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Should Governments Slap a Tax on Plastic?


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The New York Times
SOURCE: https://www.wired.com/story/should-governments-slap-a-tax-on-plastic/
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Summary

And now another grand naughtiness may get hit with its own tax: single-use plastic.Proponents of the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act are campaigning for a 1-cent tax on these plastics. Now, a Recology official says, they’re aiming to collect enough signatures by the end of this summer for it to appear on the 2022 ballot.The idea behind the tax is to make it more expensive for the food and personal care industries to keep churning out single-use plastics. “It can't, on its own, make economic sense for a product manufacturer to use recycled, post-consumer plastic versus virgin plastic,” says Eric Potashner, vice president and senior director of strategic affairs for Recology. That’s why some economists like the idea of a carbon dividend, or setting aside some of the tax’s revenue to go right back to taxpayers to offset this hit.The proposed California plastic tax, on the other hand, would use its revenue to juice the recycling industry and develop local pollution mitigation programs. So instead of getting a dividend, the average resident might end up paying a tiny bit more for the plastic-wrapped products they buy, if brands end up passing the 1-cent cost of the tax on to them.It’s a debate that California’s been through before, at least on the local level. “Applying fees only to plastic packaging, as California’s ballot initiative as currently drafted would do, would likely result in shifts to other types of packaging, which would significantly increase environmental impacts, especially greenhouse gas emissions,” says Keith Christman, managing director of plastic markets at the ACC.“California’s ballot initiative is likely to result in brands switching to packaging made from glass, paper, and metals, which typically increase the weight of a package, resulting in more trucks on the road, more energy used in transport, and more waste,” Christman continues.But, argues Potashner, the emissions challenges of transportation are imminently solvable.

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