Besides the incandescent lightbulb, the plastic bag is the number one target of environmentalists as flagrant wastefulness. Not only do plastic bags usually end up in the trash, but they do so in large quantities and are made out of virtually non-biodegradable plastic. On top of this is the fact that they are rarely necessary. Most of the time you use a plastic bag you could easily have brought some of your own bags instead (I tend to leave a few in my car just in case I ever forget).
That’s why New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg is looking to actively fight plastic bag usage by adding a 6 cent charge for each bag used. This plan mimics similar policies in place in Ireland and Australia that charge consumers for the bags they use. In Ireland, the tax (which is more than NYC’s proposed tax at 33 cents) has reduced plastic bag usage 94%.
However, this brings up the age-old debate: Which is better, taxation or prohibition? Obviously we want people to use less plastic bags, but how should we encourage consumers to be more environmentally friendly? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons:
- Pro: High taxes reduce consumption greatly
- Pro: If you really need a bag, you can still get one
- Con: Tax revenue disappears quickly as customers change their behavior
- Con: Low taxes may not reduce plastic use enough
- Pro: No one will be using any bags
- Pro: Consumers won’t face additional taxation
- Con: If you forget a bag or make an impluse purchase, you may be out of luck
- Con: Popular support for this option may be low since nobody likes losing choice
What do you think? Is this a good plan for NYC? Should the tax be higher or should there be no tax and a total ban? Let us know in the comments!
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