Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, August 01, 2008

Volunteers Needed for Petition Drive

Pullman Consumers for Choice is looking for volunteers to gather petition signatures opposing the proposed 20 cent plastic bag tax. The petition drive will be conducted at various locations around Pullman. The group is also looking for Pullman businesses willing to host copies of the petition within their stores. The petition will be presented to the Pullman City Council at the August 26 meeting. To respond by e-mail, click here.

In the meantime, you can also help oppose the new tax by sending an e-mail to Mayor Johnson the Pullman City Council by clicking here.

Some possible talking points are listed below:

  • 20 cents is too little to make much of a difference to most shoppers, so most will go ahead and pay for plastic bags versus the inconvenience of purchasing and carrying reusable bags. Therefore, at a time of record-high food and energy costs, working families could end up paying about $400 extra annually, according to Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council, a group formed to promote the responsible use and recycling of plastic bags. And Pullman, as a community, will have little to show for it. Wealthy and middle-class won't residents be much affected, but it would be be an unfair burden on Pullman's less affluent citizens such as seniors and college students on a budget. With Americans now facing the steepest increases in food prices in nearly two decades, this is not the time to institute a new tax on groceries.

  • Senior citizens and less affluent residents will not be able to afford reusable cloth bags for shopping trips.

  • The 20 cent tax on plastic bags will hurt local Pullman businesses. Winco, Roasuers, Safeway and Wal-Mart, just 8 miles away in Moscow, will not charge for plastic bags. Pullman already suffers nearly $100 million a year in sales tax leakage to neighboring communities. Do we need one more reason to export dollars that could used for our parks, bike paths, and streets to another city?

  • According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the new plastic bag tax in Seattle will cost $500,000 a year to administer. While this figure would be much smaller for Pullman, where in Pullman's cash-strapped budget would the additional money for a new government bureaucracy come from? Proponents of the new tax say the proceeeds will go to organizations such as area food banks.
  • Plastic bags don't litter, people litter. If this is such a big problem, why not just up the fines for littering or enforce existing littering regulations?

  • Article I of the Washington State Constitution reads: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.” Forcing individuals into making "correct" choices, therefore, is not the business of government. The number of Pullman residents possessing college and graduate degrees are, per capita, among the highest of any city in the country. Pullman residents are more than capable of making environmentally-conscious decisions on their own without intrusive (and costly) government mandates.

  • Eliminating plastic grocery bags will have major unintended environmental consequences. Taxing plastic bags will be a de facto paper bag mandate. Increased use of paper bags means an increase in environmental ills including air and water pollution, greater energy and water use and higher greenhouse gas emissions.

  • It is a complete myth that plastic bags are like "an oil slick on the land" and increase our dependence on foreign oil. Plastic bags are made from ethylene, a byproduct of natural gas. Unlike oil, which the United States currently imports an estimated 70% of, we produce 82% of our own natural gas. The remaining 18% is imported from Canada and Mexico. Manufacturing 100 million paper bags is equivalent to approximately 15,100 barrels of oil plus additional inputs from other energy sources.

  • Paper bags take at least a gallon of water to produce that bag, more than 20 times the amount used to make a plastic bag.

  • Most people choose whichever bag they are most likely to reuse, be it paper of plastic. The vast majority of people reuse plastic bags for household tasks like bagging garbage, picking up animal waste, and cleaning up messes. When denied these free plastic bags, consumers simply find them elsewhere. In Ireland, where plastic bags are taxed, sales of heavier plastic bags have gone up 400 percent and the overall amount of plastic resin used in Ireland has actually increased 10 percent.

  • In a landfill, paper bags, petroleum-based plastic bags and even biodegradable plastic bags share roughly the same fate. Modern landfills are managed for stability, not decomposition. Plastic bags can be better in a landfill because their compact size takes up the least space and, as opposed to biodegradable paper bags, they release zero greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 1 comment:

    April E. Coggins said...

    I can't imagine that our current city council would even consider a plastic bag ban. They have bigger fish to fry, such as the drastic drop off of building permits.

    Pullman had more permits issued in July 2007 than we have had all of 2008. With rising costs in every department, we will have to approve a tax increase. Pullman can't afford to tick off the taxpayer just when we need them.