Archive for January 18th, 2010

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DC’S BAG TAX….GOOD OR BAD?

January 18, 2010

DC’S BAG TAX….GOOD OR BAD?

By Lorraine Cyr

As a property management company we believe in recycling, reducing the carbon print and leaving the planet better than when we were born in it.  Our friends who work at NOAA are convinced that the weather patterns that we are seeing now are not because of global warming but just a part of reoccurring weather patterns.   Why did I mention this?  There is always someone with an opinion different than ours.

I am a firm believer in cleaning up the waterways and reducing the number of plastic bags in the river is what we need to do. The number of bags that are responsible for killing the wildlife is worth banning plastic bags all together.  A study found that plastic bags composed 20% of the Anacostia’s litter and less than 5% of litter on land.  Plastic bags composed the highest percentage of litter in surrounding streams (47%).   Recycling is also something that without a tax is not something that we can get 100% participation in.  So for this argument the DC bag tax is good. The City has estimated the total capital costs for improving the site are estimated at $13.7 million dollars with annual operation and maintenance costs of about $2.6 million a year.

Here are the parts that I have a problem with.

1)      The information about the Anacostia River project has not been well publicized.  It was while doing the research for this blog that I found the following two charts that give us an idea of how the money will flow.

2)      Why are the stores not giving out free recycling bags?  If you stop to think of it, they were already providing free bags when we shopped.  Yes a recycled bag costs more at first but over the long term it would save them money.

3)      It will drive some shoppers to shop outside the city.  The lines in the grocery stores are longer and check out is slower because the tellers are not used to packing groceries in various size bags.

4)      What are the accounting records the city will use to show how much they collect and how it was spent.  If you do the math and assume that the population of DC in 2006 was 586,000 with an average family size of 5 would equal 100,000 families.  Each family shops once a week with an average of 20 bags used (assume double bagged) at 5 cents per bag would generate $100,000 per week or $500,000 per year from the tax.  Now to be fair let’s assume that more and more people will either shop outside DC or start using recycled bags so let’s assume $300,000. Then if you assume that the store had a cost of 1 cent per bag and now have no cost then they will be saving $20,000 per week.  Where is all this money going?  THIS MATH DOES NOT INCLUDE  ANY SHOPPING DONE BY PEOPLE WHO LIVE OUTSIDE DC AND ARE SHOPPING WHILE AT WORK OR VISITING, OR ANY SHOPPING AT THE REST OF RETAIL STORES.  The money could be as high as 5 million if you assume just 5 stores with 5000 customer per day each with 3 bags you could collect over 5 million.

Whatever the money amount is, and however, you compute the numbers it is a lot of money!  I wonder if we the citizens of DC will ever know the actual numbers.  It would be so cool (daydreaming here) to see a report each month that said $X dollars were raised this month.

My solution? mandate paper bags,made from recycled materials.  Or have the local grocery stores give no bags like BJ’s or Sam’s Club and then ask the grocery stores to donate the savings from not providing bags to the project of cleaning up the river.

What are your thoughts?

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