Plastic Surgery

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Seattle voters said they'd rather wait behind the blue hairs wasting paper with checkbooks than be taxed 20 cents for every pointless plastic or paper bag in which they'd carry a single loaf of bread. The proposed tax, which plastic bag-maker lobbyists (yes, they exist, and they're angry) have railed against, was supposed to be more of a "Hey, why don't you just buy your own reusable bag for a buck?" rather than a quick cash grab for the city (though it would've collected about $10 million annually). The Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax, an allied group of companies and other coalitions that thrive on plastics, argued that "recycling is important, and 91 percent of Seattle residents ALREADY recycle and reuse grocery bags", so a tax wouldn't have been necessary. The The Associated Press reports:

Observers predicted that a failure for the bag fee in an eco-conscious city like Seattle, such proposals would be an even tougher sell elsewhere.

"I don't agree with it, period," said Myrna Peterson, 68, of Seattle, as she dropped off her ballot Tuesday afternoon. "It's expensive. It's uncalled for."

And a round up of cities with successful taxes?

Several states from Colorado to Texas to Virginia debated bag bans or fees this year, but no statewide ban or fee has been enacted. Washington, D.C., passed a 5-cent fee on paper or plastic bags, and the Outer Banks region in North Carolina banned plastic bags this year. But New York City dropped a proposed 5-cent bag fee in June, and Philadelphia rejected a plastic bag ban.

But here's the scary closer:

In Seattle, the Progressive Bag Affiliates, an arm of Virginia-based American Chemistry Council, has given the bulk of money to defeat the bag fee.

Yeesh. These taxes aren't new, by any means. Stores throughout Europe charge extra for bags. In fact, you have to ask if you want one (and you most often are greeted with a unique look of condescension). At my frequent trips to local chain groceries, when I'm purchasing a single item, like, say, a carton of milk, or a half-dozen eggs, or a microwaveable burrito, there's no hesitation to put the item in plastic. I politely say, "I don't need a bag, thank you," but one wonders how many bags are used a day, and what happens to them afterward. With no city-funded recycling service, what becomes of the plastic bag in New Orleans? The debate has raged on for some time — one of the better arguments came from Slate in 2007. Never mind a tax. It's freedom of choice, after all, right? And if people truly wanted reusable canvas bags, they'd buy them. They're only a dollar. But what are grocery clerks told to do about bags? What do their supervisors say about bags? And what do their supervisors tell them to say? Does it all go back to "plastic bag makers" lobbyists? And who hires them, a handful of old dudes? Ad infinitum.

I'll admit: If I do use them they make great garbage bags, poop scoops, wet clothes carriers and low-budget hurricane-proofing devices. Gambit wants to know: Would you favor a similar tax at home?

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