Reuse Shopping Bags to Skip Taxes

Even if you don’t care about the environment, now may be a good time to get some reusable shopping bags.  While most places still give out plastic bags freely (and sometimes excessively), it looks like this might change over the next couple of years.  It started in 2004 when in response to a bag fee resolution that proposed a 17 cent fee for each bag provided by supermarkets, San Francisco became the first city in the US to ban the use of non-compostable plastic shopping bags by large supermarkets and pharmacy chains. (For a discussion on the effectiveness of this and other plastic bag laws, click here)

Several other states are now taking similar steps.  On June 2, the DC Council voted unanimously for a 5 cent tax on plastic and paper bags.  Under Bill 18-150, it will be illegal for stores to absorb the cost rather than passing it on the consumers, and the revenue from this program will be used to clean and protect the Anacostia River.  The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009 (as it will be called if approved) is currently waiting mayoral review, and while there is no set date in which the tax will be effective, awareness campaigns will start later in 2009.  The State of Texas is also currently contemplating a similar 7 cent tax on plastic bags to finance recycling efforts.

Plastic bag tax laws will probably spring up in more cities and states in the near future, so now may be a good time to start a habit of bringing your own bags to the grocery store.  And if you need an incentive, places like Whole Foods and Giant already offer a 5 cent discount for each of your own bags you use when shopping there (and sell reusable bags for just $1).

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