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Legislators are Looking at Plastic Bag Fee

January 27, 2011

01/28/11  Indiana could be joining other cities around the United States and the world if a proposed legislation concerning charging for plastic bags in retail stores makes its way through the Indiana legislation process.

Representative Shelli VanDenBurgh of Crown Point (D-District 19) authored House Bill 1521 that was read on January 20, 2011 and then referred to the Committee on Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development.

The summary of the bill reads as follows:

“Fee for disposable carryout bags. Provides that a retail merchant who furnishes disposable carryout bags to a customer for carrying merchandise purchased in a retail transaction shall collect a fee of ten cents for each disposable carryout bag accepted by the customer. Provides that a retail merchant who furnishes disposable carryout bags to customers for use in carrying merchandise purchased in a retail transaction shall also offer reusable carryout bags for sale to customers. Appropriates 25% of the fees for disposable carryout bags collected by retail merchants to the Indiana economic development corporation for the green industries fund. Appropriates 75% of the fees for disposable carryout bags collected by retail merchants to the department of education for supplemental distributions to school corporations, including charter schools, for use by school corporations for any lawful purpose.”The committee could reject the legislation, amend it, or approve it. If approved in the original form or in an amended form, the bill would be taken back to the house floor for consideration.According to the State of Indiana website, upgrading the computer software that would be used for tracking revenue by the Department of Revenue could mean a cost of a one time fee of approximately $250,000 in order to have the new fee in the online tax reporting from some 120,000 retailers.

                           Mike Good, Recycle Depot (Marshall County Solid Waste Management), compiled a list of facts about the use of plastic bags. Good said, “Each year, 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are manufactured worldwide. Over one million plastic bags are used every minute. In the United States, alone, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are used each year.” Good also points to the energy consumption used to produce the products. He said, “In the United States 12 million barrels of oil are used each year to make plastic bags.” “Plastic bags don’t biodegraded, they photo-degrade. They break down into smaller toxic particles contaminating soil and water ways, or they enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals.” Good said. He also pointed to the problems of littering and danger to wildlife.

In January of 2010, the city of Washington D.C. imposed a five cent a bag tax the city government of Washington DC, began imposing a tax of 5 cents per plastic bag for supermarket customers.

In 2009, D.C. shoppers used about 270 million disposable bags; however, since the tax went into effect in 2010, surveys show that stores were giving out 60 percent fewer bags. Manufactures of the plastic products estimate the tax would cost D.C. families $5 million in 2010. Yet those in favor of the tax said it only means that there would be100 million opportunities to choose an eco-friendly alterative.

Ireland imposed a 33 cent tax on plastic bags in 2002. Within weeks, the use of the product dropped 94 percent.

This proposed bill and other legislation being considered can be found on the State of Indiana website.

Carol Anders Correspondent