Possible tax on plastic bags up for debate for Memphis city leaders

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A seven-cent tax on plastic bags could come up for a vote by the Memphis city council, but the plastic bag industry is pushing back.

FOX13 obtained a memo from the industry touting the benefits of those bags.

The timing of the document was deliberate to make council members think twice before they vote to enact a seven-cent tax on plastic bags. The plastic bag industry warned consumers the new tax on their product will not reduce blight and pollution as promised.

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"Maybe incentive people to recycle, maybe incentive people to turn them back into the grocery store," said Adrian Bond of Cassa Public Strategy, the company trying to get the city council not pass this tax on plastic bags.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance provided his firm a new two-page document with data that claims plastic bags cost less to make than paper ones.

The document also claims consumers would have to use paper, thicker plastic, and cotton bags ten to nearly 100 times before getting the benefit of one made from plastic.

"The impact that it will have to businesses could be to the tune of a typical grocery store, on average, several studies show, in excess of $60,000 to $80,000 and that cost is typically passed back down to the customer," said Bond.

Councilperson Berlin Boyd's staff sent FOX13 his talking points that stress that two cents out of the seven from the tax will go stores to offset the cost.

Bond said two pennies won’t make a difference and argues the money would be better spent educating the public about litter, pollution and ways to reduce the problem.

"Using more public awareness campaigns, maybe advocating it in schools so they understand the importance of recycling," said Bond.

FOX13 also asked Scott Banbury of the TN Chapter of the Sierra Club about the potential tax.

Single use plastic bags are costing the people of Memphis millions of dollars every year in clogged stormwater pipes, rejected curbside recycling and the impairment our streams--the Wolf River, the Loosahatchie River and the Nonconnah Creek. The average American family takes home 1,500 bags a year. The average plastic bag sees 20 minutes of use and the plastic bag industry recycles only 1% of these. The City of Memphis has every right to assess a fee on the costs that we incur from this waste stream." - Scott Banbury, Conservation Program Coordinator, Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club

The city council may take up this issue at its next meeting.