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Reason Foundation

Benefits of Denver Plastic Bag Fee "Minuscule"

Victor Nava
September 11, 2013, 2:13pm

Denver is among several major U.S. cities including San Diego, Dallas, and New York City considering plastic bag taxes and bans. The idea is to nudge residents to go "green" by using less "single-use" plastic bags in favor of reusable bags in an effort to reduce waste and litter from plastic bags.

The proposed legislation in Denver, which is actually less onerous than a lot of recently passed ordinances which ban the use of plastic bags outright, would charge consumers a 5 cent fee (essentially a tax) for every paper and plastic bag used. Retailers would also need to keep track of the amount of reusable, paper, and plastic bags used by consumers at checkout. The city would retain 3 cents of every bag sold to pay for education campaigns and to buy reusable bags. Stores would get 2 cents to implement the program.

 At the request of Mayor Michael Hancock, who is against the City Council's bag tax measure, the Denver Office of Sustainability has been researching the potential impact of the proposed legislation. The Office's findings are fairly clear:

At the moment, the City Council is likely to pass the legislation with 7 of the 13 council members in support of the legislation. While Mayor Hancock has hinted he may veto the bill if passed by the City Council, he hasn't vetoed a bill in his two years in office so it's by no means a sure thing. At the very least, the take away of this report should be that more research is necessary and more questions need to be answered before such a fee is considered.

Read more from Reason on the impact plastic bag bans and taxes here and here


Victor Nava is Research Assistant


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