Voters in a Seattle referendum rejected a city tax on plastic and paper shopping bags. The tax, passed by Seattle City Council last year but not yet implemented, would have required shoppers in the city to pay twenty cents for every bag they accepted at grocery, drug and convenience store checkout counters. "I think Seattle voters showed that they care about the environment but didn't think a tax in a troubled economy was the right approach to keeping Seattle green," said Faye Garneau, a small business owner, Seattle resident, and member of Coalition to Stop The Seattle Bag Tax.
Seattle is the latest jurisdiction to rebuff efforts to tax or ban shopping bags, widely used at grocery stores, restaurants and other retailers. Communities around the country have considered whether to promote recycling plastic, paper or reusable bags and predominately have chosen an “all of the above” approach: bring reusable bags when shopping, reuse plastic and paper bags at home and return extra plastic bags to grocery stores for recycling. “Most Seattle residents already reuse plastic bags, and many also are aware that they can recycle them,” said Steve Russell, vice president, plastics, of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), representing American plastic bag makers. Russell pointed to polling data that show more than 90 percent of Seattle residents reuse and recycle plastic bags. Seattle shoppers today can bring plastic shopping bags, dry-cleaning bags, bread bags, wraps from paper towels and bathroom tissue—even plastic bags used to deliver newspapers—to grocery stores and other participating retailers for recycling.
“Like other cities that have looked at this issue, Seattle has chosen to continue to reuse plastic bags and expand recycling opportunities as the best way to fight litter and to protect the environment,” Russell said. Russell noted that recycling legislation in New York, California, Rhode Island, Delaware and cities across the country is expected to increase significantly the amount of plastic bags and wraps that are turned into new consumer products, such as durable decking, fencing, railings, shopping carts and new bags.
Grocers, retailers and public officials across the country have partnered with the Progressive Bag Affiliates to promote in-store recycling programs for plastic bags and wraps. Public-private partnerships and education have been key factors in increasing consumer participation in these recycling programs. Members of ACC’s Progressive Bag Affiliates—the nation’s four leading makers of plastic shopping bags—recently announced a landmark recycling goal of 40 percent recycled content, including 25 percent post-consumer material, in all plastic bags they make by 2015. When fully implemented, the Full Circle Recycling Initiative will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 463 million pounds, conserve enough energy (mainly natural gas) to heat 200,000 homes and reduce waste by 300 million pounds every year. (American Chemistry)