probably just waiting for some critical mass before they start charging (of course, Aldi already does charge for bags, but then, they're from Germany).

Whole Foods gives you 10 cents per bag if you bring in your own bags. I doubt that any lower margin stores are going to start doing that, though.

Seen case like this here My grocer credits me .05 for each bag I bring in to use to bag instead of using theirs. Over at IKEA, they too charge you for their plastic bags.

Seattle is also considering a similar tax on plastic bags, but they're looking at $0.20/bag. I think it's a great idea.

My city is talking about a $.20 charge per bag. I'm mostly all for it. Thing is, there's no clarity on where it applies (grocery store for sure, but it should apply across the board--hardware, clothing, etc).

Since it became trendy (cough, I mean "green") to bring your own bag, groceries have started carrying them, so even if you forget, for just a $1, you can get a new one. I have a dozen, and keep a few in the car at all times.

How's China?

Over the last year I've started noticing that more and more places are starting to charge for plastic bags. I've also noticed that people are bringing their own bags even when bags are free. I think this is a brilliant idea. I like the bags because we use them as garbage bags but when we move into our house they'll loose their usefulness and I'll start brining a cloth bag.

I think it's an excellent idea, and one I would fully support, and a version of it has been considered here in LA, but that was to remove them all together (did not pass)

But given how we allow/tolerate/encourage "coporate interests" and lobbyists to run the country instead of the people/government, are you really "surprised" or annoyed that the US does not do it more ??

I think that (spread over say 5 years)
- no disposable bags of any kind in any supermarket or grocery store
- no disposable food containers in fast food places
- 75% reduction in paper and plastic packaging used for domestic goods (starting with non-durables like food as we have to continually rebuy those)

Now let the "communist" cat-calls begin I guess :)

Good stuff. I just found your Blog last week and love it!

My wife and I were in Beijing, Shanghai, and down in the Tibetan Plateau last year. China is a dirty and polluted place. It is encouraging to think that the government might care about pollution and waste. Maybe there is hope for China!

I get the daily from No Impact Man - not as exciting since the experiment ended but still good and entertaining.


Yea many places around here in Arizona charge for bags already. But they also sell cheap ones that are more durable. I think that only plastic bags should be charged for, paper degrades fast and has little harm. Also fast food is usually already in paper, they got rid of most plastics years ago.

Of course this is really a place for business to step in. This is not a place for government. People can choose if they want to participate or not. Forcing people to go green is not a good idea, so much of this green fad (Movement) is over hyped.

My turning of my thermostat up by 2 degrees for one month will save more power and resources than all the bags I use in a year. Also choosing to fly airlines with new, efficient aircraft is a huge step, many times larger than these small things that people focus on.

idiocy. plastic is less harmful to the environment than paper. takes up a lot less space in landfills and degrades about as fast.

empty symbolism lives on this blog.

Appreciate your comment, but maybe your missing the point. Its not about paper vs plastic and what is less harmful to the environment. Its about an economic incentive that promotes reduction and reuse. Every time I bring an existing plastic bag it is one less bag I use.

I'm in the Los Angeles area, and the only place I can think of that charges for bags is IKEA (5 cents each).

However, many stores do the opposite and offer incentives for bringing your own bags (rather than a "penalty" or charge for failing to do so). Whole Foods and Ralphs both credit 5 cents for each bag brought in and used, and Trader Joe's gives each customer who brings their own bags a chance to win a weekly raffle for a $25 gift (though more often than not, they fail to give me a raffle ticket to fill out).

again nonsense. if it's about being green than you should bring your own milk carton and your own egg crate and your own sytrofoam for the chicken breast you might buy.

no - that would be silly and inefficient - just like millions of folks carrying around holey plastic bags - rather than the place that sells 'stuff' having a bag emblazoned with their name on it to put your stuff in.

this is just a feel good functionary imposing rules that shuffles costs around - overall no doubt increasing them.

otherwise there'd be no need for a tax.

knowing how chinese markets work this should make for some real good bird flu scares too - carrying around used bags. cool.

note plastic bags are amazing things and recycle easily - bag drop off bins make a lot more sense than all of us struggling for the right size bag at the checkout counter.

empty symbolism.

good stuff. keep it coming

What a "struggle" it is to take the plastic bags I just got at the grocery store, and use them again the following week. Even if I re-use them just once, it decreases the number of bags I use each year by 50%. And yes, that is a great idea about bringing my own milk carton, chicken container, etc. Unfortunately, corporate America doesn't allow that to happen because in most cases, the packaging costs more (and creates bigger profits) than what's inside. Ever wonder why a 20 ounce bottle of soda costs more than a 2 liter? Moron.

@ Ken - Your the one not making sense. Having to carry around your plastic bags to dispose of them in a special dumpster is more work than using cloth bags. Plus, the special dumpster would cost more, as you would have to pay someone to come around, at least weekly, to empty it.

Even if it didn't help the environment, I would still use the cloth bags. 1 cloth bag = 3-4 of those stupidly small plastic grocery bags. I hated coming home and finding out the packer put two items in one bag. Much easier picking up 2 bags than 8.

Taiwan's 7-11 has had this kind of tax or charge on their plastic bags for 5 years that I know of. Anytime I need to get a plastic bag from them for my purchases, they will charge me 1 NTD. This is not a lot of money but for some reason, it also made me bring my own bag down from my hotel anytime I need to go buy something at the local 7-11.

There has been talk of this for months if not years in Australia. As mentioned it has been done by Aldi already here, however it is something that is still very much being discussed by government as coming in as a specific rules.

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