Home / Editors' Picks / RBJ Snap Poll: Plurality favors neither bag ban nor tax

RBJ Snap Poll: Plurality favors neither bag ban nor tax

Madison County in Central New York next month may join two Long Island counties in banning single-use plastic shopping bags at grocery, drug and department stores.

The county held a public hearing this month on the matter and county supervisors are slated to vote on the proposal in June.

The Carryout Bag Reduction proposal states it seeks “to protect the environment, reduce pollution and control litter by eliminating the single-use plastic carryout bag from certain retail stores.” Merchants would be able to give customers paper bags or reusable ones instead.

Municipalities nationwide and around the world have banned single-use plastic bags. Others have adopted per-bag fees or taxes.

The week’s RBJ Snap Poll asked readers their views of such bans or fee plans. A plurality favored neither a ban nor a tax, but a majority favored some action, either a ban or a tax.

The Madison County ban, if approved, would be the first in Upstate New York. Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island have enacted similar bans, AP reported. California has the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. Bags also have been banned in several cities including Chicago; Austin, Texas; and Seattle.

New York City imposed a fee on plastic bags last winter, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocked it.

Proponents of curbing the use of single-use plastic bags cite the reduction in litter and bags ending up in landfills, among other reasons, and contend few bags are recycled or reused.

Opponents argue against an unnecessary increase in regulation and added costs, and contend plastic bags are reusable and recyclable and that the bags make up a tiny part of the U.S. municipal waste stream.

Nearly 550 participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted May 23 and 24.

For single-use plastic shopping bags, which of the following would you favor?

  • Neither a ban nor a tax  46%
  • A law banning them 38%
  • A tax on each bag 16%


I am not in favor of a tax or a ban on plastic bags, but I am in favor of increasing reusable bags. Plastic bags at times are convenient, but I find the reusable bags so much easier and convenient to use. However, I do find it frustrating when I buy one or two items and the cashier immediately puts the item(s) in a plastic bag, when I could have easily carried them out. All in all, let’s collectively reduce plastic bag usage in favor of reusable bags, but please, I hope taxpayer money is not wasted on regulations, bans and taxes for plastic bags. We have so many other pressing needs that are more urgent.

—Keith Newcomer

Treat them just like bottles and cans and we’ll see very few blowing around the landscape when the winds blow over landfills.

—Daniel Mossien, architect

I have a canvas bag in the car, which I invariably forget to take in with me at least 50 percent of the time. Paper bags cost more, but they are biodegradable. Plastic is certainly more convenient, and I return them to the recycle bins in the store when they accumulate. Let the consumer decide how they will protect the environment.

—Tom Sargent, Rochester

Montgomery County, Md., has a 5 cent charge for each plastic bag. Everybody brings their own bags to the supermarket. It appears to work fine.

—Donald Pedersen

The three choices above seem to have omitted a couple of alternative solutions.  First is the use of the blue box recycle program for the plastic bags. Currently Wegmans spends money to help with recycling these bags, while the blue box collection is weekly and doesn’t require toting the bags back to the store. Another alternative contrasts with the idea of a ‘tax’ on the bags. NYS has enough taxes and fees. How about an incentive similar to bottles and cans? Charge a deposit on the bags and reclaim the deposit when the bag is recycled. Again, following existing protocols. Finally, I note the mention of offering paper bags instead. The paper bags can already be blue box recycled, however, paper recycling processes are almost as dirty as the original manufacture. I just don’t understand why politicians can only thing of placing a ‘tax’ on something.  I guess it’s the old adage, if all you own is a hammer then everything looks like a nail.

—Wayne Donner, Rush

Bring back paper bags.

—Kathleen Wright

A tax is a good idea, but will be effective only in relation to the income of the person littering. It would be small, so wealthier users would likely ignore it. Ultimately, a ban is most useful. These bags kill our wildlife and spoil our towns when they become trapped in trees and gutters. They contribute, not only to plastic pollution, but to a general decline in our quality of life. Recycling is good, but it often doesn’t happen. So these bags mostly do damage and prolong our addiction to oil. They didn’t exist when I was a child and we did fine without them. Yes, they are convenient, but why pollute when we have alternatives? This is only a small step, but a useful one. For half a century, we’ve been told that convenience is more important than a clean, healthy world. The downside of that attitude has become increasingly evident. And it’s not even difficult to fix.

