Sack the bag tax idea

The Athens Banner-Herald has reported that two of our county commissioners have expressed the concept of taxing plastic retail bags at ten cents each in order to discourage their use, and an editorial today supports the notion. I guess we can expect such proposals to be discussed on our liberal island in the ocean of a conservative state. But since no one asked me what I thought, I will tell you: It is an awful idea.

We don't need a new tax to interfere with business and promote a policy effort that is already misguided. There is a lot of talk about how bad plastic bags are for the environment, but the arguments are usually a bit of a stretch. Our bags in Athens aren't hurting ocean life when they're going to the landfill or being recycled. I haven't come across evidence that the bags are increasing demand for the petroleum from which they are made since petroleum demand is driven by fuel consumption. If you really want to reduce the volume of garbage going into the landfill, focusing on a product that takes up very little volume shows your priorities are out of order when we don't have reliable or convenient ways of disposing of electronics, batteries, and hazardous waste in Clarke County.

In my household, these plastic bags are reused. They are reused to dispose of animal waste. If my supply of these bags is cut off, then I will be buying plastic garbage bags and putting those in the landfill instead. I recycle the bags that I don't use by taking them to the receptacles at Publix.

Or maybe I'll shop at the Kroger or Publix in Oconee County. Let's not forget that this is yet another regulation that may drive even more business out of Clarke County. This is also a sort of policy area that should be handled at the state level and not at the county level.

Finally, the bag tax idea is disrespectful to the environmentally conscious citizens of Athens. Here we are already making great strides to protect our environment and recycle our waste on a voluntary basis. Many of us are already recycling and reusing these retail bags, yet this is not enough for two of our county commissioners. If this idea ever comes to life, chalk up another point for the nanny state.


hillary said...

Ah, but reduction is better than recycling.

Holly M. said...

Sorry, AKP, but I disagree completely. As Hillary said, reduction is better. Let's reduce, reuse (like you're doing!) and THEN recycle, in that order.

Just a quick fact on oil usage in high-density polyethylene bags: Plastic bags are made from oil: it takes about 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags, and the U.S. goes through 380 billion of them a year. That's a LOT of oil that could be otherwise saved.

Also, for those who aren't quite as responsible as you about reusing and recycling (and that is the majority, sadly)those bags end up in the trash and off to the landfill. It takes a plastic bag an average of 15 years to decompose. Think of how quickly your stock of plastic bags fills up, then think about how much space 380,000,000 bags will take up every year. Again, it's a lot of space.

And as an even bigger, greener alternative, how about composting that kitty poop I know is filling your bags? http://www.grist.org/article/kittylitter/

Adrian Pritchett said...

I want some more information about plastic production. I've often heard that it is made from byproducts of petroleum; if that is true, then plastic demand just "reuses" material that would be thrown away.

I don't have enough real estate to compost anything.

Holly M. said...


Also, my compost box is about 3'x3'x4'. And that's pretty large for kitchen scraps/dirt/lawn clippings, etc. NOT cat poop. Cat poop should NOT go on veggie gardens. I'm pretty sure you could fit one of those in your yard, and you don't even need one that large for a cat poop flower garden compost.

Adrian Pritchett said...

Maybe I should compost my own poop out in the front yard too.

Holly M. said...

Are you being silly or difficult? You know it's all self contained and no one knows it's poop...

Don't make me pinch you, AKP.

Unknown said...

I've tried various types of litter that are supposed to be recyclable/compostable, but you know what? They either aren't REALLY, or my cat won't use them... Of course, some would say, just put the cat out and avoid the whole kitty litter issue itself... (which would have a host of issues beyond 1 VERY unhappy 20+ lb cat...)

Honestly, I know each of us needs to do our part (and I do reduce and recycle -- except the kitty litter), but businesses and large organizations need to do MORE.

Recycling containers should be EVERYWHERE and they should be clearly labeled for glass, plastic, metal/aluminum & paper. Publix has recycling bins for plastic bags, but I haven't noticed any recycling bins for other plastics, glass, aluminum or paper....

hillary said...

Or how about accepting more than plastics #1 and 2 in recycling?

Holly M. said...

