Bag It: Durango Passes New Tax on Plastic Bags
In a feel-good move to save the world from raging tempests, global warming and the average shopper,Durango City Council members voted 4-1 earlier this week to adopt a hefty tax on plastic bags used agrocery stores and other businesses.
One skeptic thinks the tax will never, ever take effect.
Councilor Keith Brant, the lone dissenting vote on the bag tax, told Colorado Watchdog Thursday that there exists enough anger in the community to possibly overturn the measure through an election.
“It will never take effect,” Brant predicted.
The tax, the subject of much controversy over the past few months in the 17,000-resident southwest Colorado town, applies to the city’s three grocers and any other business that choose to opt-in. Under the plan, the city 10-cent fee for each plastic bag. The city takes half the loot while businesses receive the other half.
The city cannot use the funds for anything but feel-good environmental projects, like installing recycling bins around time and running a public relations campaign to inform the public of the supposed dangers plastic bags bring. The city directs grocers to use their funds to administer the program, including installing signage and turning in reports on bag usage.
Shoppers will still be free to use paper bags, which use three times more energy and four times more water to produce than plastic bags.
Several voices have stepped up to oppose the fee, including Brant. He says he opposed the tax only because proponents never defined the problem plastic bags pose.
“I’m just not sure what problem we are trying to solve here,” he said. “I’m all about solutions, but you’ve got to give me an actual problem.”
A small group of city residents formed a Facebook group to organize against the new tax. There, anger flows freely.
“What they don’t realize is that I, along with others, am going to start spending my money in Aztec,” wrote Dug Ward. “Where we live, it’s only a few more miles and I’ll gladly take my $300 a week there. Durango can kiss my ass.”
The tax’s proponents say the measure will cut down on bags entering the waste stream and polluting rivers. They also say cutting down the use of plastic means less oil used to produce them.
Those who oppose the tax, including industry groups, note that paper recycling, too, is more complicated than plastic bag repurposing. They also point out that 90 percent of Americans re-use plastic bags at home.
Besides the anti-tax backlash the council now faces, Brant says the new bag measure might be unconstitutional. The Mountain States Legal Foundation is suing the city of Aspen over its bag tax, saying that the Colorado Constitution requires voters to approve such a measure.
There’s no word on if the foundation will challenge the Durango tax.
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Reposted with permission of Colorado Watchdog on ReaganGirl.com 8/11/13
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