Proponents simply assert that the bags are public enemy number one and must be stopped. They claim SUPBs impose an additional cost on society and that users don't pay their fair share. I feel the same way about politicians, but I don't believe we should ban them. OK, maybe we should make them pay higher taxes.
Given all of the propaganda, you have to wonder why the county is only considering a tax? Unfortunately, the approach by bureaucrats is a textbook case of how to impose your subjective values on others.
First, focus on an activity you don't like others doing, such as putting groceries in plastic bags. Next, come up with a clever name for this activity — Single Use Plastic Bags. Sounds simple but what exactly is a single use plastic bag?
The proposed ordinance goes to great lengths to come up with arbitrary standards to define an SUPB. These standards exclude what many would also consider SUBPs, such as plastic bags used to store fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. Items already packaged in plastic bags are also exempt. Not to mention all of the numerous single use plastic bags for sale: lawn and leaf, large trash can, extra large trash can, tall kitchen, medium wastebasket, small kitchen, trash compactor, scented, unscented, sandwich, snack, storage, freezer and so on.
All of these bags are found in grocery stores, used only once, but are exempt from the proposed tax. The ordinance also specifically excludes SUPBs at restaurants. Several other uses of SUPBs are completely ignored. My morning newspaper is delivered in an SUPB. The Disabled American Veterans want me to place my tax-deductible donations in a large brightly colored SUPB. Makes you wonder why just one type of plastic bag is being singled out.
Perhaps, SUPBs at grocery stores are like rats, nobody likes them and they are hard to get rid of. They account for a very small percentage of the overall trash or litter but have the problem of being small and light, making them highly visible and mobile. Attempts to ban them have not been easy. The city of San Francisco passed a ban on SUPBs but they decided the ban applied only to grocery stores with revenue above $2 million per year and to pharmacy chains with at least five outlets and one owner. Now that's a principled approach. As reported by Joe Eskenazi in the Jan. 9 SF Weekly, things have not gone so well.
Most proponents agree that the proposed tax is not perfect but feel that they must do something. If the county supervisors really want to do something, I would suggest they allow people to choose how they bag their purchases. If litter on public property is really the issue, they should work on reducing all litter, not just a particular kind. The major grocery stores in my area already provide convenient recycle bins for SUPBs.
Finally, are politicians willing to accept the fact that some customers prefer plastic bags to paper because they are better for the environment? Let's hope we can have an open debate to include all people, not just special interest groups, and decide how to create a better environment.