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In “Why charging for plastic bags doesn’t work” Guardian reporter, Ally Fogg, likens the plastic bag surcharge to daycare late pick up penalty fees.

At a daycare center in Haifa, Israel, two behavior psychologists found that when penalty fees were introduced for parents picking up their children late from the daycare the number of late pickups actually doubled (A Fine is a Price).  

One reason for this could be that by introducing the fees it then became seen as an available service and it distanced the parents from the consequences of their actions; that is “We have paid, so the responsibility is no longer ours”.

A similar thinking could be aligned to the plastic bag surcharge; that is “We have paid our dues, so the responsibility is no longer ours”.

So it seems it cannot be taken as a given that a plastic bag surcharge in Norway will act as a deterrent and reduce the number of bags purchased here.  It might have the opposite effect as in that daycare where an increase number of children are standing around, tapping their feet, waiting for their parents.

Why charging for plastic bags doesn’t work

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/17/charging-for-plastic-bags-doesnt-work accessed August 20, 2014

A Fine is a Price

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=180117 accessed August 20, 2014

Even though Turkey is not an EU-member, it is an associate member; it has embraced the EU’s plastic bag recommendations to reduce their use.

In 2008 Carrefour, a French owned food chain in Turkey, offered its customers a lifelong subscription to net bags. That is, once a customer has bought a net bag from them it can be could return when worn to be replaced for free. Two other Turkish food chains, Grup Metro and Tesco Kipa offer similar solutions to their customers. Metro sells strong and washable bags at a cost that is little bit more than a single use plastic bag and Kipa offers reusable net bags. http://www.hupcadasi.wordpress.com/009/03/fileler-geri-dodu-herkese-bir-file accessed August 18, 2014

Not quite joined at the hip to the EU community, Norway (not a member state but connected through EFTA membership) has taken other steps. While Luxemburg banned the bags outright (to the ire or some) Norway introduced a surcharge for each bag.

The surcharged worked well in Northern Ireland, an EU-member state, but from casual observation as a weekly shopper in Norway, feel that it has had little effect here. Some use reusable bags but believe the majority pay the small fee. One might argue that the economic penalty would have an effect in a country going through a large economic crisis, like Northern Ireland, while not so in one that is not – Norway. That is consumers here can afford to pay for the momentary convenience.

Equipped with my mighty string net bag I was off to Oslo a Saturday afternoon in search of the great white whale – or a school of them. During the summer I had seen plastic bottles strew over the sidewalks and these bottles where to be my white whales that Saturday.

My plan was that the captured bottles would be returned to the recycling center and the deposit money donated to a worthy cause. So eager to cast my net bag out I started my journey from Oslo’s Central Train Station.

Jo ho and shiver me timbers not a plastic bottle in sight. Up the main way fair, Karl Johans gate, and back through its side tributaries my net remained empty; no beached bottles to be seen only bottles harboring safely in their owner’s mitts.

What I did get for my trouble was a snapshot of Oslo a sunny late summer afternoon:

Schools of tourists and locals meandered the byways. And one spot I saw a large crowd of people watching someone on pedestal covered completely in a bag moving about. Not sure what it was I put it down to Avant-garde busking.

Nearing the Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, I heard shouting and counter-shouting. One group stood just outside the steps in to the Parliament while the another group stood across the street. Police scattered in between. On my way back to the station I passed the Parliament on the opposite side and the two groups where still there. But this time Bruce Springsteen‘s Born in USA was blaring from a loudspeaker. That was a bit confusing.

But what of the mighty white whale? Perhaps I am looking at this in the wrong way. Even if I had a successful fishing excursion it is not so much that there are plastic bottles being recycled and not causing eyesores but that they are there in the first place.

If your mouth wash comes in a plastic bottle then one way to reduce your plastic outlay is to switch to green tea and drop the gargle.

Dr. Michael Greger at Nutritionfacts.org summarizes studies showing that green tea is as effective against plaque formation as over the counter mouth washes.

What’s the Best Mouthwash? http://nutritionfacts.org/video/whats-the-best-mouthwash

So to fight plaque and plastic – drink green tea.

My search for cotton net string shopping bags led me to feel the effect of the Engineering Triangle which is the idea of designing under constraints.

“You are given the options of Fast, Good and Cheap, and told to pick any two. … This triangle reflects the fact that the three properties of a project are interrelated, and it is not possible to optimize all three – one will always suffer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management_triangleaccessed August 14, 2014

My two choices were fast and cheap. That is I wanted the string shopping bag NOW and reasonably priced. Unfortunately the now was a problem if I still wanted to get one cheap. It seems net bags have gone out of fashion here. So I was resorted to my other choices; cheap and good. That meant I had to acquire a new skill set – net making.

So that is where I am right now my first week of net making. After a few bumbling attempts I am on my way to attainment of a net string bag, cheap and good, but not so soon. In addition I have learned something new.

The question is will Norway ever ban plastic shopping bags? Then environmentally friendly alternatives like cotton string bags might become easily available.