June 25, 2013

Bag Fee Bingo

"It's re-cycling!"

Reader, prepare thyself. I'm going to unload on the city government of Boulder, Colorado. I know, completely out of character for me.

I read today, in a Boulder Daily Camera dot com banner ad no less, that Boulder's grocery bags will come with a shiny new 10 cent per bag tax starting Monday, July 1. So it adds a buck to the monthly family grocery trip, I mused. Big deal. Then I read the city's justification for the new "Disposable Bag Fee."

Fee proceeds will be used to offset the impact of bags in our community. For more information please see the "Frequently Asked Questions" link below.

"Impacts?" Yes, friend. The lowly grocery bag has a societal "impact."

Boulder currently uses approximately 33 million checkout bags a year, or about 342 bags/person/year. Plastic bags are produced from non-renewable resources, are very difficult to recycle (they cannot go in Boulder’s curbside bins), and contaminate our recycling facility equipment, leading to increased operating costs.

Bingo! Boulder's recycling facility, mockingly dubbed the "Taj Mahal of Trash" by then Boulder Weekly editor Wayne Laugensen, costs a lot to operate. And with the supply of recycled material on the rise, market value is surely falling. How can Boulder afford to keep the doors open? I wonder.

33 million bags per year is 3.3 million dollars collected from grocery shoppers, assuming an inelastic response to the paltry dollar per visit cost. An earlier version of the linked page cited a trash load of about 781 tons of bags per year. So after the 4 cent per bag payoff to the, pardon the pun, "bag men" who extract the "fee" from shoppers, almost $2 million goes to the city each year. If those 781 tons were landfilled [blasphemy!] the offsetting cost per ton would be $2560.

On my last visit to the landfill I believe the dump fee was less than 1 percent of this amount. I'm wondering, when will someone calculate and devise a way to cope with the impact of city government in Boulder's community? Oh well, at least I debited the program one more click fee for the banner ad.

Dirty Hippies Posted by JohnGalt at June 25, 2013 7:50 PM

Coloradans let Californians try out new ideas -- then we adopt all of their worst failures!

Bag bans cause disease and impinge on customers' time and convenience. All for a minute reduction of a small and safe part of the waste stream.

Whenever you think reason and rational thought will prevail reread this post. We are so doomed.

Posted by: jk at June 26, 2013 9:35 AM

Most of us believed this problem was solved by the biodegradable bag, but that novel invention just opened a new can of worms. Critics complain that they only degrade in the presence of water and oxygen, but landfills are designed to reduce such exposure. The seemingly obvious response is, so what? They're in a landfill!

The other major complaint is that biodegradable bags contaminate the waste stream of other recyclable plastics. In other words, they are trash. Okay, landfill them then.

Clearly I don't appreciate the enormity of the problem of sorting through every persons trash and trying to make it "disappear." Am I a troglodyte, or do I just have more important things to devote my life toward?

Posted by: johngalt at June 26, 2013 11:41 AM

Just once, I want to be on the easy-to-explain side. We have the economic benefits of fracking -- they have "You're poisoning our children's water!"

This is another: "33 Million Bags a Year! Ehrmigawd!" You and I say "So what? It's a big world!" but their side is very compelling.

Posted by: jk at June 26, 2013 4:10 PM

How about when they say, "Somebody should do something" we say, "Are you busy around, say, 6 pm? Or would you rather make a donation? TANSTAAFL."

Posted by: johngalt at June 26, 2013 5:46 PM | What do you think? [4]