For decades, grocery stores offered safe, sustainable paper bags to customers without taxes or fees. Now, due to the debate surrounding the ban on plastic bags, many consumers across the state are being charged 10 cents per paper bag. As the state Legislature now debates a statewide proposal to ban single-use plastic bags, they should evaluate the potential impact of creating a new tax on consumers who ask for paper bags.
Paper bags are made from a renewable resource, are 100 percent compostable, fully recyclable and completely reusable. Most paper bags manufactured in the United States are certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or the Forest Stewardship Council, third-party forestry standards. Each paper bag contains an average of 40 percent recycled content and can easily be recycled to create other paper products. In fact the recycling recovery rate for paper products is over 65 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In comparison, plastic bags are only recovered at a 10 percent rate.
Paper bags’ higher recovery rate is due to the voluntary efforts and investments of the paper industry to recover their own products. We believe consumers should not be taxed for an item that is manufactured in a sustainable and responsible manner.
In addition to being a great environmental option, using paper bags is good for the California economy. For more than 48 years, International Paper has been producing paper bags in the Golden State. Our company operates 27 facilities in California representing more than 2,500 employees. We currently supply the majority of all the front-end carry-out paper bags in California. Placing a 10 cent tax on paper bags will likely deter consumers from using recyclable paper bags and could have a negative impact on high-paying California manufacturing jobs as well as other local companies that typically support manufacturing jobs.
Lawmakers need to evaluate the potential implications a tax on paper bags would have since it affects consumers, paper bag manufacturers and the environment. Is moving toward plastic or cloth reusable bags the best option? Are they a safe and sustainable alternative to carry groceries? Where does the money from the tax on paper bags truly go, and how many more jobs are we willing to risk from unintended consequences?
Lawmakers should not impose a statewide tax on paper bags. Paper bags, which are the original reusable bag, have been a sustainable choice for many decades and should be for many decades to come.
Kyle G. Smith is business general manager for International Paper CTA Kraft Bag.