- Plastic bag litter is a totally legitimate environmental hazard.
- Pricing the sale (rather than the disposal) of the bags is the economically efficient scheme for reducing bag waste.
Sensitive about consumer psychology, grocers have 2 options:
- Impose a surcharge for bags (this has been the practice in East Europe for many a year) -or-
- Provide shoppers who bring their own bags a discount.
Economically, these are identical. It's the same deal with routine garment discounting: one shopper's sale is another's markup; it's just a matter of timing.
Yet for all that, many people seem to fall for the "limited time only sale" commercial kayfabe. And in a highly competitive industry like grocery, departing from the second option is strictly dominated.
So what does this mean for me picking up my lunch from the Whole Foods today? Because I didn't bring my own bag, I didn't earn the BYOB[ag] credit, even though I brought my chow out by hand, sans bag.
I subsidized the economic illiteracy of the common American consumer.
Lunch without romance. Sigh.