As someone who provides retailers with these bags, I was invited to a meeting the day before the mayor’s announce to be briefed by his staff. The mayor’s proposal is based on a similar tax Ireland implemented in the late 1990s. Based on the comments from the mayor’s staff they have not made any attempt to discover the negative impacts of this tax in Ireland. Here are some facts about the issue from Ireland.
1. The tax on plastic bags in Ireland reduced plastic grocery bag use by 90 percent but increased overall plastic use, as consumers now need to purchase alternate bags which are thicker and use more resources instead of reusing grocery bags. (PIFA/Kidwell Associates 2004).
2. Retailers in Ireland report the loss of 450 wire baskets and carts per month by retailer on average – a loss of about $39 million USD – that is passed on to consumers.
3. The tax has led to a significant increase in “push outs” (shoppers filling their carts and walking straight out without paying) at a cost to retailers of $17.2 million USD annually. Again, this is passed on to consumers.
4. In studying the results of the tax in Ireland to the UK, research by the government-funded Waste Resources Action Programme found that a levy on plastic bags in Ireland only made matters worse.
In our meeting before the announcement, the mayor’s office said a major reason for this tax is the public’s perception of plastic bags as a significant litter problem. They also stated while this is a public perception, plastic bags are simply not a significant part of the litter problem.
The major’s office also said they intended to provide low-income and elderly citizens with free cloth bags. My response to this was, “Rather than fund something that is not a problem, why don’t you spend the money to educate consumers in the truth about litter and educate them in how to effectively recycle plastic bags?
American Retail Supply