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Brits Attack Freedom, the Poor and the Environment, by Taxing Plastic Bags



(p. A4) LONDON -- Some warned of "bag rage" by irate shoppers. The Daily Mail predicted, "Plastic Bags Chaos Looms." Chloe Metzger, a 21-year-old blogger and student, wrote on Twitter: "I understand the whole #plasticbags thing but it couldn't be more annoying."

Nerves were rattled, jokes were made and the annoyance of it all was duly noted in Britain this week. Nevertheless, shoppers pulled off something that has also occurred in other cities, states and countries: They began weaning themselves off plastic shopping bags.

Starting this week, the government introduced a 5 pence charge for plastic bags for most groceries, clothes and other purchased items. And while it did not lead to a nationwide mutiny, as some had warned, it did create some tension in cashier lines.


. . .


The TaxPayers' Alliance, an anti-tax group, said the new measure would burden families struggling to get by.

A 2013 study by the National Center for Policy Analysis in Washington, which champions laissez-faire economics, argued that paper and reusable bags were worse for the environment than plastic bags when it came to energy and water use, and to greenhouse gas emissions. "Every type of grocery bag incurs environmental costs," wrote H. Sterling Burnett, the author of the study.

Whatever the arguments, the charge has inspired a mix of applause, resentment, fear and humor.

It has also inspired ingenious new ways to try to get around paying the new fee. The Daily Express, a British tabloid, noted that there was "nothing to stop Brits buying loose vegetables, being rewarded with their free plastic bag and ramming it full of the rest of the shopping."



For the full story, see:

DAN BILEFSKY. "British Begin Attack Aimed at a Scourge of the Realm." The New York Times (Weds., OCT. 7, 2015): A4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 6, 2015, and has the title "Charge for Plastic Bags in Britain Draws Applause, Anger and Humor.")


The 2013 bag report, referred to above, is:

Burnett, H. Sterling. "Do Bans on Plastic Grocery Bags Save Cities Money?" National Center for Policy Analysis, Policy Report # 353, Dec. 2013.






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