Went to Target on Saturday and instead of charging per plastic bag, they gave a discount of $0.05 because we used our own bag. How's that, AKP?

Winfield J. Abbe said...

Adrian: I was surprised you and Professor Brussack did not post the articles about how the State of Georgia recently confiscated milk (without a hearing or any proof of its danger to public health) from a local citizen who obtained it for others locally to be distributed at the local farmer's market. Another article appeared today in the ABH
October 20, 2009. This issue involves a number of vital legal issues. Here is my comment to the article today in the ABH:Everyone should observe that the State of Georgia did not provide one iota of proof that any of this milk was dangerous. In fact it was not even tested at all so far as this report is concerned. There was no appeals process because Mr. Waggoner did not hire a lawyer for thousands of dollars to go to a court and obtain an injuction against the illegal demands of the State of Georgia in patent violation of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and its own constitution as well. It all comes down to money and it costs large amounts of money to seek to enforce your rights and liberties in a very corrupt state of Georgia which violates the very rules it purports and is "sworn" to comply with. The U.S. FDA is also nothing but a corrupt cesspool bought and paid for by food processing companies and drug companies.
Most citizens of Athens are gutless cowards and love to be fooled, as some of the cowardly comments above illustrate. We live in a time of legal tyranny by the State against citizens. This has nothing to do with who might pay for healthcare if anyone got sick drinking this milk. Even if they did it would be very difficult to prove the health problems resulted from the milk, just as it is very difficult you became sick following a meal at a local restaurant. Again, this milk was not tested or proved to be contaminated with anything period, at least so far as the article is presented.
Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics
150 Raintree Ct.
Athens, GA 30607
Notice that none of the anonymous cowards who refuse to identify themselves are able to intellectually dispute one word of my comments. But they obviously love to have government violate our own constitution at will and with impunity. One set of rules for government, another set of rules for citizens.

Winfield J. Abbe said...

Here is my second post to the above article about government confiscation of milk from a private citizen:

Here is the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as quoted from the book
"The U.S. Constitution for Everyone" by Mort Gerberg, The Berkeley Publishing Group, N.Y., 1987, page 42:
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
In its confiscation of the milk belonging to Mr. Waggoner described in the above article in the ABH today, the State of Georgia is in patent violation of this provision of the U.S. Constitution and is therefore an outlaw lawbreaker no different than a common criminal. All citizens are expected to voluntarilty comply with all laws, but not government which willfully violates it with impunity because we citizens, through our gutless and cowardly non representatives, permit government to be an outlaw lawbreaker with no practical remedies when government violates the rules. One set of rules for citizens to force citizens to comply with government edicts, another set of rules for a corrupt and outlaw government which uses legal tyranny against the rights of citizens. Both political parties are responsible for this dismal situation over 2 centuries following a violent revolution with England over these very fundamental issues. The basic issues of the 5th Amendment above go all the way back to the Magna Carta! Shame, shame, shame on the cowardly legislators of Georgia who are responsible for this and shame on the lawyers who allow it to happen today without challenge.

Tim said...

I recycle styrofoam (egg cartons, trays, cups) at Publix. They have bins for that as well as bins for paper bags and plastic bags. Everything else I recycle goes to the collection points scattered around Oconee County. I have also heard that Lowes and Home Depot recycle styrofoam and CFD bulbs but haven't tried either one yet.

Unknown said...

Tim, I'm guessing you shop at the publix in oconee? The atl hwy publix in athens used to have recycling bins for styrofoam and for paper bags. The last time I looked, I only saw bins for plastic bags. Maybe they moved the others to the other side of the porch area.... (I will look when I shop there this week...)

Good for target for giving a discount on bring your own bag... now if only there were some recycling bins in that shopping center. ... ;-)

bluedogdem said...

So if I understand you correctly, the arguments against are plastic bags do not take up enough space to be a problem and this proposal will cost Athens business.

Obviously one plastic bag does not consume a lot of space, however the average family uses 1000-1500 bags a year. These bags take from 500-1000 years to decompose. Multiply those 1-1.5k bags a year times 30,000 Athens households and there is a sizable number of bags.

I find it hard to believe that people are going to spend a $3 in gas to drive to Oconee so they don't have spend 10 cents a bag.