Monday, March 7, 2011
Lawmaker puts price on use of plastic bags | By Jimmy Vielkind
"If Assemblyman Micah Kellner has his way, someone carrying a plastic bag full of groceries would get the same disdainful looks that might be directed at a pregnant lady smoking, or someone walking away from the stinky contribution their pooch has made to a New York City sidewalk.
"I want to make it a faux pas to be seen on the street with a plastic bag," said Kellner, a Manhattan Democrat. "While we may use plastic bags for a couple of minutes to bring home our groceries, they stay in the environment for thousands of years."
Kellner is sponsoring a bill, introduced late last month, that would impose a 25-cent tax on every plastic bag used to carry groceries or other store merchandise in New York City. The same bill would incentivize the use of reusable shopping bags -- made of canvas or thicker, sometimes recycled plastic -- by allowing grocers to give them to consumers if they leave a quarter as a deposit. After a year, the unclaimed quarters would be swept to City Hall's coffers. A tax break would be offered to cover "a majority" of the cost of reusable bags, which cost over $1 on the low end, more if you want hemp or recycled cotton.
Kellner notes that because plastic bags often end up as litter, his measure would keep streets cleaner. And if the bags do make it to landfills, the non-biodegradable, petroleum-based sacks outlive us all.
Kellner cited a reusable bag company's claim that the average American will go through 60 bags after four shopping trips.
David Vermillion, a spokesman for Hilex Poly, the nation's largest recycler and manufacturer of plastic bags, framed it this way: "By that math, he's taxing a family $3.75 every time they go to the grocery store -- money they could use to buy milk for their children."
Vermillion notes that plastic bags are 100 percent recyclable, and many municipalities have taken steps to make it easier for consumers to have them reprocessed. Albany County unanimously passed a law in 2008 requiring stores larger than 10,000 square feet (the size of the average Price Chopper or Target) to place bins outside their doors allowing consumers to drop off used bags. It mirrored a similar law that went on the books in New York City earlier that year.
Price Chopper stores also offer a 3-cent-per-bag rebate for customers who bring their own reusable carriers. But the Big Apple's residents still go through 5.2 billion plastic bags a year, according to a 2009 estimate by the New York City Department of Sanitation.
"That's billion with a B," said Kellner..."
Read the rest over on TimesUnion.com