Sunday, March 1, 2009

Paper or Plastic?

Willing to spend 5 cents per bag next time you buy something at CVS? That's something you may have to consider if the D.C. City Council passes new legislation that would raise a 5 cent tax on plastic and paper bags used at grocery stores, drug stores, and street vendors.

According to a GW Hatchet article published on February 26, this new law aims to clean up the Anacostia River, which is most heavily polluted by plastic bags, among other trash. And while supporters of the legislation recognize that there is concern over increased prices during the recession, they also point out the obvious: customers won't have to spend more if they bring reusable bags. In other words, the law would both help clean up the Anacostia River and decrease the use of disposable bags by encouraging people to be more environmentally conscious while shopping.

The Washington Post's discussion of the legislation notes another point of concern:
Critics also say there's a financial burden on the poor who would be charged for bags that would normally be free.
Not an issue, argues Tommy Wells, D.C. Council member and author of the bill. The city plans to provide free bags to low-income residents. In doing so, they further encourage all D.C. residents to stay environmentally friendly.

Moreover, those who would choose to pay the tax would contribute to much-needed city revenue. Just look at Ireland as an example of a successful bag tax. According to the BBC back in 2002:
A tax on plastic shopping bags in the Republic of Ireland has cut their use by more than 90% and raised millions of euros in revenue, the government says.

The tax of 15 cents per bag was introduced five months ago in an attempt to curb litter, and the improvement had been immediate and "plain to see", said Environment Minister Martin Cullen.
Will the tax be successful in D.C.? We'll have to wait and see.

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