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Friday, February 8, 2013

Coke bottle deposits and paper bag fees don't promote reuse

black collapsible crate (left) next to red browsing baskets sold by Demco library supply in back of car

PHOTO: the trunk of my car showing the reusable shopping baskets I bought, which I find to be easier to use than the common reusable bags. I bought one of the Collapsible Crates sold by Demco for $21.94 (See Interlibrary Loan products at Demco) and two of the Browsing Baskets sold by Demco for $18.54 (See Patron Browsing products at Demco) Demco Madison, WI 53707 Phone 1-800-279-1586 that are made by: The Big Basket Company GoodL Corp., P.O. Box 337, Lavergne, TN 37087 -- The Big Basket Company (Download PDF Brochure) (See my previous post Corvallis plastic bag ban and gay marriage (1/8/13))

Below is my latest letter to the editor. I mention my personal plastic shopping basket, shown above, and explain how the Corvallis plastic grocery bag ban paper bag fee will fail like the Oregon Bottle Bill failed:

If my stroke-related low vision blindness had not deteriorated so much, I would be leading a recall campaign against Corvallis City Council representatives who supported mandating a fee of five cents per paper grocery bag.

The five cents bag fee will fail to promote reusable bags similar to how the 5 cents deposit mandated by the Oregon Bottle Bill has failed in its goal of stopping beverage makers from packaging virtually all drinks in disposable and debatably recyclable plastic or metal containers instead of the thick glass bottles, which back then were routinely returned, washed out and refilled.

Although bottle deposits have failed to promote reuse, at least bottle deposits still reduce litter by paying children and the homeless to pick up discarded cans. In contrast, paper bag fees serve no other purpose, other than to be a nuisance that might lead to sanitation problems and more ergonomic repetitive stress injuries in grocery checkers.

Personally, I wanted something easier to use than reusable bags and so I bought several "Browsing Baskets" from because they already supply the professional library archiving products used by my private research library. I bought the "BIG Basket" manufactured by GoodL Corporation, which is sold directly in bulk, with a store's name imprinted on it, or singly through retailers, such as Demco.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "'Browsing baskets' can be bought and sub for bags," Gazette-Times, Feb. 8, 2013, p. A9 )

Coincidentally, a few days after I had submitted the above letter to the editor, the OSU student newspaper quoted a homeless man who for income collects discarded cans from college students:

"Phillips likes living in Corvallis, he says. People are generous, and the students at OSU are kind. He offers one suggestion to students who might dismiss their beer cans after a long night. "If you're going to party, if you're going to have a good time, bag up your cans so the homeless people can have your nickels," he said. For Phillips, and many others, these cans are their only source of income." (Quoted from Kristy Wilkinson, "Local man discusses his past, present tribulations in a homeless state," Barometer, Feb. 1, 2013, p. 1-2)

Also, after I had submitted my above letter to the editor, but before it was published, the newspaper printed a detailed article on the plastic bag ban by James Day, "Corvallis' bag policy still drawing fire, interest," Gazette-Times, Feb. 2, 2013, p. A1. The article said the newspaper was still getting letters against the bag ban and it also described the actual problems faced by smaller merchants and also. The article mentioned the following political action sites:

See my previous letters on this topic:

An OSU student made the point that plastic bags work better to save energy by walking home in the rain from the store. (See the opinion piece by Alex Abelson, "Plastic bag ban not environmentally advantageous," Barometer, posted Feb. Feb. 4, 2012) The opinion piece was a blend of typical conservative memes.

Also, I haven't seen mentioned anywhere that the original Oregon bottle deposit of 5 cents has not been inflation adjusted since then. Compared to what 5 cents was worth in 1971, the inflation adjusted bottle deposit would be more than a quarter per bottle today. (Costs today are about 5.7 times greater according to the official Government index: CPI-U in 1971 = 40.5 and CPI-U in 1013 = 230)

Another point I have not seen made by anyone is that store's anti-shop lifting security procedures often include always bagging every purchase in order to make it easier for the store security guards to spot if something has been bought or not as it leaves the store. Clearly, this safeguard has disappeared as a result of the plastic bag ban -- I've witnessed person after person taking products out of the store without a bag or stuffing it in their personal bag just like a shop lifter might do.

The issue of out-of-town visitors being upset by the 5 cents fee was made in a letter by Ray Stephenson, Corvallis, "Letter: Out-of-town customers in for rude shock at Corvallis checkouts," Gazette-Times, posted Feb. 7, 2013

Coke bottles, which were standard before cans and plastic bottles became common, have a long history that has culminated in the glass bottles not being returnable or refillable shortly before bottles disappeared entirely in most places. The old glass bottles used more energy to ship and wash than cans and so it is not clear if the new and supposedly recyclable cans have a net benefit for the environment. Clearly, the market place has decided cans and plastic bottles are cheaper than glass bottles, but the market place is optimizing for profit and, which is not necessarily what is best long-term for the environment.

Coca-Cola Classic 8 oz. bottle from 1986 shown to left of original Coke 6-1/2 oz. bottle circa 1977. The original Coke ingredients (upper right) included only sugar and not the cheaper high fructose corn syrup and/or sucrose.

old Coca-Cola Classic can next to new Coca-Cola can without the word Classic on the can

PHOTO: (click photo to enlarge) Coke Classic 8 oz. bottle, from 1986, is shown to the left of an original Coke 6-1/2 oz. bottle made circa 1977 that is made of much thicker glass and dinged up from being refilled and reused many times. The original Coke ingredients (upper right) included only sugar and not the cheaper high fructose corn syrup and/or sucrose. This ingredient change was silently done in 1985 as part of the heavily marketed "New Coke" came out and generated so much customer hate that Coke reintroduced the "original formula," which was called "Coca-Cola Classic," even though it did not use real sugar. I suspect their lawyers were worried about it being called the "original formula Coca-Cola" because it, in fact, was not the original formula. See previous posts:

Coke in 6 ounce glass bottles circa 1983 including bottles with Colorado Rockies baseball team logo circa 1990s

PHOTO: Coke in 6 ounce glass bottles circa 1983 including cardboard carrying case and bottles with Colorado Rockies baseball team logo circa 1990s

display case of Coke bottles and cans from around the world

PHOTO: display case of Coke bottles and cans in my collection from around the world.