Paper or Plastic with Taxes

Discussion
Apr 22, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Environmental groups in New York City have proposed a 15-cent tax on plastic bags to encourage shoppers to reuse bags while raising needed funds for city parks.


David Lutz, executive director, Neighborhood Open Space Coalition, called the plastic bag tax “a win-win idea.”


The proposed tax on plastic bags is similar to one in the Republic of Ireland. Proponents told The New York Times that in Ireland, plastic bag usage has dropped 90 percent since the tax became law.


Sheikh Rahman, a store director of a Wild Oats Market in Manhattan, said a 90 percent reduction in the use of plastic bags would save his store approximately $10,800 a year.


Opponents of the proposed tax, such as E. J. McMahon, senior fellow and tax expert, Manhattan Institute, sees it as “another nuisance tax and another hassle to stores and consumers. It’s a distant cousin of the cigarette tax. It’s like saying, ‘We’re imposing this tax because we want people to stop smoking, and besides, we’ll make money.’ “


Moderator’s Comment: Should the US retail industry
support a plastic bag tax similar to the one in Ireland?


Based on personal observations over the years, reusing
shopping bags (even without a tax) is more common in Europe than here. We seriously
doubt that a 90 percent reduction in plastic bag use is achievable in New York
with the proposed tax.


That said, New York has no place for its trash. The city
currently carts its trash out-of-state because it has no where to put it. The
issue needs addressing sooner rather than later. The question becomes, do retailers
formulate an industry response or sit back and wait for legislators to do it
for them? [George
Anderson – Moderator
]

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