Currently Washington State legislators are considering legislation that would ban plastic bags and impose a tax on paper bags. This legislation is extremely misguided, unnecessary, and its purpose is not based on factual evidence. While its intention is to improve the environment, it will not – in fact – do so. Previous experience bears this out. San Francisco was the first locality to ban single use bags. Studies after the San Francisco Bag Ban have shown that the proportion of bag litter increased post-ban, with plastic bags comprising a larger portion of total litter compared to pre-ban levels.
Ireland has also had a similar experience with the bag ban, like the one proposed in Washington. Many environmentalists have pointed to Ireland as a reason to pass this tax in Washington, however the facts tell a different story. Since passing the plastic bag ban, total usage in plastic bags has increased by ten percent. A majority of the Irish population already reuses plastic bags for day-to-day needs. The new ban has only discouraged this kind of behavior in the Evergreen State, as it did in Ireland.
With high unemployment, the last thing state officials should be doing is imposing new taxes and regulatory burdens on families and employers, yet that is precisely what the proposed bag prohibition and tax legislation would do. This fact is even more relevant for the people of Washington State, who are facing twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare this year. Washington legislators should be working to ease this burden, rather than adding to it.