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Industry group fighting Seattle plastic-bag tax

American Chemistry Council spent $180,625 in August fighting a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic shopping bags.

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / September 15, 2008

Isaiah McDaniel bags groceries into a customer's cloth bags at PCC Natural Market in Seattle. In July, the city council enacted a 20-cent tax on plastic shopping bags, a measure that is being challenged by an industry group.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson/FILE

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The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported last week that the American Chemistry Council spent $180,625 in August fighting a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic shopping bags.

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The "green fee," which also imposes a tax on Styrofoam containers, was approved by Seattle's city council in July and is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2009. But the ACC, an Arlington, Va.-based trade group that mainly represents plastics and chlorine manufacturers, has been trying to have the issue put to a citywide referendum. To that end, the the Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax, which consists of the ACC and 7-Eleven, Inc., has collected about 22,000 signatures to get the referendum on the ballot. (That works out to about $8 per signature, notes the P-I.)

If the coalition's efforts are successful – and the Seattle Times reports that it looks like they will be – then the ordinance will be held off until the voters decide to accept or repeal it. The earliest it would go on the ballot is August 2009.

Some Seattleites are confused by the campaign. In a separate article, the P-I quotes one signatory – a shopper who brings her own bags to the supermarket – who thought she was signing a petition to outlaw plastic bags.

The coalition argues that a 20-cent bag fee would cost consumers $300 each year. This figure seems high. First, it assumes that the tax wouldn't be at all effective in dissuading shoppers from using the bags, which is the point of the ordinance. Second, $300 assumes 1,500 bags per year, or almost 29 per week. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that Americans throw away some 100 billion bags per year, which works out to about 6 or 7 bags per American per week.

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