Senator Pugh: Plastic Bag Tax Is Not the Solution

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By Sen. Catherine E. Pugh

Some members of the Maryland General Assembly think a 5 cent tax on every paper and plastic bag sold will eliminate their use while “beautifying the Bay”. While I whole heartedly support efforts to clean up the bay, this tax troubles me deeply.

The bag tax is a regressive tax that will disproportionally impact low income and elderly residents of Baltimore at a time when City citizens are struggling every day to make ends meet. Now is not the time to add additional costs to basic necessities, like groceries. A troubled economy coupled with Maryland families struggling to make ends meet is reason enough to oppose this legislation, but there are other reasons to oppose this tax.

Many tax proponents argue reusable shopping bags are a safe and eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags. In fact, these bags are not so eco-friendly and there are many hidden dangers associated with them. Many consumers don’t know they need to be washed after each use with hot soapy water to prevent cross-contamination between shopping visits.

Additionally, most reusable bags are imported from China and other countries, and many have been found to contain levels of lead that place American families at risk. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has called for a Federal Investigation into reusable bags for this very reason. Consequently, this new tax will create a demand for the importation of hundreds of millions of these potentially unsafe reusable bags.

Instead of driving City citizens to use potentially unhealthy alternatives, we should allow the continued use of plastic bags which are 100% recyclable and which eliminates the possibility of cross -contamination.

Finally, retail plastic bags are only a very small fraction of our litter problem. If we want to solve the larger litter problem we should focus on creating new opportunities for recycling all plastics, not taxing grocery bags.

American plastic bag manufacturers, one of which is located right here in Maryland, support an important recycling sector and a thriving and growing industry that employs thousands of people. Our elected officials should be more concerned with creating innovative ways of encouraging recycling and creating jobs rather than increasing taxes at a time of economic uncertainty.

I believe working with our environmental community that we can come up with more progressive ways to encourage recycling and job creation rather than increasing taxes at a time of economic uncertainty.

Senator Catherine E. Pugh is a Democrat representing Maryland's 40th District in Baltimore City.
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