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Emerald Isle Goes Green

by Jay Walljasper - May 20, 2008

In 2002, Ireland passed a law requiring retailers to charge 20 cents (now 33 cents) for a plastic bag. Critics said it would never work, but within weeks plastic bag use dropped 94 percent as people started bringing their own cloth bags to stores.

Now, according to the International Herald-Tribune, it's a social faux pas in Ireland to be seen with a plastic bag in your hands.

But throughout the rest of the world, a half million plastic bags are still being used every minute. Each one of those bags consumes oil, causes pollution and creates disposal problems.

Taking notice of Ireland's success, other places around the world are following suit. China--where many plastic bags are manufactured--will require shoppers to buy bags during this summer's Olympic Games, but there are no minimum prices as yet, and no guarantees that this will become a permanent policy change.

In the U.S., San Francisco became the first city to ban free plastic bags, according to the green news service WorldChanging. The idea is now spreading, and some national grocery chains (like Whole Foods Market have announced that they too will phase out disposable plastic bags.