Earlier this week, The California Assembly received full support from the California Grocers Association to pass Bill AB 1998, which if approved by the Senate on Friday, June 4, 2010, would ban all single use plastic and paper carry out bags from supermarkets, retailers, convenience stores, food marts and liquor stores. The ban would require grocers and retailers to replace plastic and most paper bags with reusable bags, such as jute bags or sell paper bags with at least 40 percent recycled content.
According to findings of The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., “…bag taxes may just be another way for a state or city to grab general revenue.”
15 states in the United States have pending bag tax proposals ranging from 5 cents to 25 cents a bag but are there any environmental benefits as a result of mandatory bag taxes?
Bag tax proposals are receiving widespread debate with multiple groups claiming the overall purpose and true environmental benefits are not being achieved. In March of 2002, Ireland passed a plastic bag tax and as reported by the American Chemistry Council, sales of plastic shopping bags decreased by almost 90 percent however, sales of other plastic bags (i.e.: garbage bags) increased by 400 percent. Also, some retailers switched to paper bags, resulting in more transport trucks involved in shipping the increased weight and volume of paper bags versus plastic bags. For further information, please visit American Chemistry Council’s website.
The State of California will soon vote on two bills which will virtually eradicate the use of plastic bags in California. California currently has a law prohibiting fees on plastic bags (not paper), but outright bans are permitted provided the governmental agency does so through the appropriate channels. These appropriate channels permit plastic bags to be banned even if an environmental impact review concludes that paper is worse for the environment than plastic. In other words, bad policy is perfectly legal provided that the bureaucratic process is respected.
The first bill is titled AB 1998. AB 1998 will prohibit large retailers and chain stores after July 1, 2011, from providing any type of plastic carryout bag to a customer. These stores must instead provide reusable bags for a fee and paper bags for $0.25.