Put the plastic bag problem behind us

February 23, 2019

You see them everywhere.

It is hard to drive down any road in Illinois without seeing wind-tossed disposable plastic bags. They are stuck in fences. They hang from trees. Sometimes, they just blow across streets and lawns.

Now, Illinois has a bill in the hopper designed to cut down on the plastic bags. The state, as part of Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s budget plan, would place a nickel tax on each plastic bag. Pritzker estimates the tax would bring in $20 million for the state. Our hope, of course, is you save yourself the tax by bringing in cloth bags for your groceries and other purchases.

Here’s a bit about bag economics.

• According to an estimate by the website insteading.com, the average American uses at least 300 plastic bags per year. If you do the math, that’s $15 per person or $60 for a family of four in Illinois.

• Once constructed, the bags are nearly indestructible. The low-end view says they photodegrade in 400 years. Most estimates are much higher.

• Of course, there is an environmental cost to making a sturdier plastic or cloth bag you reuse. A Clemson University study says the break-even environmental point is to use your own bag 22 times or more. So, get one, and get in the habit.

Our view always has been that bags are both an environmental hazard and unsightly. Their demise would bring no tears here.

We would add one thing. Set up more collection sites for the bags, too. You see them at some stores. You ought to see more. And if people or businesses bring in a big pile, either their own, or by cleaning the streets, give them some type of reward. You punish the bad. You ought to reward the good, too.