A Modest Proposal: 10 Ways to Incentivize New Yorker to Give Up their Plastic Bags

I don’t know about you, but when I heard the announcement that New York is one year away from banning all plastic bags from being distributed in our city, I panicked.

Then I counted my stockpile. I have exactly 25 plastic bags at home. I wondered: Will that be enough to get me through once these bags are no longer freely available at every Duane Reade, liquor store, and bodega? How many more might I need to collect before they become a scarce commodity?

I’ve been hoarding plastic bags since I was 12. On my very first trip to Europe, I just couldn’t bear the thought of parting with all of the cool packaging from the touristy knick-knacks that I’d picked up along the way. So I folded them up neatly and stored them in my closet in a shoebox.

While I still collect bags today, it’s for much less nobler causes. Like, bagging up cat litter. Or collecting shards from the 1–2 glasses I inevitably break each month. I find it very important to always have a bag with you when you travel around the city. After all, you never know when you’re going to need it for surprise leftovers or to bag up some article of clothing that you managed to get wet and destroy in the middle of the day.

My most extreme use of plastic bags was when I used a couple to tie up my wet sandals before traveling back home from a trip to Asia. But then, by the time I finally remembered to unpack them from the plastic, my sandals had grown a fuzzy layer of mold all over them. Just goes to show the power of plastic bags: Nothing can get through the stuff.

Which, I suppose, is why we ought to ban them.

While I’m a huge proponent of recycling and saving the environment, let’s not deny the facts: Plastic bags feel like an essential currency of a New Yorker’s life. It’s going to take a lot to get New Yorkers to give up their at-home stockpiles of these river-ruiners, fish traps, and planet Earth poison pellets. We need alternatives. We need incentives.

And so, in the spirit of April Fool’s Day and to acknowledge this lapse of governmental planning in this process, I’ve created a top 10 list of ways they city and state might convince New Yorkers to give up their plastic bags at home.


10 Ways to Incentivize New Yorker to Give Up their Plastic Bags:

10. Use them to create a city-wide Slip-’n-Slide. Unveil it during Summer Streets days in August.

9. Take all of the bags to the fashion district to have it sewn into a wearable fabric. Mandate that all designers for our NYC Fall Fashion Week use only plastic in their displays this year. (3D printed dresses are allowed.)

8. Create a city-wide time capsule. Allow every New Yorker to fill up one plastic bag with personal artifacts and mementos of their choice. Launch all of our favorite junk into a SpaceX rocket into the next galaxy.

7. Parter with Marie Kondo on a state-wide initiative. Encourage New Yorkers to fill each bag with “items that no longer spark joy.” Donate any actually decent donations to charitable organizations all around the world. Bury everything else in the abandoned subway station below City Hall.

6. Deploy a city-wide cryptocurrency, BagCoin. Award 1 token for every 5 plastic bags returned. Partner with local businesses for incentives. (For instance, 5 tokens = 1 free month of shakes at Shake Shack*.)

5. Organize a city-wide scavenger hunt. Encourage every New Yorker to scour our parks, streets, and other public places in search of tickets redeemable for prizes like Banksy art or selfies with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Only award prizes to those who turn in their bags and pick up at least three pieces of dog shit from the ground.

4. Melt down the plastic. Partner with the folks at the Brooklyn Flea who turn plastic waste into wallets. Offer any New Yorker a free wallet in exchange for the hassle and time they spend at the DMV converting their New York State license into an official, Federal Real ID.

3. Tie all of the plastic bags together. Partner with engineering students at local universities to design a hot air balloon form of transit to get people from midtown to Laguardia Airport in under 20 minutes.

2. Use the plastic to solve the subway transit issue. Build an intricate system of above-ground plastic slides that can get you uptown and downtown at breakneck speeds. Convert skyscrapers and parks into “slide hubs” and transfer stations.

1. Melt down the plastic and create weather-resistant flooring like they use on playgrounds. Convert every unfinished rooftop in NYC into a fully-functional deck. #roofaccess4all

Any and all feedback is welcome. Share your comments, ideas, or blueprints for our slide system or hot air balloon transit proposal below.

*Madison Square Park and JFK airport locations only.


Originally published at Dry Erase.