Taxing Plastic Bags in NYC

Last week Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed a 5-cent fee on new plastic bags distributed at grocery stores, department stores, restaurants and other retailers. The fee is a penny lower than the 6 cents per bag proposed in November.

Despite the decreased fee, the projected revenue is $84 million. According to an article in the New York Times, other estimates suggest the revenue could rise to $144 million by 2011 and $124 in 2012. The falling revenue assumes that plastic bag consumption would decrease each year. In Ireland, plastic bag use decreased by 94 percent just a few weeks after the country adopted a 33-cent charge in 2002.

Because the fee is actually going to be considered a tax, the proposal still needs to be approve from the State Legislature in Albany. If the proposal passes, New York City would become one of the first cities in the United States to assess a plastic bag tax. Remember that San Francisco banned plastic bags at grocery stores in 2007.

I agree with those who worry about the tax, citing their need to use some bags to clean up after pet waste or to use for trash. I do know, however, that most people accumulate way more bags than can be used for these purposes. In my apartment, for example, between four roommates, there is always a large bag stuffed with extra plastic bags waiting to be recycled during the next trip to the grocery store. I hope the tax passes so that people will make more of a conscious effort to cut down on their plastic bag use.