Monday, May 8, 2017

I Oppose New Jersey's Proposed Grocery Bag Surcharge Bill

Last year, a bill was introduced to levy a surcharge on so-called “single use” carryout plastic bags supplied by food stores. As Susan K. Livio reports for (That plastic bag is going to cost you, N.J. bill says):

Customers would be required to pay 5 cents for every plastic or paper bag they use to carry their purchases under a bill a state Assembly committee approved Thursday.

If the bill is signed into law, retail operators in New Jersey would begin charging 5-cent fee for each single-use carryout bag on June 1, 2017. Stores would keep a penny, as would the state Division of Taxation to administer the program.

The remaining 3 cents would be used to create the "Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund" to support the testing of homes and schools' water supply - a major cause of concern in the state.

The fee would not apply to people who are 65 and older, and to low-income people who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC, or the Work First New Jersey public assistance program.

The New Jersey Star Ledger Editorial Board also chimed in (Time to wean ourselves off plastic shopping bags), calling the bag fee “a win-win. The lead crisis could be assuaged by the bag fee, and bag reduction creates environmental benefits.”

Below is a consolidated version of comments I left at both articles:

So now we have a “lead crisis.” Want more money or power to flow to government? Create a crisis.

And what is a “single-use carryout bag?” We save and reuse our shopping bags, both plastic and paper, for secondary purposes all the time. We line our waste baskets with them. We use them as dirty laundry receptacles when we travel, and myriad other uses. We only throw them out when they’re either dirty or damaged, and then dispose of them properly.

But under Spencer’s bill, we’ll have to either fork over a nickel surcharge for something we’re already paying for as part of our grocery bill and which has uses beyond carrying out groceries, or start buying plastic bags off the grocery shelves. Where’s the “environmental” gain? Where’s the “wean?” Glad and Hefty should love this bill. And for what? To pay for testing of other people’s water lines? If it’s a private building, the owner should pay. If it’s a public building like a school, the local taxpayers should pay.

A3671 is discriminatory to boot. It applies only to people under 65, to self-supporting people not on the government dole, and to the most successful businesses.

It’s expected that someone like [NJ Sierra Club director Jeff] Tittel [quoted in the article] would support this bill. He doesn’t care about people (he’s an “environmentalist,” after all). But what’s Spencer’s excuse for this one-size-fits-all bill that doesn’t fit one size? Another busybody who wants to force her values on everyone else by law? A rationalization for another tax? To fight pollution (which should be fought by punishing polluters, not responsible people)? Who knows?

Improper disposal of plastic bags is a problem. I get that. I’m all for anti-pollution laws. Fine ‘em. But I don’t buy that, properly disposed of, plastic bags are a problem. If it were a really serious problem, they’d be legally banned. The real motive behind bills like this one is clear. As Spencer says, “No ban means money keeps flowing into the fund.”

Here’s a fair compromise: If you don’t like plastic or paper bags offered by the retailer, bring your own bags. If the convenience and utility of store-offered bags suits your purposes, you should be left alone. The politicians should keep their noses out of it.

Related Reading:

Forget Chinese and Indian "Pollution". Let's Go Full Speed Ahead on America's Industrialization

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