Plastic bag tax could bring in $4M annually for Memphis

Plastic bag tax could bring in $4M annually for Memphis

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis shoppers could soon have to pay more for plastic bags.

A new shopping bag tax is picking up steam at city hall.

The tax made rounds earlier this year, but after some fine tuning, it's back before council members.

The idea is being pushed by council chair Berlin Boyd.

"I just want people to think about their overall behavior," Boyd said.

Plastic bags may be convenient, but Boyd said they come with another cost--to the environment.

Boyd told fellow council members that the city spent $9.3 million last year in landfill disposal costs. 40 percent of that comes from non-compostable material like plastic bags.

"You see it," Boyd said. "You see it in trees, you see it in the waterways. One thing I do know is that our taxpayers now are burdened with the cost of having to pay for disposal of plastic bags."

The proposed ordinance calls for a seven cent tax per bag. Two cents goes back to the retailer, and five cents to the city.

Residents older than 65 years old and people on SNAP benefits would be exempt.

It would apply to any retailer with a store greater than 2,000 square feet.

Cities like Washington, D.C., Seattle and San Francisco have banned the bags outright. Nashville is also considering a ban on plastic bags.

Kroger has vowed to phase out plastic bags by 2025.

"I think it's a pretty high burden of proof before we put a new tax to the citizens," council member Worth Morgan said.

Council members said they'd want to hear from Memphis-area grocers before making any determinations, but indicated they are willing to hear the plan out.

"I think it's a conversation; let's go ahead and have it," council member Frank Colvett said.

Because it's an ordinance, it would need to be heard and passed three times in full council before being approved.

Boyd said he estimated the tax could bring in at least $4 million annually.

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