Plastic: we’ve taxed it

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According to MLive, the Washtenaw County (Michigan) Board of Commissioners has just approved a 10 cent tax on each grocery bag (paper and/or plastic) that is used to package groceries. This would apply to any retail establishment that sells food, which means pretty much any store from gas stations to grocery stores in Washtenaw County would be subject to the tax.

Ultimately, this is just another ridiculous idea from the same board of commissioners that spends more time passing resolutions against things that they have absolutely no control over (i.e. diversity rights in other countries), than spending time on things that would actually improve the quality of life for the taxpaying residents of Washtenaw County.

A 10 cent tax makes sense on pop cans and bottles. A 10 cent tax makes less sense on plastic bags that costs retailers less than .0005 cents each wholesale. Plus, not all of us have Lululemon branded carrying bags to haul groceries into our spacious Subaru crossover vehicles. Many residents rely on public transportation to do grocery shopping. I have done it quite a few times when a car wasn’t available. Carrying 50 pounds of groceries onto the bus, and walking a mile home is barely feasible with triple plastic-bagged groceries. I sure as hell wouldn’t recommend attempting that with some raggedy old cloth bags that have lower centers of gravity and less room to store things. Although, we do have some people who are quite content to just push grocery carts full of groceries all the way back home, which is just as ridiculous. Maybe THAT’S where the focus on punitive fees and resource conservation should be? I see more abandoned shopping carts than I do grocery bags on the sides of the roads.

Another problem is the implementation of this fee. Many people use “U-Scan” self serve checkouts at grocery stores, partially for the convenience, and partially because there are usually no actual traditional cashier lanes open. The U-Scan machines are prone to break down, need constant calibration, and can barely work for their intended purposes…let alone if we were to add additional sensors to keep track of the amount of bags used. There are hardly enough human beings working the checkout lanes, so how the hell do you expect them to keep track of how many bags are used?

Of course, this could all be null and void if Senate Bill 853 passes, which was approved by the Senate and is currently waiting approval by the House of Representatives. Personally, I could care less either way. Being as environmentally conscious as I am a cheap bastard, I have used plastic grocery bags for many years to dispose of waste at my house. It saves money on buying trash bags, and is a great way to re-use old plastic bags. The way I see it, a package of trash bags might cost 3 bucks. With this tax, 3 bucks buys me 30 plastic bags that I can use for trash bags. See, now THAT’s the type of creative problem solving we need in this county! Maybe I should run for the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners…

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