Plastic Bag Taxes

I have to sympathize with “dudeman” at CHS on the inanity of a plastic bag tax. To be clear, he’s talking about a fee that Madison Market in Seattle charges its customers, but it’s clearly related to the 20 cent fee that the Seattle City Council is proposing for all plastic bags.

The sad thing, to me, is that we have pretty big fish to fry when it comes to tackling environmental issues, and plastic bags are not even in the top 25 or maybe even the top 100.

Still, they’re a glaring issue. Unlike melting polar ice caps, people can see plastic bags every day. And a 10 or 20 cent fee per bag fee is not the same as “outlawing” plastic bags, as some extremists have argued. It’s just capturing some of the costs (negative externalities) that are borne by society as a whole.

And I fully support capturing negative externalities through pricing! But why single out plastic bags? All manufacturers should be required to account for the full life-cycle costs of their products. When Germany instituted laws requiring car makers to make their products recyclable, BMW engineers were able to reduce the types of plastic used their cars from something like 20 to 4, and made sure that they were all recyclable. It wasn’t very hard, it was just that no one had ever forced them to do it before.

I’m all for comprehensive reduction in the use of plastics and waste materials, but this bag tax


2 thoughts on “Plastic Bag Taxes”

  1. Plastic bags are kind of the “charismatic macrofauna” of trash … as you point out, they’re highly visible and ubiquitous.

    What’s a better word for “charismatic macrofauna?”

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