Bag Bans are Bad Business
by David Weisser, NCPA, September 8, 2014
This past year the NCPA published numerous studies on how both bag bans, and bag regulations were harming consumers. The details of the studies revealed that not only were the local governments cashing in on taxpayers, but that the environment would still be suffering as a result. How can this be? Wouldn’t a decrease in the plastic bags being sold help the environment? After all, ecosystems suffer from trash and pollution daily, this could be the next steps towards cleaning up the country. However, this is a free market, and unintended consequences from government interaction has been an issue since people started submitting themselves to others.
Paper Bags: Plastic bags were at one time our nation’s solution to paper. Deforestation was running rampant in the world, and environmentalists were demanding paper bag removal from stores. Plastic bags, which were more efficient, cheaper and did no harm to any forests or the ecosystems within. It is also extremely important to note that paper bags create a far bigger environmental footprint than plastic, and are not able to decompose in landfills. As we approach an alternative to plastic it seems that reusable bags are in. Despite numerous reports of E.coli collecting on them, and the fact that stores are able to sell them for a bigger profit than free plastic bags, our economy is not ready to suddenly change overnight.
Increasing Taxes: Many local governments decided that instead of a ban they would propose a tax on every plastic bag used. DC for example, utilized a 5 cent fee on every plastic bag sold to consumers. The more groceries you bought, the more you would be charged. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, other countries who did the same thing ended up having to raise the tax repeatedly over time. Their tax began at 15 cents in 2001 and jumped to 22 cents in 2007. The government was forced to raise the tax after they noticed that bag use was increasing as consumers began absorbing the cost of the bags. This exact identical situation also happened to Ireland.