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.