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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 17, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Bag tax: If passed, will it work?

Before a bag fee, provide incentives to recycle instead

Editor, The Times:

I find it interesting that Seattle wants to impose plastic-bag fees, yet there has been absolutely no push for deposits for plastic or glass bottles or for soda and beer cans.

Over the past three years, I have recycled more than 82,000 aluminum cans, of which more than 75,000 I have personally removed from the roadsides here in South King County, primarily in the Renton and Maple Valley areas.

What really bothers me is the fact I have left behind approximately 6,000 glass bottles and well more than 12,000 to 13,000 plastic bottles during this time frame.

Keep in mind that deposits are required for all of these items in Idaho, Oregon, California and other states and as a direct result you have far less litter.

Cash refunds would guarantee much cleaner roadside areas, and at the same time, provide those in need with additional and needed income.

Why are we spending our tax dollars cleaning up our roads? At 5 cents a can and bottle, if I had recycled everything I’ve mentioned, I would have made around $5,000.

— Ron Freese, Renton

If bags are so bad, why don’t we ban them?

I don’t live in Seattle, so I don’t get to vote on the proposed bag fee/tax. I do work at a retail store in Seattle, however.

I am quite confused at the idea of charging a fee as a disincentive to use bags. If the bags are so bad, ban them. If they don’t warrant a ban, put the community’s resources to use elsewhere.

It may technically be a “fee,” but it sure feels like a terribly regressive “tax.”

On the other hand, I’d gladly fork over a dollar or more per bag if it meant the streets would be properly cleared of snow and ice in the winter.

— Shaun Anthony, Renton

Complicating grocery transactions an effective plan

Peter Nickerson and Randy Rucker’s assessment [“Bag tax would be a lot of hassle with little environmental impact,” Opinion, guest column, Aug. 5] of the proposed bag tax misses a few points.

Yes, it’s great most Seattleites don’t litter, but that does not lead to the conclusion that there is no bag scourge. Any plastic that becomes waste is a scourge. Those who are trying to connect the dots between consumer behavior and increased waste plastic know this.

I agree that “the tax will solve no environmental problem” and will “complicate a million grocery transactions in the city daily.” That’s the point.

Waste-management problems may be best addressed by means of consumer inconvenience. If consumers can embrace recycling their newspapers, glass bottles and aluminum cans, providing for our own grocery-bagging needs should be an easy next step.

Look around you. See any scarcity of backpacks, canvas bags and other reusable bags? I still agree with their conclusion that if we want to improve the environment via taxation there are better choices.

Another way to get people’s attention is to stop offering them bagging service. Make an announcement. Pick a day. Let them squirm a few days, and they’ll pick up a bagging habit faster than a cockroach escaping a glaring light bulb.

— Marcella Van Oel, Seattle

Making change by shifting attitudes

I’m a big fan of the plastic-bag tax. Why? Because it will eliminate a reflexive waste of resources. Currently, the automatic assumption at most stores is that you want your items bagged.

Buy a single pencil? It goes in a bag. Yes, you can decline the bag, and I do.

But I’ve got to be fast! One second of distraction and I’ve got another annoying plastic bag. I want to flip the assumption around, and I believe the bag tax will do that.

I’d love the conversation to flip from me saying, “Ack! No bags!” to the cashier saying, “Do you wish to purchase bags today?”

Shifts in attitude do matter. Let’s move to a society in which the least wasteful option is the norm, rather than the exception. The bag tax may not be the biggest step or the most meaningful step, but it is the next step.

We have to walk before we can run. Though I suppose we could bike or bus. Whatever transit mode you choose, remember your reusable bags!

Vote yes on Seattle Referendum 1.

— Karen Crisalli Winter, Seattle

Comments | More in Election, Environment, Local ballot measures, Seattle, Seattle bag tax, Taxes

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