Oregonian shoppers might soon be looking for new ways to get the groceries back to the car if a proposed plastic bag ban (accompanied by a $0.05 tax on paper bags) is passed. The bill, SB 536, would fine disobedient retailers $250 per day for providing their customers with “single-use checkout bags.” The Oregon ban follows the lead of several cities and counties in neighboring California which have, not uncontroversially, already banned disposable bags.
Supporters hope the tax will minimize litter and the environmental harm ostensibly done by the manufacture and disposal of plastic bags. However, there is some indication that the unintended economic consequences of the ban could cancel some of these benefits out.
An analysis of the tax by the Beacon Hill Institute concluded that the bag ban (plus the associated tax on paper bags) would cost Oregon’s economy 270 jobs, reduce the average worker’s wages by $27 per year and cause aggregate disposable income to fall by $2.3 million. This may seem like a small sacrifice, but given the vague promises of environmental benefits (incidentally, plastic bags make up less than 1 percent of litter in many locales), this is probably something advocates should take seriously.