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Sep 16

Green Living Tip: Plastic bag fees encourage BYOB

Plastic bag fees and bans encourage shoppers to BYOB

2013-06-17 Plastic Grocery Bags

A growing number of communities want shoppers to BYOB — Bring your own bags. And they’re imposing fees or even bans on plastic bags (and in some places paper bags) to encourage use of reusable cloth bags to carry home purchases from grocery and retail stores.

Environmentalists and other proponents of bag fees or bans say one-time use disposable bags are a major source of pollution, while manufacturers counter that such regulations limit choice and burden lower-income consumers.

As of early March, no state has enacted a statewide ban, fee or tax, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, it reports, Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington “are considering banning single-use plastic bags, with California’s proposed ban including paper and other single-use bags as well.” And according to the NCSL, eight states—Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington—have proposed a “fee or tax on the distribution of bags which a shopper will have to pay, either directly or indirectly.”

There is even a push to go national on bag fees. The Trash Reduction Act of 2013 was introduced in the U.S. House on Earth Day April 22 by Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, a Democrat. The measure would place a five-cent fee on all single-use bags, plastic or paper, at grocery and retail stores. A similar measure introduced by Moran in 2009 failed to make it out of committee, according the website, Plastic Bag Ban Report.

Cities have also joined the movement.  In 2012, Los Angeles became the largest city in the country to ban plastic bags.  A Denver City Council member is considering a bill that would impose a 5-cent fee on plastic or paper bags at checkout, The Denver Post reports. Nearby Boulder is poised to impose a 10-cent fee on both paper and plastic bags on July 1, though there are some exclusions.

Proponents say plastic bags are threat to the environment and wildlife. “From huge floating garbage patches in the ocean, to dead birds found filled with trash that was mistaken for food, using plastic in our daily lives has undeniable consequences,” says the website Earthshare.

The plastics industry is fighting back.

Mark Daniels is chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, part of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Washington. In a commentary published in February by Plastics News, he writes, “the case against our industry is often made by environmentalists who either have a poor understanding of the science or are just ignoring the facts.”

Consumers who object to disposable bags must keep one thing in mind: Remember to bring reusable bags into the store when you shop.  Otherwise you may have to answer this question:

Do you want paper or plastic?