It’s not about Paper or Plastic

Jun 02, 2010 by Lisa Newton

It’s about single use. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I’m talking about bags. Those convenient items which are at the end of most stores checkout lines–both the plastic or paper bags you get at your local food retailer.

California’s municipalities are currently deciding to see if a ban on plastic bags is in the best interests of its residents. In 2007, San Francisco passed a ban on plastic bags, but much to the chagrin of environmentalists, paper bag usage then skyrocketed.

Thus, the issue isn’t really one of either paper or plastic bags–but using reusable tote bags:

One idea to cut back on all single use bags, regardless of material, is taxing each bag. In January 2010, Washington DC passed a $.05 tax on all single use bags, and has subsequently seen dramatic results. In fact, “plastic bag usage in supermarkets and other establishments dropped from the 2009 monthly average of 22.5 million to just 3 million in January."  That’s quite a difference!

After all, how many taxes are offered to people as a choice? It’s up to each individual consumer if they want to pay this tax.  People can either choose to use reusable bags, or be taxed for using a single use bag provided by the retailer. 

When April 15th comes around each year, no one can say, "Oh, I don’t want to pay my taxes this year."  However, by using a reusable tote bag, you choose not to pay the $.05 bag tax.

The eco-friendliness of the bag tax doesn’t stop yet

A portion of the tax proceeds collected from the tax goes to environmental projects. In the case of Washington DC, $150,000 will go to help clean up the Anacostia River.

So to summarize the benefits of using single use bags–it helps to keep our environment cleaner by dramatically reducing single bag usage, while raising money for environmental causes. In ordinary jargon, that’s a win/win situation.

So Yo, California Legislators, why not consider a tax on all single use bags instead of a ban on only plastic ones? During these tough economic times, doing good and doing well for both the environment and your tax proceeds, can’t be a bad idea.

Photos courtesy of Samuel Mann and Keng Susumpow

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One Response to “It’s not about Paper or Plastic”

  1. Adventure-Some Matthew says:

    My wife and I spent a semester studying in Ireland. There, you pay for each bag that you use. So you pay 1 Euro for a cloth bag and remember to carry it, or you pay a few cents each time you need a plastic bag. The majority of people used cloth bags, definitely!

    I think that taxing each single-use bag is a great idea. It cuts back on their use, and helps you actually see that it does cost to use them. Now they seem like freebies.
    I especially like the idea that the tax money goes toward environmental projects. That’s doubly good! Use less and provide funds for projects that need it.
    Adventure-Some Matthew´s last blog ..Explore Your Library My ComLuv Profile


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