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.
As examined in the foundation’s report, the bag tax legislation passed in Washington D.C. called the “Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act,” is already switching gears. City officials originally pitched a campaign promising citizens the bag tax revenue will fund environmental education campaigns and implement measures to clean up the river. However, as determined in The Tax Foundation report’s findings, “Just four months after enactment of the bag tax, and with only $150,000 collected, Mayor Fenty proposed raiding the fund through an inter-governmental transfer in order to pay for general city services not necessarily related to any environmental programs.” To review the complete report, please visit The Tax Foundation’s website
In March of 2007, San Francisco, California was the first city to ban plastic bags where the decision was based on the “harsh economics” behind recycling. However, plastic bag bans receive extensive criticism because these disposable plastic bags that were formerly available in grocery stores and reused for bin liners, have now been replaced with the increased purchase of heavier gauge plastic garbage bags. In addition, some retailers choose the alternative route of offering paper bags which consumes more energy and releases more greenhouse gases resulting in negative environmental impacts.
Reducing and disposing of waste are constant challenges we all face and available waste disposal methods are not always controlled or consistent in global regions. Programs need to be implemented to properly educate consumers how to reuse and reduce plastic bag waste in a number of positive ways. Biodegradable plastic bags are gaining global acceptance however, more efforts need to be placed on the education behind the technology so that consumers are able to identify and utilize products with true environmental benefits.