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The New York Times reports on three current movements that could conceivably impact the use of disposable shopping bags by supermarket shoppers.

• In Connecticut, lawmakers are considering a proposal that would impose a five-cent tax on all disposable shopping bags, which is described as a way to help the environment as well as “pull in some cash for a state in deep fiscal trouble.” (A lot of cash, as it happens – an estimated $20 million a year.) Some of the proceeds would be used to fund what is called a “single-source recycling” plan, “would allow Connecticut residents to put all recyclable materials in a single large curbside bin. Currently, people who have curbside recycling in their communities must separate bottles and cans, paper and cardboard,” a system that many see as outdated.

• New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is calling for a similar six-cent bag tax.

• And in Seattle, there will be a referendum this August by voters who will decide on whether there should be a twenty-cent tax on disposable shopping bags.

The Seattle Times writes that area “grocers, caught in the middle, have officially remained neutral.” But there are other environmental efforts going on in Seattle: “City leaders have teamed up with retailers on a less controversial effort. Stores in the program — including all the big supermarket chains, independent stores, Target, and Bartell Drugs — are posting signs reminding people to bring reusable bags, promote their use, sell those bags in their stores, and donate reusable bags to low-income communities.”

Previous efforts appear to be moving the needle. The Times notes that reusable bag use in Seattle has quadrupled in the past year.

KC's View:
Interestingly, the Vancouver Sun had a story the other day saying that the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) has come out with a study saying that reusable bags “pose a public health risk” due to high counts of yeast, moulds and bacteria when they get dirty.

To which I have a four-word reply:

Wash the damn things.

It isn’t that hard. Most people wash their clothes and their dishes and their pots and pans and cutting boards on a regular basis. So people should wash the bags in which they carry their groceries the same way. (The limited edition MorningNewsBeat canvas sacks made by EcoBags are perfect for both carrying and washing, by the way…and I don't mind saying so even though EcoBags is an MNB sponsor and this might be seen as a self-serving comment. Sue me.)