New Developments in the Wave of Bag Bans and Charges

March 2, 2012

Since we wrote two weeks ago about legislation banning plastic bags and imposing a charge on single-use paper bags in San Francisco, there have been two major developments on bag laws elsewhere. Earlier today, Austin passed a ban on both paper and plastic bags. In a bizarre turn of events in Hawaii, a bill to impose a ban on plastic bags and impose a charge on paper bags was voted down unanimously by the House, despite near-unanimous support in committee. It’s unclear what happened, but it seems that legislators did not know what they were voting on, as the bill was not identified by name for the voice vote. If resurrected, the bill would make Hawaii the first state in the nation to pass a bag bill.

Several major cities, including Los Angeles and Eugene, Oregon, are also presently considering bills that would add them to the growing list of cities and countries with bans and bag charges.

The mayor of Austin and a city council official are concerned about the hardship its ban will place on shoppers. Presumably, shoppers will have to spend money on reusable bags, and remember to bring them to the store. San Francisco’s Office of Economic Analysis made a related point about the burden on shoppers of the 10 cent bag charge that they pay retailers. It found that retailers wouldn’t keep all of that money, as they would compete to drive down prices, thereby giving some of the money back to shoppers in the form of cheaper products.

The mayor of Austin also fears that the ban will be an “administrative headache” for both the government and retailers.

If cities want shoppers to use more reusable bags, a ban might not work. According to a representative from Safeway and Times Supermarket, shoppers simply asked for paper, not reusable, bags in response to bans on the Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Maui.

More on bag taxes, fees and bans here.


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