Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie: Taxes on Plastic Bags

by | Jan 4, 2010 | Headline News | 5 comments

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    As if taxing our gas by the mile isn’t enough, we have politicians around the country, including Texas and Washington DC, who came up with what they think is a brilliant solution to increase revenue by taxing plastic bags at the grocery store. It’s not enough that food prices are rising and will continue to do so as the very same politicians who came up with this asinine idea allow our Federal Reserve to destroy our buying power by printing unlimited amounts of money.

    The District’s user fee on plastic and paper bags at stores that sell food and/or alcohol went into effect New Year’s Day and is one of the toughest such measures in the country.

    Lawmakers hope the tax will make the nation’s capital more green-friendly and help the environment, with proceeds going to fund the cleanup of the Anacostia River. They estimate it will produce about $3.6 million in revenue in the first year, an amount that might decline as awareness grows and people get used to bringing reusable bags when they go shopping.

    “It’s controversial because it goes to asking people to think about whether they need disposable bags or not when they go to the store. Before, you never had to think about that,” said D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who sponsored the bill.

    Guess what, whether you use plastic or green-friendly, you are being taxed on the bag. With plastic bags, it’s a direct tax that charges per bag. With green-friendly, you have to pay $1 – $2 for the bag and pay a sales tax on that purchase, so either way, they get their money. I suppose it is just a one-time payment when you go green, so it might make more financial sense — but personally, I don’t think I would like having to drag 10 bags into the grocery store with me on my weekly trip.

    Personally, I like plastic bags. I re-use the bags after we empty our groceries, and the cost of those bags was covered by the private business that provided them.

    When governments have budget shortfalls, they will tax everything, even if it is FREE to the consumer.

    Again, I know that my solution sounds a little looney, but why not control the budget by reducing spending first and then looking at taxes. Instead, our benevolent leaders take the exact opposite approach. Tax everything to cover the money they’ve blown on worthless, bloated projects, and if they have anything left over, spend on even more bloated projects.Then, find something else to tax.

    Makes total sense.

    Perhaps I will stop using bags altogether. Just put my goods back in the cart, I’ll load them in the van and walk them in one by one. Yes, it might be a pain in the butt, but 1) I get some exercise and 2) it’s my way of silently protesting the predatory actions of our local, state and federal governments.

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      5 Comments

      1. Greg

        Hi Mac Slavo. Thanks for the article. I live right across the river from DC. When I heard that they were imposing a tax on plastic bags I was at first happy. I did not think of it as a revenue generator until I read your article, which makes sense. If DC really cared about making pro-environment policy then they would ban the use of plastic bags in all businesses. As is, I guess it’s more of a use tax. I’m not so opposed to use taxes because if I don’t want to pay the tax I can avoid, in this case, using the plastic bag. It’s just green-washed tax increase. I agree with you that’s it’s the opposite of what needs to happen. Seems that both political parties have lost all fiscal discipline.

        I’m one of those guys that takes my own bags to the grocery store. It took a while to change my behavior–I kept forgetting to take them with me. But now it’s second nature. My reusable bags where a one-time expense. Some of them are a couple years old now and show no sign that they will wear out anytime soon. I know I’m not littering the earth with plastic bags or placing additional pressure on our forests by using paper bags. It’s a big change for a cleaner environment when it becomes a culturally driven change in mindset. The things we use for only a few minutes, like a plastic bag, should not be things that hang or float around the environment forever.

        It’s ironic…Many of our products that should be durable are cheap and disposable, but our disposable things like plastic containers, bags, styrofoam that should be biodegradable are made of substances that last almost forever. All the plastic every produced (beginning in the 1950s) is still with us–will always be with us–until a microbe evolves to take advantage of an abundance food source and can break it down. Bisphenol-A leaching from plastic is known to cause a host of health problems including obesity, heart disease, behavior abnormalities, and fertility problem in men (and documented in many other species as well). The plastic bags that end up in the ocean are mistaken for jellyfish and eaten by marine creatures, poisoning them at least, but many die from intestinal blockages.

        I’m old enough to remember when using paper bags in grocery stores was standard. Then there was the drive to convince people to switch to plastic bags because it saved trees. People would look at you with score if you used paper bags because you were a treekiller or something. I think the real reason grocery stores wanted to switch to plastic bags was because they were cheaper to provide to customers, thus lowering overhead expenses. Now public opinion is swinging back to paper because they realize that it is a renewable resource that is bio-degradable.

