Howard's plastic bag fee isn't a regressive tax

Less Plastic Please had a hearing on Tuesday for the state of Maryland to allow Howard County to pass a bag fee. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. Our group sat in the hearing in Annapolis for hours waiting our turn for our delegate to present the bill. It seemed as though the committee did not have any questions and the chair couldn’t believe that we even had to go through all this and that Howard County should be able to do this on their own without getting the state involved. All of this is true, but here’s where the alternative facts come in.

By the time we arrived home, an article came out stating some of the most inaccurate information (“Plastic bag fee could increase Howard County revenues by hundreds of thousands of dollars, analysis finds,” March 12). Unfortunately, the author of the article took information from the fiscal note of the bill that was not accurate. The fee is not a regressive tax and will not hurt poor people. Whether you are poor or wealthy, the stores already charge us for the bags. The cost of the bag is already incorporated in the price of the goods we purchase. The store owners would not be paying a fee, they would be receiving a portion of the fee that would be used for their administrative services. They would most likely spend less money buying the plastic bags.

One store manager from Montgomery County told us he had been buying 50 cases of plastic bags a week. After the county enacted its fee, he only needed to buy 10 cases. The whole purpose of the bag law is to change behavior — to raise awareness of the consequences of single use plastic to our environment and to our health. The public is unaware of the true crises with recycling. Ever since China has stopped taking our material, most of our recycling ends up in landfills. The people who are against this bill have not taken into consideration the cost to the taxpayers when we ship our recycling across states and the cost to repair the recycling equipment when it gets jammed with the plastic bags.

The lobbyists who represent the plastic industry are the same ones who are connected to ExxonMobil. This bill is more than producing revenue, it’s about informing the public that plastic comes from fossil fuel. The less plastic we consume, the less we need fossil fuel. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of big lobbyists making money at the expense of our health.

Alisa Niefeld-Batiz, Columbia

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