Dems call for 10-cent tax on plastic bags nationwide

Several House Democrats have co-sponsored legislation that would charge consumers 10 cents per plastic bag used.  California and Washington, D.C. already have statutes on the books that tax the bags, and several local ordinances are in effect in small and medium-sized cities.

Washington Examiner:

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., proposed the legislation in an effort to build off the way that some areas of the country charge consumers for using plastic bags in order to reduce waste. California and Washington, D.C., already charge people to use plastic bag.

Several House Democrats have co-sponsored legislation that would charge consumers 10 cents per plastic bag used.  California and Washington, D.C. already have statutes on the books that tax the bags, and several local ordinances are in effect in small and medium-sized cities.

Washington Examiner:

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., proposed the legislation in an effort to build off the way that some areas of the country charge consumers for using plastic bags in order to reduce waste. California and Washington, D.C., already charge people to use plastic bag.

"I'm proud of the fact that cities in my District and throughout California have led the way on dealing with plastic bag pollution, but it is time for us to take action at a national level," Lowenthal said. "Plastic pollution is one of the most visible environmental impacts of our consumer age. All Americans can reap the same benefits that California has: less plastic pollution and a higher quality of life."

Under his bill, consumers would pay a minimum of 10 cents per plastic bag at supermarkets and other retailers. Retailers would be able to keep 4 cents per bag if they have a recycling program that qualifies under the bill.

Funds raised by the bill would go to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support environmental projects.

"Americans for the most part all agree that a clean environment is better for us as individuals and better not just for our children, but for all future generations," Lowenthal said. "Being sustainable today is an investment in a cleaner and healthier tomorrow."

There is some evidence that a plastic bag tax reduces energy consumption and waste.  But that's only if consumers reuse the bags four or five times.  The actual reduction is tiny, since most people won't reuse the bags. 

Where there is no disagreement is about the increased burden of paperwork on small businesses.  Reporting requirements are onerous, and for the small businessman, they cost more in lost productivity than any gains made by the recycle program.

It's probably the easiest measure we can take to prevent our landfills from overflowing, so the concept – if a workable plan can be created to get people to use fewer plastic bags – is probably a good one.  But the bag tax is not the answer.