Saturday, October 10, 2009

CASE STUDY: DC Moves Toward Plastic Bag Tax

By Chris Kodama

A definite indicator that reusable bags are growing in popularity is the presence of plastic (and green) bags in the news. In a recent blog post by U.S. News and World Report's Maura Judkis, the green blogger talked about a recent decision in which the D.C. City Council voted unanimously to tax both plastic and paper bags. The bag tax was pre-approved June 2 and includes a 5 cent tax on bags used in the city. The bag fee still faces a secondary vote later this month and if passed will become the first bag tax implemented in the state.

Larger cities including Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have already approved or implemented plastic and paper bag taxes to encourage the use of grocery tote bags instead.

Proceeds from the DC bag tax will go to the Anacostia River, a high polluted body of water in the state. In fact, the legislation, The Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act, is named after the river. Overall, the council estimates the tax will cost consumers between $7 and $15 per year, depending on how often they shop.

"There is not a river I go to, a park I go to, where I don't see plastic bags everywhere," Councilman Jack Evans said prior to the vote. "The fact is our country is becoming inundated with plastic bags and plastic bottles. This is the first step to try to address this issue."

Opponents of the tax claim the expense, however, is too much for poor consumers to absorb during the global recession. Judkis tends to disagree citing the successful plastic bag tax in Ireland that significantly reduced the use of bags by 94 percent within the first few weeks.

Even the New York Times chimed in on the green movement citing in a recent editorial, "Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable - on par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one's dog."

Chris Kodama is the co-founder and co-owner of Ityse, an online retailer specializing in stylish, reusable grocery bags.

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