Will Plastic Bag Fees Hurt Business? Small Business Weighs In

By Features FOXBusiness

A shopper pays for her purchases in a newly opened Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago, September 21, 2011. The 27,000 square foot (2508 square meters) store is the first in Illinois with an emphasis on groceries and basic household goods.  REUTERS/Jim Young      (UNITED STATES - Tags: FOOD BUSINESS) - RTR2RMOK

Reuters

The cat’s out of the (plastic) bag.

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On Wednesday, the city of Dallas passed a citywide 5-cent fee on plastic bags. And in New York City, City Council Members Margaret Chin and Brad Lander introduced a proposal for a 10-cent fee on plastic bags. Dallas and New York City join a list of cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, which have all imposed similar fees or bans on plastic bags.  

In both Dallas and New York City, council members cited the environmental damage caused by plastic bags. Lander and Chin said in a statement released Wednesday that New Yorkers use 5.2 billion plastic bags each year, which leads to over 1,700 tons of garbage weekly.

“We’re trying to educate and drive people toward a cleaner and more environmentally friendly city,” says Dallas City Council Member Dwaine Caraway, who proposed the fee. Caraway says the city will be spending at least $250,000 on education efforts around the fee and the environmental dangers of plastic bags.

The business community, however, says the fee is a mixed bag.

“The majority of businesses say the bag (fee) is anti-business,” says Caraway. Despite this, however, Caraway says there is significant excitement from city residents regarding the fee. The Dallas Regional Chamber declined to comment on the fee, but the Texas Retailers Association has spoken out in the past against fees and bans instituted in other Texas cities, like Austin.

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New York City’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce echoed concerns about the fee’s effect on businesses.

“We are reviewing the legislation and speaking to our members, but any additional regulations for businesses and consumers have to be carefully considered before action is taken,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo A. Scissura in a statement provided to FOXBusiness.com. “This is especially true in light of recently enacted regulations that continue to place additional burdens on the backs of small business owners.”

But some are applauding the effort – and say it will have little effect on their operations.

“I don’t mind if it’s going to help the environment,” says Tony Marcano, manager of Brooklyn’s Union Market. “A lot of places are already charging for bags.”

Marcano says Union Market provides a 5-cent discount currently for shoppers who bring their own reusable bags, and the mechanism is in place for cashiers to apply a 5-cent fee.

If New York City’s fee is passed, Marcano says most of his customers might not even realize it.

“To be honest with you, 90% of our customers come with their own reusable bags … We don’t go through many bags here, because our customers are conscious,” says Marcano.

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