The D.C. City Council placed the District at the forefront of nationwide efforts to go green. This week, they voted to tax consumers five cents per plastic and paper bags at grocery stores and other food outlets. What were they thinking? This measure places consumer concerns at the bottom of the bag. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for going green. Yet, I question the timing and validity of the tax. Timing is everything. Is this tax necessary?
In an economic climate of lay-offs, cut-backs and setbacks, is now the time to impose this tax? Consumers are already feeling the pinch. Five cents per bag does not appear costly. Yet, if you are barely getting by or struggling to feed your family, every 5-cents counts. Other cities chose to forego similar laws for now due to the economic times. New York city placed its bag law on the ballot to let voters decide.
D.C.’s measure is designed to prevent pollution and clean up the polluted Anacostia River. The legislation is named the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act. It’s so ironic the measure will hurt most those living closest to the Anacostia River. Those are the consumers most likely to feel the sting of the 5-cent tax.
Yet, there’s another interesting twist to the proposed new bag law. For every bag sold, the merchant keeps a penny. Isn’t that somehow contradictory to its recycling purpose? How does the business kick back benefit the cleaning of the Anacostia River? Instead of paying businesses to give us bags, why not pay consumers for each bag they return to recycle? Wouldn’t that make greater sense?
D.C.’s measure is voted on again at the end of this month before becoming law. I hope the Mayor and City Council make changes and get their timing and priorities right next time.