Unintended Consequences in Liberal Seattle
The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a law last year banning the use of plastic bags in grocery stores, and requiring stores to charge 5c each for paper bags.
In truth, it seems the retailers were quite pleased about this. They no longer had to give away plastic and paper bags for free, and – even better – could often make a profit by selling the massively marked up reusable shopping bags that it was hoped Seattle’s citizens would switch to.
The law took effect last July.
So what has happened since then?
Local hospitals report a surge in E.coli cases – and even deaths – as a result of people carrying food in unclean bags they were reusing.
Shoplifters delighted in being able to carry bags into the store, fill them, and walk out without paying.
Other shoppers, frustrated at finding they would have to pay to bag their purchases, simply walked off with the store baskets (and maybe/maybe not paid for the contents of the baskets). Stores responded by not replacing the lost/stolen baskets, but that caused a new raft of customer service problems too.
As for the benefits – well, we’re still waiting for a report on those. But perhaps the fact that there is no measurable global warming at present might ‘prove’ that Seattle was very wise. On the other hand, the last time there was any significant global warming was almost a decade ago, so perhaps Seattle was simply late to the party.
More details of Seattle scoring an own-goal here.