Why Paper Bags Should Be Fee-Free

A growing number of “bag bills” introduced at state and local levels prohibit stores from distributing single-use plastic bags and impose a fee on paper bags. Other bills impose an equal fee on both paper and plastic bags.

These “bag bills” limit consumer choice and empower government to pick winners and losers instead of letting the individual consumers decide. Imposing fees on paper bags is essentially a tax on a renewable, sustainable resource. After all, “fee” is government code for “tax.”

Historically, customers have been provided bags without a separate charge. This is part of the routine costs of doing business. Now, some retailers prefer government involvement to stifle competition and create an extra source of revenue for their businesses at the customer’s expense.

Environmentalists have targeted single-use bags in the name of environmental stewardship in an attempt to reduce litter levels. But, paper bag fees will not further efforts –albeit commendable ones – to reduce bag litter and/or increase recycling options. Instead, these fees will only limit choices for consumers – the ultimate losers in any bag bans or taxes.

Many retailers who cater to environmentally-conscious consumers have already transitioned to offering their customers recyclable paper bags and reusable products. Some retailers argue that a fee on paper should accompany a plastic ban to offset retailer costs of more expensive paper bags. But paper and plastic bags should not be compared on a one-to-one basis, as they each have different qualities. One paper bag, for instance, can hold more groceries compared to its plastic counterpart.

Any fees on single-use bags punish working families and those who can least afford it, and bringing reusable bags along is not a practical option for everyone. Consumers need viable single-use bag options; not an additional charge for bags while they struggle to cover the increasing cost of basic necessities.

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