If you were told of a simple measure that could have a positive impact on businesses and consumers while helping the environment, you’d say “that’s a no brainer,” right? Well, so would most intelligent people. For instance, in Washington, DC, here’s what a 5-cents-per-bag fee has accomplished since last year:
The D.C. tax charges shoppers 5 cents per bag, revenue the city has earmarked to clean up the polluted Anacostia River (note: businesses also get to keep a penny per bag sold). City officials have said bag use decreased from about 270 million in 2009 to about 55 million last year – a reduction of 80 percent. The city earned about $2 million from the tax, less than the $3.5 million that had been projected.
In a survey of 600 randomly chosen D.C. residents commissioned by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, 75 percent said they are using fewer bags since the tax was enacted, while 21 percent said they have not changed their habits. An additional survey of 51 business owners found that 58 percent said they had seen no changes to their business, while 20 percent reported positive effects from the tax, including less litter around the store and savings on the number of bags they purchased to serve customers.
Twelve percent of the business owners reported negative effects from the tax, although the report does not detail what they were.
That’s right, the DC tax on disposable bags was a winner all around, despite all the ginned-up “controversy” by the D.C. Republicans Party (shocker, huh?) and the plastics industry.
Meanwhile, here in Virginia, once again Republicans and their pollution-happy friends (e.g., chemical manufacturers) have successfully blocked any move to reduce the use of these wasteful, costly, environmentally destructive bags. As usual, Republicans are mindlessly against progress, even when it has been clearly shown in other localities that there’s no harm – in fact there’s even a net gain! – to businesses, and other than that it’s all “win-win-win.” At the beginning of this article, I stated that win-win-win solutions like a tax on disposable bags are a “no-brainer” that most intelligent people would support. Unfortunately, here in Virginia, on this and on so many other issues, the phrase “most intelligent people” doesn’t appear to apply to Virginia Republicans.