Seattle residents recently began receiving mail-in ballots for the August 18 Mayoral election. On this same ballot Seattle voters will decide the fate of Referendum 1. Referendum 1, if passed, will create a new 20-cent tax on every disposable plastic and paper bag used in retail and grocery purchases. There are a myriad of reasons why this ballot measure should be rejected.
A 20-cent bag tax would hit family budgets in the middle of a recession and at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet. What’s more, it is simply not necessary. 90% of people already reuse and recycle their plastic and paper bags. According to a study by the Washington Policy Center, disposable grocery and retail bags account for 0.5% of all solid municpal waste. The study adds that if the new bag tax were to operate as supporters hope, it will only reduce the amount of garbage produced in Seattle by a paltry 0.0014%.
Results from places that have already imposed a bag tax or outright ban show that it does little to reduce the use of plastic bags or combat pollution. Since Ireland’s bag tax went into effect, use of plastic grocery bags declined but sales of other plastic bags rose 400%. In fact, total plastic bag use in Irelend has increased 10% since the bag tax became law. San Francisco’s ban on plastic shopping bags has had no visible impact on litter.
To make matters worse, a bag tax may even pose a threat to public health. Reusable bags, whose use Referendum 1 seaks to encourage, become easily contaminated when used to transport common household items. Tests conducted by a Miami news station found a reusable bag used to transport meat "covered with bacteria." A bag that had been used to transport produce contained "80 organisms of coliform." Coliform is a bacteria found in the feces of warm blooded animals, not exactly something you want your groceries wading in.
A 20-cent bag tax would raise the cost of living in what is already high cost city and do nothing to reduce waste production and litter. Seattle residents worked 203 days last year just to pay for the cost of their government and face the 15th highest per capita state and local tax burden in the nation. For this and all the other aforementioned reasons, ATR urges Seattle residents to vote "NO" on Referendum 1.
To join the coalition working to defeat Referendum 1, click here.