Paying For Plastic Bags

We’re visiting Washington D.C. and today at the Food Court in the Ronald Regan Building (a wonderful find by the way). I saw the following sign:


I have seen a variety of efforts to ban plastic bags, but I was not aware that DC had passed this law in 2009.  I mentioned it to the man working the cash register at the Chinese Food counter and he indicated that he really liked the law.  I asked him if he had seen a difference?  “Oh yes, people used to take bags all the time, sometimes they’d just carry the food to the table and then throw away the bag.  They wouldn’t even use it for 5 whole minutes, then it would be in the trash can.”  He indicated that now people don’t take bags very often, only when they need them.

I think it is fascinating that they found that charging for plastic bags has reduced the mess, reduced the amount of plastic bags used and seems to be making this particular storekeeper happy.

To learn more about the program you can go to

Would you support a law banning plastic bags or charging for them in your community?

Happy Greening,


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  1. This is heartening news, I hope it spreads. Charging for bags has been shown effective: “In the first 10 weeks of charging customers for plastic bags [in 2008], U.K. chain Marks & Spencer has seen an 80 percent drop in plastic bag use.” (

    This is actually the kind thing to do to customers. In the 1970s in the Netherlands, grocery stores stopped providing bags altogether, overnight. They did start putting empty packing boxes out, so you could use that. There was chaos at the cash registers for a few weeks, then everyone started to bring canvas bags. I mean, when you do your groceries by bike you can’t have 20 loose items.

  2. The first time I came across paying for a plastic bag was in Juneau, AK in 2005. I was initially appalled and you can bet I brought my own bag the next time I went to the store. I was gonna show them! It was only 5 cents but it was more the act of charging than the price. Funny because now I would use my own bags even if they paid me to take their plastic bags. Times (and people) they are a changing.

    • Wow Taynia, that’s quite a while ago in terms of the plastic bag movement. I wonder what motivated Alaska to get on board so early, but I’ve been told everything is more expensive there? Thanks for sharing!

  3. Nearby Montgomery County, MD has this law too. Definitely are a lot more people who bring their own bags to the store now.

    • Hi Mindy,
      That’s interesting. Up in New England we talk about banning the bags, but I wonder if this law is easier for people to support and almost as effective?

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