Today is the day that Seattleites vote for or against a shopping bag tax. Well, in theory, it's the last day we can vote since we've switched to all absentee mail-in voting. Anyway, by voting "Yes", citizens are choosing to retain an ordinance that was adopted by Seattle City Council last year whose goals was to reduce waste and pollution by encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags. The ordinance would charge shoppers 20 cents for every new disposable bag they carry out of grocery, drug and convenience stores.
This ordinance was modeled after a similar law that exists in Ireland, with the hope that the fee would increase the use of reusables and is expected to reduce disposable bag use by up to 90%. Not too surprisingly, oil and chemical companies have now spent 1.4 million dollars in a campaign to repeal the law, mostly focusing on how unfair the bag tax is to the poor, etc.
What’s the American Chemistry Council getting for its money? In the last two weeks the group has spent $40,000 on direct mail, more than $7,000 on yard signs (many of which have been placed illegally in city medians), $15,000 on phone calls to voters, $11,000 on online and radio ads, and nearly $9,000 on unspecified "get-out-the-vote" efforts. Looks like this ordinance is hitting the ACC in a sore spot - its profits.
Disposable shopping bags are a significant source of pollution, generate global warming gases, harm wildlife, clog stormdrains, and cause other problems. Seattle Public Utilities estimates that Seattleites use approximately 292 million plastic and 68 million paper disposable shopping bags per year, totaling about 360 million bags a year. Nationally, we use 100 billion plastic bags and 7 billion paper bags a year. Wouldn't it be nice to get rid of them all?
Want to find out more? Read How Bad are Disposible Grocery Bags?.
What do you feel about a bag tax? Would you vote for one in your area?