Hell, make them cost 20 cents

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

"Beginning October 14th, 2023, all retail establishments (grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, big box stores, etc.) operating within the City of Pittsburgh are prohibited from providing a single-use plastic bag or a non-recycled paper bag to a customer at checkout or through delivery." Additionally, for paper bags to be distributed at checkouts, they must cost at minimum 10 cents per bag, and "must contain a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content and no old growth fiber."

This mandate, explained on, has not been met with the universal (or at minimum county-wide) acclaim I believe it deserves. Last week, The Tartan published an op-ed decrying this plan. Feel free to read the article yourself, but if you're too busy, the gist is that the new initiative is well intended, but misses the mark. My position on the matter differs severely.

This wishy-washy approach to the matter of impending ecological devastation is all too common. We need to discourage harmful practices somehow, and I think we all agree that plastic bags are pretty damn harmful for everything. How else can we reduce plastic bag use? Ask people nicely? I may have gotten a C in microeconomics, but even I know that a great way to disincentivize an action is to increase its price. I believe that protecting the environment is important, and worth at least 10 cents! And it's not like bags are disappearing from grocery stores, as the law stipulates that stores offer an alternative paper bag made of recycled material. After Oct. 14, you will still be able to use recycled paper bags. Those are the ones you have to pay an extravagant 10 cents for.

The op-ed exemplifies the notion that nothing is more important than making our own shopping experience as cheap and convenient as possible. It doesn't have to be a choice between the nebulous concept of "pollution" with cheaper shopping trips, versus a cleaner Earth with worse shopping trips. Many people, maybe even most people, will prioritize their own comfort over something as foggy as "environmentalism."

I'm more disappointed because the thesis is wrong. The new status quo should, if anything, be more comfortable, convenient, etc. Plastic bags are notoriously irritating, ripping every which way when you stuff them with more than three blueberries, and they really are SINGLE use. Everyone's parents keep a collection of 200 plastic bags under the sink, but they're rarely used. Just slowly piling up. And everyone hates the feeling of carrying all your groceries back in five bags spread over two hands, plastic handles shearing and digging into your skin. A good reusable bag has more space and is much more comfortable!

And if you can't be bothered to do that, just pay 10 cents for the brown paper bag. What were you going to do with 10 cents anyways, buy one-tenth of an apple?