In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. 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.
“I used to get half a dozen with every shop. Now I’d never ever buy one,” said Cathal McKeown, 40, a civil servant carrying two large black cloth bags bearing the bright green Superquinn motto. “If I forgot these, I’d just take the cart of groceries and put them loose in the boot of the car, rather than buy a bag.”
In January 42 billion plastic bags were used worldwide, according to reusablebags.com; the figure increases by more than half a million bags every minute. A vast majority are not reused, ending up as waste—in landfills or as litter…since most are not biodegradable, they will remain there.