Proposed county fee aims to reduce plastic bag pollution
Sunny Simon and Dale Miller, two of Cuyahoga County’s Council members, have introduced legislation that would place a $0.10 fee on each plastic bag used by consumers at stores that are more than 7,000 square feet. The average Cuyahoga County resident (not family, but resident) uses 341 plastic bags a year, with 319 million being used county-wide yearly. Only 10 percent of these are recycled. It is also estimated that each of these 319 million bags being used in Cuyahoga County are used for an average of 12 minutes each.
As I have a written about before, over 5 million pounds of plastic enters Lake Erie every year. The goal of the $0.10 fee per bag is to limit the amount of plastic getting into the lake and polluting our environment. Out of each $0.10 collected, $0.06 would go to a fund that would be used to clean up our waterways. The other $0.04 would be given back to the stores and also used to distribute reusable bags at libraries, senior centers and homeless shelters.
You may be asking: have programs like this implemented elsewhere been successful? The answer is yes, they have been successful at reducing the number of bags taken at stores and the number of bags that end up in the environment and in waterways.
In Washington, D.C., where there is a plastic bag fee, residents reported they use 60 percent fewer plastic bags than before, and volunteers in the District have reported a 60 percent reduction in plastic bags recovered in the Potomac Watershed. Washington, D.C., has collected over $10 million for the Anacosta River Clean Up & Protection Fund since 2010.
Further, a plastic bag tax in Ireland in 2002 led to a 95 percent reduction in plastic litter there. San Jose, California, instituted a plastic bag ban in 2011 that has seen success, with an 89 percent reduction in plastic bags found in the storm drain system, 60 percent fewer plastic bags found in creeks and rivers, and 59 percent fewer found on city streets and neighborhoods. Chicago began a plastic bag tax in February this year and reported a 42 percent drop in plastic bag use in the first month.
I know that this issue can be a little touchy and change is hard, but Cuyahoga County is on our fabulous Lake Erie, and that means we are the first line of defense for the lake and helping to prevent pollution from entering it. This bag fee will not solve that problem entirely, but it is a step in the right direction to try to reduce pollution, and there is more than a good chance it will succeed.
As stewards of the Earth, we must begin to take steps to reduce plastic pollution. This legislation is a great place to start.