The city government of Washington DC, beginning this month, will impose a tax of 5 cents per plastic bags for supermarket customers. City officials plan to use the increased revenue to combat pollution in a local river. According to manufacturers of plastic bags, who obviously aren't pleased with the new tax, the decision will cost the families of Washington "$ 5 million in 2010." Or, in other words, residence will have 100 million opportunities to choose an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags next year.
Maybe the federal government can learn a thing or two from their local counterpart in DC.Not the First City to Discourage Plastic Bags
The new tax on plastic bags in Washington is not the first push to phase out the product, which is known to be a common source of litter and are fodder for landfills. San Francisco, in 2008, banned the use of plastic bags in the city and ordered them to be replaced with more eco-friendly materials--like paper--though reusable canvas bags are gaining in popularity.
Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington, admits the purpose of the tax is not to add a financial burden to the city's shoppers, but to encourage shoppers not to be taxed at all:
I steadied this law in order to reduce the amount of plastic bags that pollute our rivers. We want the whole world know that you can save the river and save five cents bringing your own shopping bag.
A Growing Trend?
Cracking down on plastic bags may be a global trend. Just last year, China imposed a new tax on the bags and made regulations to ban the worst polluting types. Some companies within the US are already charging a small fee for the plastic bags, as well.
Banning the bags outright may be one way of getting them out of stores, but a small tax--like the one now imposed on Washington DC residents, may be more effective in encouraging consumers to make the eco-friendly decision to forgo them on their own. At least that way, they'll still be available to people who have some creative purpose for them, or for those who don't mind advertising their ambivalence towards the environment.