Washington DC Plastic Bag Tax Not Curbing Use

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 02:23 PM

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While the District of Columbia pats itself on the back for “a 60 percent drop in household bag use and many fewer plastic bags littering city streets,” revenue figures indicate there has been no decrease in bag usage, The Washington Post reports.

Annual revenues for Washington D.C.’s nickel-per-bag tax on disposable bags have “proven remarkably stable” since the tax went into effect in January 2010, the Post notes.

Each month, the District collects between $150,000 and $200,000, earmarked for river cleanup, but the steady amount indicates people are using disposable bags as much as ever.

“Our objective is to change behavior in ways that will, over time, restore health to our water bodies and make them fishable, swimmable resources for District residents, businesses, and visitors,” a stormwater programs manager for the Environment Department told the Post.

While many municipalities across the country have enacted bans or taxes on disposable bags, no state has yet to do so, according to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Hawaii has a “de-facto” statewide ban since all four of its counties prohibit non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkouts. The counties also mandate that paper bags must be at least 40 percent recycled. Honolulu retailers have until Jan.1, 2015, to comply with the law.
Seventy-five California cities and counties have enacted bans but the issue can’t make it over the statewide hurdle, according to the Huffington Post, which notes plastic bags are not bio-degradable and pose a threat to wildlife and the environment.

“Birds and turtles are just two of the 663 species of wildlife that are impacted by plastic marine pollution either by ingestion or entanglement,” writes environmental attorney Lisa Kaas Boyle. “According to the U.S. Marine Debris Monitoring Program, plastic bags are the most commonly found item on beaches with the potential to entangle animals.”

Effective Jan. 1, Los Angeles grocery stores are prohibited from distributing plastic bags to customers. Shoppers have the option of bagging groceries with reusable bags or purchasing paper bags for 10-cents each.

In 2013 alone, the City of Sacramento’s materials recovery facility lost $100,000 due to shutting down six times a day to remove plastic from the machines, according to Kaas Boyle.

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