Oppose Boulder bag tax before it’s too late. It’s wasteful, threatens jobs, insults shoppers, & is an unlawful tax

Update, Oct 17: Now’s it’s a 10 cent tax. Final vote Nov. 1.

On Tues, Oct. 16 the Boulder City Council will discuss and may pass a proposed 20-cent tax (“fee”) on plastic & paper grocery bags. Attend the meeting voice your disapproval. Summary arguments below.

Last Sunday, the Boulder Daily Camera reported:

When the city solicited feedback online, a majority the comments were highly critical of the idea, but at public meetings most speakers have supported the fee or pressed for a ban on plastic.

Here’s your chance to tell them in person.

Where: Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway (map)
When: Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 6 p.m

If you cannot attend, e-mail or call the the council members.

In a Daily Camera op-ed, I reviewed some key arguments against the bag fee (and potential ban):

Environmental issues:

  • Plastic bag litter is trivial.
  • Bans did not reduce it in San Francisco.
  • Consumers respond by using bags that have larger environmental impacts (fabric bags, heavier plastic bags).

Economic Concerns:

Stores in Los Angeles county that complied with bag ban suffered reduced sales, and their employees lose their jobs. Stores in surrounding areas saw increased sales and increased employment. See: “A Survey on the Economic Effects of Los Angeles County’s Plastic Bag Ban.”

Legal Issues:

The “fee” is really a tax that’s is unlawful unless approved by voters. Here’s a complaint filed against the city of Aspen on these grounds. (Thanks to Jim Manley at the Mountain States Legal Foundation for this.)

Moral arguments:

  • The restrictions also unjustly restrict the choices of innocent people who neither litter nor misplace plastic bags in recycling bins.
  • Retailers have a right to distribute bags to customers. Customers have a right to discard them so long as they respect people’s property rights.

A better idea that does not insult Boulder shoppers:
The bag ban or fee also shows disrespect for Boulder shoppers. As I wrote:

The Council’s support of bag restrictions also reveals its low regard for those who elected them. The restrictions imply that even if voters knew the harms of plastic bags in recycling bins [they clog Western Disposal’s sorting machines], they would not change their behavior.

But why would voters know? Beyond a small notice inside recycling bins, has Western Disposal made any effort to educate customers about plastic bag recycling?  How about a large notice outside the bin? Better yet, Western Disposal can sell huge truck-side advertising to stores that recycle plastic bags: “Plastic bags jam our recycling sorters. Recycle them at King Soopers.”


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