Saturday, 2:15 PM
West Bridgewater wants a grocery bag tax
(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file)
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Proposals to ban or tax disposable grocery bags have become as ubiquitous and stubborn as, well, a plastic bag in a landfill.
A bill that would impose a tax of 2 to 15 cents a bag has been floated on Beacon Hill since at least 2007. The Boston City Council has discussed banning plastic bags, as has the town of Plymouth. In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed charging shoppers 6 cents for each plastic bag, and the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban all plastic bags in stores by July 2010 unless the state Legislature imposes a 25-cent per bag fee.
Now comes West Bridgewater. The board of selectmen voted 2-1 last night to send a letter to the state Legislature asking for the authority to impose a 5-cent tax on each grocery bag, paper or plastic. But there's a twist.
"I want the money to stay in the local community," said Jerry Lawrence, chairman of the board of selectman, today in a telephone interview. "We are the ones that have to deal with the trash and the recycling."
The goal, Lawrence explained, is to get people to change their habits and reduce the number bags, not raise revenue. Like the 5-cent fee on bottles and cans, a grocery bag tax would prompt people to change their lifestyle.
"I'm not an advocate for taxes or fees -- fees are nothing more than a hidden tax," Lawrence said. "But if it can be a win, win, it should be a go."
The tax is widespread in Europe. In 2002, Ireland imposed a tax that now has shoppers paying 33 cents per plastic bag. Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent and now almost the entire country relies on reusable cloth bags. A law went into effect in Seattle last month that levies a 20-cent fee on all disposable paper or plastic bags. And last March, Ikea stores in the United States began charging 5 cents per plastic bag and saw usage drop 92 percent. That meant 64 million fewer bags.
On Beacon Hill, Senator Brian A. Joyce has refiled a proposal that the Milton Democrat has been pushing since he wrote an op-ed article for the Globe in November 2007. Joyce could not be immediately reached today for comment so it was not clear why the measure did not pass last year.
In West Bridgewater, Lawrence said he wants city and towns to reap the revenue from what he sees as an inevitable tax. Trucchi's Supermarkets, for example, used 2 million bags last year, Lawrence said, and that is only one small chain in southeastern Massachusetts.
"I think people right now think I'm crazy, but it is going to happen and it is going to happen across the country," Lawrence said. "Trash is a national issue, not just in West Bridgewater."