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Shoppers to Bloomy: Bag this!

The Brooklyn Paper

Brooklynites have one thing to say to Mayor Bloomberg: Please don’t tax our plastic shopping bags!

That was the reaction from urban shoppers this week after the Bloomberg Administration revealed that it is considering hitting shoppers with either a 6-cent-per-bag tax, which would have to be approved in Albany, or a 6-cent fee, which would not.

“Come on. This is a joke, right?” asked John Sanchez, a 40-year-old porter from Prospect Heights. “Six cents a bag? It’s ridiculous.”

Others pointed out that Brooklyn shoppers are unlike their suburban counterparts, who can pile their purchase into the back of an SUV and drive to their next location.

“We walk from the subway and do our shopping, picking up four, five, six plastic bags along the way,” said George Ganthier, a retired Prospect Heights resident. “At six cents a bag, it would really add up. And remember, we’re already paying taxes on the stuff we buy!”

Of course, there are plenty of Brooklynites eager to embrace the environmentalism that the mayor says is behind his tax. Bloomberg has said that the goal of the six-cent charge is actually not to raise money for the city, but to discourage the use of plastic bags, which are a petroleum product, in favor of shoppers pulling out reusable cloth bags at the checkout counter.

If that happens, of course, the city would reap no revenue.

And that can’t happen soon enough for Joe Holtz, the general coordinator at the Park Slope Food Co-op, which banned plastic bags and now requires its 15,000 members to bring their own bags, buy a reusable bag for 99 cents or use one of the leftover cardboard boxes that are left near the checkout counter.

“If you really want to be serious about getting rid of plastic bags, the fee needs to be higher,” he said. “Unlike the Co-op, which is a members-only group, the mayor can’t just ban plastic bags, so the only choice he has is to discourage their use through a fee or tax.

“Six cents, 12 cents, 18 cents and then 25 cents — eventually, you have a virtual ban on the bags,” said Holtz.

Green guerillas condemn plastic bags as environmentally unsound because they are made from oil and do not decompose as readily as paper.

But paper bags also take energy to produce — and aren’t as convenient for schleppers (see chart).

Plus, added Claudia Corwin, president of the board of directors at the Concord Village apartment complex in Downtown, “Brooklynites already recycle the plastic bags.”

“We use them over and over and then throw our garbage in them rather than buying garbage bags,” she said.

Still, the six-cent fee had some New Yorkers dreaming of a Utopia.

“I wouldn’t mind paying [the fee] as long as the mayor takes all the money and puts it into the schools,” said Marianne Tober of Brooklyn Heights.

— with Sarah Portlock, Evan Gardner, Zeke Faux and Mike McLaughlin

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Reader Feedback

Michael from Bay Ridge says:
When you say that Brooklynites are saying "please don't tax our plastic bags" do you have any evidence to support that most people in Brooklyn do not approve of the tax?

Personally I am totally for it. Not because I want to pay more for bags, but because I think that plastic bags are overused, too infrequently re-used, and awful for the enviornment.

Though that said I am in total agreement that the tax is too low. Plus I think that 6 cents is an awkward amount. I would prefer 5 cents or ten cents so that you don't have to deal with annoyin pennies.
Nov. 13, 2008, 11:47 am
peggy from park slope says:
I completely agree with the above comment. How are you able to say, "Brooklynites have one thing to say to Mayor Bloomberg: Please don’t tax our plastic shopping bags!"?

I am a proud Brooklynite and I say, "Bring it on!". We can all get used to carrying our own reusable bags with us. I recently received a great one as a gift. It is nylon and extremely durable and light-weight. It rolls up into a tiny size yet has a large capacity.

Let's lose the plastic bags.
Nov. 14, 2008, 11:07 am

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