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It's time to tax or ban single-use bags

From Sunnyvale Sun readers; part of the Bay Area New Group Posted: 05/13/2009 03:07:16 PM PDT                                      Updated: 05/13/2009 03:18:34 PM PDT

I’d like to provide a different viewpoint in response to a number of spurious claims and red herrings offered up in last week’s letter on plastic bags by professor Lydia Ortega.

An estimated 1 million plastic bags end up in our bay each year. Plastic trash entangles, suffocates and poisons hundreds of animal species. Single-use bag production depletes resources and generates carbon emissions. We consume approximately 14 million trees and 12 million barrels of oil to produce the billions of plastic and paper bags that Americans throw away every year. Plastic bags clog storm drains and recycling equipment, costing cities millions. Yet somehow Ortega claims that there is no “economic or environmental justification for a ban or a tax on plastic bags.” She states that stores took “the initiative of offering” reusable bags. Actually, by state law, grocery stores are required to offer reusable bags for sale. And while there is, of course, no “conspiracy” of plastic bag manufacturers to compel use of plastic bags, there certainly is a concerted effort by the plastic bag industry to fight a tax, fee or ban. In fact, that industry was behind the state law that prohibits a local fee on plastic bags, hence the effort to ban them entirely.

Ortega’s contention that since our council members were not unanimously elected, they should not make policy that is not supported by all their constituents is anti-democratic. Making public policy to “promote the general welfare” is what our elected representatives are supposed to do. Minimizing the use of single-use plastic grocery bags through a ban, tax or fee would reduce air pollution, the use of finite resources and energy, carbon emissions, waste, and litter. It would also protect wildlife, clean up our water and save taxpayer dollars—exactly the kind of policy that would benefit us all.


While it is fashionable to bash government, in a democracy we are also free to work with our government to achieve common goals. Let’s support government leaders in cleaning up our environment for our kids. It’s time for we the people, through our elected representatives, to put a fee or tax on wasteful, single-use grocery bags or ban them entirely.

Barbara Fukumoto

Lewiston Drive