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Taxing plastic bags is not the answer

Posted: October 2, 2011 - 8:19pm  |  Updated: October 3, 2011 - 11:02pm

We all agree that reducing litter and increasing conservation and recycling is an important goal for every community. However, taxing shoppers for using plastic bags has downsides that can’t be ignored.

Stores report that when a tax is levied on plastic bags, the majority of customers switch to paper increasing its use by 50 to 60 percent. Paper is a more bulky and costly substitute for plastic increasing shipping and bag costs to stores by almost 20 percent, and if not recycled, takes up more landfill space and generates greenhouse gases when it degrades. These costs plus the tax are passed on to consumers.

We’ve seen that litterers are not rational folks and plastic bag taxes won’t make them more responsible. Many communities report that the litter problem is largely unaffected by a tax.

Changing hearts, minds and habits is best accomplished by promoting a positive message about the benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling. The result will be higher recycling rates and more conservation of all materials in the waste/resource stream. A punitive tax on a single item won’t accomplish this goal. ALPAR urges a no vote on Prop. 5.

Mary Fisher

Executive Director

Alaskans for Litter Prevention & Recycling (ALPAR)

Anchorage

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