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Plastic bag tax hurts families

Locval Opinion

Posted: June 8, 2008 2:04 a.m.
Updated: August 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.
There is no debate when it comes to the importance of recycling in our state, and the need for all Californians to do our part to reduce littering.

But Assembly Democrats have taken the push to encourage more recycling to a new extreme by passing a misguided proposal that will force grocery stores to charge their customers a new tax of at least 25 cents per bag on all the paper and plastic bags they use to take groceries home.

Assembly Bill 2058, by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, would force grocery stores to increase the recycling of paper and plastic grocery bags by at least 70 percent over their 2007 recycling rates through in-store programs.

If a store fails to recycle enough bags, it would be required to charge the new tax or else be prohibited from giving customers bags at all.

It simply doesn't make sense that California consumers would be forced to pay a new tax of 25 cents or more per bag for recycling efforts when it only costs grocery stores one cent to provide plastic bags and 5 to 6 cents for paper bags.

But the 25-cent-per-bag tax could be only just the beginning. AB 2058 also allows local governments to charge their own bag tax on top of that, meaning we could be paying even more in taxes in communities across the state.

There's no doubt that this bill will hurt California's working families especially. They will be forced to find their own shopping bags to use at the grocery store or be forced to pay an expensive new tax.

Considering most Californians make more than one trip to the grocery store every week, and use several paper and plastic bags to carry home their groceries, this bill could add up to hundreds of dollars in higher taxes on Californians.

Working families are already struggling to afford the record-high prices of food and gasoline in our state. They want relief from their state government, not higher taxes.

In addition, there are potential unintended consequences that may actually cause greater harm to the environment. When the city of San Francisco banned plastic bags, the suppliers of the bags found that where they used to be able to supply all of the stores in the city in one trip in their trucks, because of the increased size and weight of the paper bags, it now took an additional seven trips to supply the same number of stores, thus creating a much larger carbon footprint.

Recycling is extremely important, but this bill will do very little to reduce littering or clean up our state.

Some stores are already offering their customers a cash incentive of 6 to 10 cents per bag to return them to the store for recycling. We should be encouraging those efforts and other incentives, not raising taxes.

Rather than punishing shoppers for using a paper or plastic bag, lawmakers should be working together to find better, more responsible ways to reduce littering and increase recycling without new taxes.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, represents the 38th Assembly District. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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