The 2002 introduction of a 33 cent per bag tax on plastic bags in Ireland may point the way for reducing the plastic bags that litter Bali's streets, clog its sewers, pollute its waters and have become permanent fixture at the Island's landfills.
Launched simultaneously with a massive advertising awareness campaign, the tax on plastic bags managed to transform Irish society. Just weeks after the tax's introduction, plastic bag use in Ireland declined by 94%, while re-useable cloth bags have become more indispensable than, say, an umbrella or a hat. People seen carrying plastic bags in Ireland receive the kind of unenthusiastic public reception once reserved for rich ladies in fur coats, pets that soiled walkways or a cigar smoker in crowded restaurants.
Studying the failed efforts to curb plastic bag usage in New York, London, San Francisco, Italy and Britain – Ireland does not allow shopping venues to absorb the cost of the plastic bag tax, insisting the consumer must "feel the pain" of making a decision that's bad for the environment. The program is so effective, in fact, that shoppers who have forgotten to bring a supply of plastic bags to the shopping center now prefer to brings a cart of loose groceries to their car and place their purchases one-by-one into the vehicles baggage compartment.
The Curse of Plastic Bags
An estimated 42 billion plastic bags were used world-wide in the month of January 2008. That's half a million bags every minute. Few bags get recycled and are, instead, sent to your local landfill where they constitute 2 percent of all wastes – a percentage certain to grow as plastic bags are not biodegradable – an unwelcome "gift forever."
Paper bags, although bio-degradable, are not a solution. Environmentalists estimate that more greenhouse gasses are generated in the production producing and transporting a paper bag than in the production of a plastic bag.
Paper or plastic - both represent permanent blights on the environment.
The proceeds from Ireland's plastic bag tax are used to fund environmental enforcement and community clean up programs.
By all counts, the Irish tax on plastic bags appears to be a real success story and worthy of emulation by other countries around the world.
Bali, are we listening?
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