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33 cents

December 29, 2009

33 cents can have an uncanny effect on our habits… This is not only true for plastic bags, but also for our love affair with the car. Remember how large swaths of the American population suddenly discovered mass transit and bike paths when the price of gas threatened to hit $4 a gallon? There is definitely a lesson in Ireland’s plastic bag experiment.

In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.  Full story.

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