In the latest misguided attempt to “go green”, the City Council in Denver, Colorado is considering a proposal which would place a fee on the use of both paper and plastic bags. The legislation is ostensibly an attempt to curb litter and waste within the city by reducing the use of non-recyclable paper and plastic bags and encouraging consumers to instead procure reusable bags. If enacted, consumers would be charged 5 cents for every plastic or paper bag they use.

However, there is considerable doubt about whether the bag tax would even accomplish any of the goals that it purports to. Mayor Michael Hancock asked the Denver Office of Sustainability to study the potential impact of the proposed bag tax. The report came to the following conclusions:

  • A bag fee would at best make only a “miniscule” contribution towards the City’s 2020 goal of reducing waste sent to landfills by 20 percent. In fact high-density polyethylene bags, the kind most frequently given out at grocery stores, make up only 0.3% of municipal solid waste in Denver.
  • In terms of litter, the Office of Sustainability found that an in-depth study of litter associated with the bags that would be subject to the fee would be necessary before the city can sufficiently develop and recommend policy around the use of plastic bags. At current, the city has access only to “speculation and anecdotes” when debating litter issues related to the ordinance.

ATR has previously documented the abject failure of similar proposals enacted in the District of Columbia and other cities nationwide, as well as the health risks posed by plastic bag taxes and bans. Now that we are several years into the coercive environmentalist lobby’s quest to rid the world of plastic bags, it is clear that bag taxes and bans are solutions in search of a problem. A final vote for the legislation will be held by City Council on September 30th