What Does a Mandated Fee Even Mean?
- The government steps in and requires that stores charge a fee for a product they are providing to the consumer. Bags are a product, just like everything else we buy at the store, and a mandated fee makes it illegal for stores to be able to give them away with abandon for free.
- As consumers, our awareness is increased at the point of sale when we are asked, “Did you bring your reusable bags today?” and if the answer is no, “Would you like to buy a bag?” Posing these questions to the consumer, rather than automatically and unconsciously bagging (and often double and triple bagging) our goods raises our awareness of the cost of our choice of which bag to use (on our environment and economy).
- With a fee-based ordinance, consumers always have options: we may choose to pay for and use a plastic bag, or we are welcome to choose to avoid the fee altogether by bringing our own bag to use. This is always an optional fee for consumers, because we can avoid it easily by always having a reusable bag with us.
What Must Happen in Order for the Fee to Be Effective?
- First, the mandated price point for each plastic bag must catch our attention as consumers. It must make us think twice about our decision to use a plastic bag. (3)
- Second, the primary focus of the fee should be on changing consumer behavior over generating revenue for retailers and/or the government. (3)
What are the Strengths of a Mandated Fee?
- A mandated fee alerts consumers upfront of the damage plastic bags cause to our environment and economy.
- Plastic bag fees provide a disincentive to consumer pollution by requiring we pay a fee to use the bags.
- It requires us to make a conscious decision to purchase and use a plastic bag.
How Much Should the Charge Be?
- The amount of the charge is highly dependent on the political will of the community.
- To determine this number, it is helpful if City Council identifies the scope and nature of the pollution problem through collaboration with environmental advocates, researchers and economists.
- There is a general consensus among experts that a minimum of a 5-cent per bag fee will effectuate change in consumers’ behavior, and that effectiveness increases in direct proportion to an increase in the fee.
Who Supports a Mandated Fee for Plastic Bags?
Both retailers and environmentalists alike claim this method to be effective in changing consumer behavior and encouraging us to remember to bring our reusable bags to the store.