PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Every year Americans use more than 100 billion plastic bags.
Now a Pennsylvania state senator is recycling an old idea — tax those bags to encourage alternatives.
At the check-out counter, most customers are confronted with a relatively simple question.
“Would you like paper or plastic?” a Kuhn’s Market cashier asks customers.
How best to pack up your purchases is becoming a public policy issue.
Most grocery stores offer you a choice — paper or plastic. But now a state senator in Harrisburg says, we’re going to charge two cents every time you choose a plastic bag.
Plastic bags are not bio-degradable, so Pa. Sen. Daylin Leach of suburban Philadelphia wants to discourage their use.
“The bag stays around for 5,000 years,” Leach told KDKA political editor Jon Delano. “These bags kill around 700,000 birds and animals a year, and there’s an island the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean full of stuff like this.”
Leach has re-introduced a bill — not yet law — to charge two cents for every plastic bag you use — with the money split between the retailer and a state recycling fund.
He says many European cities already ban plastic bags and some American cities have imposed this kind of bag tax.
“In D.C. where they imposed this two cent tax, the demand for these bags went down almost 50 percent,” noted Leach. “It’s not that it’s so expensive. It’s that it causes people to think.”
“I think it’s just absurd. I don’t think it will go over with the public,” said Joanne Meldon of Greenfield.
She’s not alone.
“If they’re going to charge two more cents, I don’t know how people are going to do it. It’s crazy. Everything is going up, up, up,” noted Judy Weider of Ross.
One solution that doesn’t involve the government — bring your own bags.
“Plastic is just a waste. The bags I bring in on my own are better for the environment and they’re easier to carry. I like them,” said Joy Shaffer of Ross.
KDKA Radio’s Robert Mangino talked with Sen. Leach about the bill: