The Mercury’s Sarah Mirk has been covered in plastic bags over the last few weeks as Portland moves forward with a ban on plastic bags. Part of what makes the proposed bag ban a story is who’s supporting it.
The Northwest Grocery Association (NWGA), which represents the big grocery stores who will be affected by the proposed citywide ban on plastic bags, came out in support of the green groups’ plan. How did big business get on the side of the hippies? The answer, of course, lies in dollars and cents. Though they only cost about a penny to buy, plastic bags rack up costs for businesses.
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Somehow the laws of economics seem to enter a state of suspension though up north in Seattle where similar legislation was opposed those who argued—you guessed it—that the ban would be “bad for business.” True, supermarkets flirted with support but ended up neutral on Seattle’s proposed bag fix. Seattle proposed a 20 cent fee for each plastic bag, which voters trounced at the polls after big spending by the American Chemistry Council. It’s important to note that the American Chemistry Council has reared its head in Portland as well, so the bag ban there might not be out of the woods.
Mirk used some work done by Sightline a while back to show the relative impact of the plastic bag intervention on the environment is rather small.
But the simple fact that not providing bags—any bags—would represent a savings for businesses that now provide them doesn’t seem lost on the Portland’s supermarkets. The fact that the ban would apply everywhere also means no significant impact on competition between those who provide bags and those who don’t. And businesses might even make a bit more money selling canvass bags, which are the best choice to carry groceries. Keep an eye on the Mercury to find out more about how this one turns out.
Photo credit: The photo was taken this morning by the author with an ordinary i phone. The image is a detail from a mural at The Crumpet Shop in Pike Place Market, the home of not so ordinary crumpets.