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Thursday, May 10,2012

Paper or plastic? Tax ’em!

By Pamela White
photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

For decades, the question in the checkout lane has been, “Paper or plastic?” A great many people are hoping the Boulder City Council’s answer will be, “Tax ’em!”

On Tuesday, May 15, City Council will take up the issue of banning or mandating fees for single-use shopping bags in the city. On the table are several options, including: a fee on both paper and plastic bags; a ban on plastic bags combined with a fee on paper bags; a ban on both plastic and paper bags; and education and outreach campaigns.


There are lots of good reasons why city leaders are considering banning or taxing the use of single-use bags, which consume resources, generate litter, pollute our oceans and take up space in our landfills.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 100 billion plastic shopping bags are used annually at an estimated cost of $4 billion to retailers.

Less than 1 percent of plastic bags in the United States are recycled. Some are reused, then tossed when they fall apart. Most go straight into the landfill, where they can take 1,000 years to break down. Millions end up in our oceans, where they, together with other plastics, contribute to the deaths of an estimated 1 billion seabirds and mammals each year.

Plastic bags are a problem locally as well. Although some residents recycle disposable bags, Boulder County’s recent Waste Composition Study showed that that a shit-ton of plastic bags go into our solid waste stream each year — 781 tons in 2010 alone. That’s almost 120 million plastic bags that we failed to recycle in Boulder County.

Clearly, asking people politely to recycle isn’t enough. If it were, they’d be doing it by now.

Further, plastic bags also make it harder to recycle the materials we do consistently recycle. Despite Eco- Cycle’s many and constant warnings that plastic bags constitute the worst contaminant in the single-stream recycling bin, lazy people still toss them in — at a significant loss in terms of productivity to our county recycling program.

“When you put it in your singlestream recycling bin, it is the number one contaminant,” says Marti Matsch, communications director for Eco Cycle. “It literally binds the equipment used to sort recyclables. We have to stop the equipment, get up on it and cut the bags off.”

(Matsch notes that, when recycled correctly at the Center for Hard-to- Recycle Materials — the CHaRM — or participating grocery stores, plastic bags, which are 100 percent recyclable, are turned into a kind of durable “lumber” that is used for decks and piers, cutting back on the use of wood.)

The environmental havoc caused by plastic bags doesn’t mean that paper bags are a better choice. Paper bags use more water in the manufacturing process and require more energy to transport. They also contribute to deforestation.

These things, taken together, constitute a high price for our planet to pay for the tiny convenience of not bringing your own bags to the grocery store.

For city government, a bag tax is the next logical step toward reaching its zero-waste goals. Other U.S. cities have banned or taxed the use of plastic bags, including San Francisco; Maui, Hawaii; Brownsville, Texas; as well as Aspen and Carbondale here in Colorado. The benefits to be gained by reducing the presence of single-use bags in our city is significant, while the consequences are minimal.

So you have to keep reusable bags in your car or backpack and remember to bring them inside when you shop. Hey, life is tough all around.

But which option should we choose — an outright ban or a tax?

Eco-Cycle would like the city to impose a user fee, not a ban, on single-use bags — both plastic and paper.

Banning only plastic bags would create the illusion that paper bags are somehow better for the environment, which they are not, Matsch says. Charging a fee, on the other hand, drives home the point that both plastic and paper bags are unnecessary uses of our resources.

“It’s a concept called ‘polluter pays’ that’s been around for quite a long time,” Matsch says. “A fee would discourage the unnecessary use of disposable bags and help create a cultural change around the use of disposable bags.”

And a cultural change is exactly what we need.

For more on recycling plastic bags in Boulder County, or to buy some snazzy reusable shopping bags, go to www.ecocycle.org.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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While hundreds of millions of dollars are made by manufactures of plastic wrapped products, plastic containers, plastic bottles as well as paper bags, paper wrap and paper products which line grocery store shelves--  only the customer at the grocery  store is supposed to pay tax on plastic bags.   Despite the fact that in our current taxes we already pay for waste disposal.  

But, still we get the job of paying for the clean up of corporate messes and they pay nothing for their trillions of tons of plastic they produce and make a product on.

That is simply not fair.   

I just walked by 1,000 plastic bottles of water, wrapped up in very thick plastic at King Soopers grocery store.  The manufacturer pays nothing for clean up of their plastic wrapped product--- King Soopers pays nothing for clean up of the plastic water bottles they are selling--- but the consumer does.  Not fair at all.

The biggest environmental polluters get off making profits off of their products---but the little guy pays for the clean-up.  That is how it usually works and folks take it with guilt trips laid on them about the environment and doing their part to save the world.

The Boulder City Council isn't applying the plastic bag tax to merchants and other businesses---  that would drive away business.  But, since everyone needs to buy groceries--  the Council is preying on customers at grocery stores to pay up some cash for revenues to the City.  

If this plastic bag thing were passed---  everyone would see the congestion at the check-out line it is going to cause.  Our local drunks & bums will hold up lines bickering about how they can't afford the fee.  

Some one else will buy $100 bucks of groceries and they're on the turn style-- but the person forgot their bags in the car-- they say they won't pay the bag fee and have to go out to get their bags in the car.  Tie-up time and YOU wait.  Saturday morning after a long week's work and trying to buy groceries extends into a huge long mess of waiting.

Grocery stores ought to be big about it---  and pay the bag fee as a courtesy to their customers their own profit making desires should be considered.

The Boulder City Council are a bunch of ridiculous nannies.  There are many more important issues in Boulder the City is already getting enough off of taxpayers to begin with.












Pamela uses the term-- "shit ton" of plastic bags in our environment--  I didn't know we could say "shit" on this blog-- maybe this is o.k. too-- There are a cluster fuck of deadly and highly toxic contaminants in our environment--- put there by the corporate moguls who never have to pay a nickel in any clean up.  Of course a clean up is virtually impossible as we know.

Take all the nuclear shit ton in Colorado's Rocky Mountain Flats.  Or how 'bout contaminated ground water in Boulder.  Oh, we can now remedy all of that by taxing the customer at the grocery store for plastic bags ?   That is silly eco-babble.

Grandma goes to the grocery store breathing noxious fumes from the buses & cars in Boulder, which the City does nothing about, and corporates fill the grocery store with trillions of tons of plastic for their profits--- but, granny can pay for plastic bags on a fixed income.  She can't afford to double bag her groceries because of some silly "environmentally conscious" overpaid City Council member.  They get $87,000 a year.  How 'about taking a salary cut if they are so concerned about the environment and the needs of the community.

Pamela says there will be "education and outreach programs"---  that means more "not-for-profit" organization creation--  with a bunch of board members, committee members, subcommittee members, and countless other employees laying on the taxpayers doing jack shit.  

$ 145 million taxpayer dollars funds the "not-for-profit"  Boulder Community Foundation.  For what ?  More "not-for-profits" sitting and doing nothing. If we took all of that money and put it towards cleaning up the environment-- then we have everyone doing their part.  As far as the corporate moguls and their plastic TAX 'EM.