Should Minnesota impose a 5-cent tax on plastic bags? A bill creating one was filed today at the Capitol in St. Paul.
Under Rep. Karen Clark’s bill, the retailer keeps a penny of the tax, and two pennies if the store allows customers to bring plastic bags back for a 5-cent credit. Basically, it’s a bottle-bill for bags.
Here’s the salient part of the bill :
Disposable carryout bag. “Disposable carryout bag” means a bag of any
material, commonly plastic or kraft paper, which is provided to a consumer at the point of
sale to carry purchases. Disposable carryout bag does not include:
(1) a reusable bag as defined in subdivision 5;
(2) bags used by consumers inside stores to package bulk items such as fruit,
vegetables, nuts, candy, grains, or small hardware items, such as nails and bolts;
(3) bags used to contain or wrap frozen foods; meat or fish, whether prepackaged or not; or flowers or potted plants or other items where dampness may be a problem;
(4) bags used to protect prepared foods or bakery goods;
(5) bags provided by pharmacists to contain prescription drugs;
(6) newspaper bags, door-hanger bags, laundry or dry cleaning bags; or
(7) bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage, pet
waste, or yard waste bags.
The basis for the proposal is similar to attempts in other states, plastic bags don’t degrade, according to the New Haven Advocate:
Plastic bags are “the most ubiquitous form of litter on the planet and are among the greatest causes of marine mortality, especially turtles, which confuse the bags for jellyfish,” says Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council and head of the group’s solid waste team. “We support limiting the free distribution of plastic bags at supermarkets, especially in coastal regions like Connecticut.”
The statistics Hershkowitz cites are staggering: Five hundred billion plastic bags are used each year around the world, and one million plastic bags are produced every minute in this country from imported petroleum. The United Nations estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean, and this transmits pollutants to the fish, which humans then eat, Hershkowitz says.
The Minnesota proposal for a bag tax mirrors one that’s been imposed in Washington, D.C., the only other place where a tax exists. San Francisco has banned plastic bags altogether.
“Many of our customers ask for plastic bags when they’re in our stores,” Aaron Sorenson, a spokesman for Lund’s and Byerly’s told MPR’s Ambar Espinoza in a 2008 story. “Of all the bags that we used in 2007, over 30 percent of them were plastic bags. So to just get rid of plastic bags at this time would likely upset many of our customers who ask for them.”