        Even better is a reusable bag. If you have a car, it’s easy, just place them in the trunk so when you go to the grocery they are with you. Me, I don’t own a car, so I have a couple of bags that fold down fairly flat and I keep them in my gym bag, so when I buy something and need a bag, I already have one.

        Still, I can relate to what you wrote, Mac, about reusing plastic bags at home. I have to glean a few from the environment to reuse for discarding my cat’s litterbox waste. I usually find some at work where co-workers carried their lunch back to the office–the plastic bag was in use maybe for 5 minutes and then promptly thrown away. Again, it’s something that will linger in the environment forever and was used for about 5 minutes and then discarded. I feel good about finding a second use for these.

        As for the usage tax in DC, this one seems easy to escape. I suppose governments on all levels are going to find creative ways to generate income without a direct sales tax or income tax increase that would be political suicide to the congressperson voting for it. Maybe they will get some sense and cut spending.

      2. admin

        QUOTE: “If DC really cared about making pro-environment policy then they would ban the use of plastic bags in all businesses.”

        Agreed. If this was about the environment, they would ban the bags. This is about revenue.

        QUOTE:”I’m one of those guys that takes my own bags to the grocery store. It took a while to change my behavior–I kept forgetting to take them with me. But now it’s second nature. My reusable bags where a one-time expense.”

        Honestly, I can see myself using the bags… I was more or less venting in the article. If they do impose a tax here in Texas, it would make financial sense for me to switch to the other bags, because let’s be honest, dragging my butt to and from the van, not matter the physical wellness benefits, will get really annoying really quickly.

        Look, I am all for “going green” and using reusable products and even alternative energy. However, when i see politicians mandating this policies by pointing a gun at my head, that’s when I get really fired up. If the free market accepts the new bags and rejects plastic bags, so be it. If private businesses choose to remove the plastic bags or charge for them, that’s a whole different ball game. But when government does it, it just ain’t right!

      3. Greg

        Hi Mac Slavo. I totally agree with you. Government involvement tends to screw everything up. I don’t want the government mandating my behavior.

        Did you read the book, The Tipping Point? One thing that stuck with me was how each individual choice/action can reach a tipping point and become a mass movement when enough individuals start doing the same thing. That’s my one hope for the environment. Decisive action won’t come from the “leadership” because they are too beholding to the corporations that fund their re-elections. Action will rise from the grassroots first and the politicians will rise on the populist wave to be elected or re-elected. The politicians will follow the people. With everything we buy we make a choice on what we really value.

        I am really against governments green-washing revenue generating schemes which erodes the true definition of a green product. Maybe the scheme will get more people fired up to take their own bags to the grocery to avoid the usage tax.

        I knew you were kidding about making numerous trips from the van. 😀

        So you are in Texas. You guys had a huge solar power plant go online late last year. This makes Texas the #1 producer of solar energy in the country.  Go Cowboys!

      4. girlygirl

        I also believe plastic bags need to be banned.  Only 1% are recycled and they are polluting our oceans and waterways and the small plastic particles float in the air and end up inside of our bodies.  My son tested very high with plastic particulates on blood testing and I was told this is the norm nowadays.  I bring 3 or 4 shopping bags with me into stores (just get in the habit of keeping them in the car).  If people forget their sacks, they can always purchase them at the check-out counter very reasonably and will learn quickly to bring in their bags.

      5. NetRanger

        Greg and Mac,

        May I be blunt? Your statements (and agreements) that things tend to get screwed up when government gets involved is *WAY* understated. Don’t mince words. Tell us how you REALLY feel!

        I prefer, to scream out the window with a bullhorn: “WHEN GOVERNMENT GETS INVOLVED IN SOMETHING IT TURNS TO COMPLETE CRAP!!!”

        There! I said it. I feel better now. So, now we know! This is why everthing has turned to crap. The government is (or is trying to be) involved in EVERYTHING.

        Sorry if I got a little over zealous there, but, I believe even my statement is an understatement. Is there anything in this world that happens that isn’t going to be used as a false flag to steal a little more liberty? I just wonder.

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