Cause marketing on the issue of reducing consumption of plastic bags is surprisingly difficult. A well entrenched and financed plastics lobby either truly does not understand the harm that billions of plastic bags cause, or are simply so obsessed with winning a marketing game that they won’t see the forest for the bag-filled trees. They’ve been so good at it that some years ago the lobby actually convinced activist groups that a tax on plastic bags would “hurt the poor”. Whether or not this is true probably depends more on how the government handles it than on people’s propensity to require more bags.
Its troubling when an industry spends money on resisting what’s really a very common sense law, proven effective at reducing enormous amounts of waste. That’s money spent on very short term financial gain, and likely merely delays inevitable legislation that must now be past with extra urgency.
Enter “Save the Bay” an activist group with a very creative metaphor: That the tsunami of plastic we produce will ultimately drown us lest we do something about it. See their latest in the video above.
What the organization proposes is to start a dialog toward banning or taxing bags in California (the concept is likely to be imitated elsewhere). The hope is that the video above will start to build some common sense momentum toward that aim – a piece of legislation to be proposed in the next year statewide.
Perhaps ironically, it’s not grocers that are crying foul (they’ll actually benefit from the tax because they won’t have to purchase and stock so many bags), it’s merely the aforementioned plastics industry who stubbornly refuse to admit to externalities that are far more negative in the long term than any real convenience plastic bags provide. Plastic isn’t going away any time soon, but plastic bags should.
Will Save the Bay be successful in their efforts to win over enough voters to influence California policy? Will the same technique (and excellent video) work elsewhere?
Does a plastic bag tax really hurt the poor? If so, what’ a better solution than continuing to provide plastic bags?
How can an industry react in a more positive manner to the realization that something they’re doing is basically making a mess of the planet and not just pretend its not happening?
I can see a great business opportunity for smart thinking grocers and entrepreneurs – start making and selling re-usable branded tote bags. They could even be given away, especially in low-income areas, building goodwill, increasing brand exposure and saving people the hassle of dealing with 400 plastic bags under their sink.