Thursday, March 12, 2009

Go Green: Plastic Bag Tax?

As I was reading our local weekly paper, I came across this article -- "Township Council Proposes Municipal Tax on Bags." Basically, our town council is seeking state legislature's approval to permit the township to impose a municipal tax for businesses that dispense paper and plastic bags in our town.

I appreciate that our town is taking a proactive role in being green and protecting the environment. The statistics definitely support this type of action is both necessary and needed. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Census Bureau, The Reason Foundation, Envirosax (which has really cute reusable bags, by the way) and various other resources, more than 100 billion plastic shopping bags are used in the U.S. every year, and at least another 10 billion paper bags are used each year. Plus, 12 million barrels of oil are needed to make plastic bags and more than 14 million trees are destroyed in order to make paper bags.

The worst part is trying to properly dispose of both paper and plastic bags. While both can be recycled, the U.S. estimates that some 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of the ocean.

Based on our town alone, which has a population of approximately 24,000, we'd use 10.1 million bags every year based on the U.S. average. Imposing this tax would either greatly reduce plastic and paper bag usage or generate more than $100,000 in revenue. It seems like a win-win situation.

Interestingly enough, California already has a total ban on plastic and paper bags. Given the sheer size and population of that state, I'm sure it's made a major impact on conserving our environment. Additionally, New York City is also considering a five-cent bag tax.

Our town already has a very comprehensive recycling program that includes plastic, cardboard, aluminum, tin, and newspapers. Instituting a ban on plastic and paper bags would be a perfect fit. I hope the legislation does pass. I'd be interested to hear what other towns do -- or don't do -- to be environmentally conscious. What does your town currently have in place? A tax? A ban on all plastic and paper bags? Or something completely different?

Some portions of this blog contain excerpts from the article "Township Council Proposes Municipal Tax on Bags," The Villadom Times, March 11, 2009.

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