Councilman proposes tax on plastic shopping bags

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the average family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year.

Most aren't recycled, and that's bad for our planet. So a Memphis City Councilman wants Memphians to go green by charging us a little green.

"I don't think it's a good idea," Memphis shopper Jordan Scott said as he loaded more than a dozen bags of groceries into his car at Kroger on Poplar and Highland.

Scott said he already paid a pretty penny for food for his family and that a seven cents per plastic bag charge is not a budget-friendly idea.

"It should be free," Scott said. "That's a lot of seven cents.  You see I got a lot of groceries. This would be a lot of seven cents to charge."

Memphis City Councilman Berlin Boyd came up with the seven cents a bag tax proposal after three years of research.

His primary purpose is to get Memphis residents to stop using plastic bags because they're not recyclable. He said most wind up in local ditches, lakes, and landfills.

"Hopefully what it does is change the thought process," Boyd said. "It costs the city right now $5.5 million a year to dispose of plastic bags in landfills."

Cities like Austin, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle have similar taxes or outright bans on plastic bags.

In fact, California was the first state to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. Voters approved it in 2016 by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.

Boyd wants Memphis to join those cities by being equally conscious about the environment.

"It's the responsibility of the citizens of Memphis to make sure that we can improve and maintain a great, safe, earthly environment for a future generation of Memphians," Boyd said.

But first, he must convince his fellow council members to support his proposed ordinance, and convince skeptical constituents like Jordan Scott that the plan will work.

"It's easier with plastic," Scott said.  "I think they should just leave it with plastic bags."

Boyd's proposal calls for five cents of the tax to go to the city, and the other two cents would go to the retailer. He said the money generated could be used to research the aquifer, the source of Memphis' drinking water, or to clean up littered waterways.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.