—Gary Bogue, Independent consultant

The government does not need to get involved with this. Wegmans has the right idea. Make the reusable bags readily available and make plastic bag recycling readily available. I am always opposed to government regulations to meet some perceived problem. Usually the cure is worse than the disease. Items that come to mind are low flush toilets and banning incandescent light bulbs. Let’s see, low flush toilets don’t flush very well so you sometimes have to flush twice. CFLs are more energy-efficient than incandescents but they are hazardous waste due to the mercury.

—Dave Fister

I wouldn’t be opposed to a tax or fee on these single-use plastic shopping bag at time of purchase. Not only are they bad for the landfills but they are more harmful to aquatic life. In California these bags are banned in coastal towns that have concerns about the harmful effect on marine wildlife. With the Finger Lakes in our backyard and Lake Ontario to the north, we need to recognize these environmentally sensitive areas and keep them protected from plastic bags that could end up in our local lakes and other water sources.

—Pete Deckman, Deckman Oil Co.

Evidence shows that plastic bags can survive for 1,000 years. They can be seen in trees, creeks, parks, rivers, oceans. They are a hindrance to wildlife and unsightly.

—Marion Heaton, the Perfect Word Shop

These bags are a danger in multiple ways. Unless a suitable rapidly biodegradable bag can be invented, we need to curtail use. A return tax, or some other discouragement might keep use down, similar to the way we’ve controlled bottle and can trash with a deposit. It’s not that hard to keep a few reusable shopping bags in the trunk. Nor is it a big deal or a big expense.

Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed Inc.

While plastic bags might be reusable and recyclable, the reality is that most end up in our landfills, or worse, in our landscape and streams. There is a reason that “reduce” is the first choice in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto; the best choice is not to use or create this unnecessary plastic bag in the first place. It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when paper was the only choice. Harder to imagine, but still true, there was a time when neither paper nor plastic was available at checkout–people brought their own reusable shopping bags. Customers of member grocery stores (Costco, BJs, Sam’s) are already accustomed to not receiving any bag. Shoppers will certainly adapt to the loss of the plastic bag, and our environment will be better for it. The major benefactor of the plastic bag is the petrochemical industry that creates it. Sadly, our governments are more apt to serve businesses which fund their campaigns as their primary constituents, rather than the individuals who only vote.

ꟷMaggie Symington

Bans like this are pointless. Any bag ends up being garbage eventually.

ꟷMark Wilson

A law banning their use is really a law imposing someone’s ethics and/or morals on others. You must (comply) because I believe it is important–and I don’t care what you think; this will make me feel better. A tax is just another form of government theft; legislators NEED money to fund their pet projects, and the only way they can get money is by forcibly taking it from people by fines and taxes. If they are truly concerned about the environmental impact of those bags then why not start an educational campaign informing consumers to use reusable bags?

ꟷKeith Griswold

Too much regulation. Go away.

ꟷJerry McCabe, West Irondequoit

We either need paper bags with handles or we need to use our own cloth type bags that can be washed to be sure they are clean when reusing them in stores.

ꟷEllen Buck, the University of Rochester

We reuse our store shopping bags around home to line small trash cans and also as lunch bags. Many other people do as well. What are they going to ban next, cereal boxes and food wrappers? What we need to get rid of is the well-meaning political idiots who come up with these harebrained ideas!

ꟷGeorge Thomas, Ogden

For one thing, plastic creates far less overall pollution than paper because of the difference in energy required to make and transport paper versus plastic. Second, plastic bags are reused in other ways by the customers who take them home. This is just another attempt by the left-wing environmental fringe to impose yet another regulation on us just for the sake of regulation. And, of course, politicians don’t have the guts to say ‘no’, even though they know they should. And we will pay for it in many ways.

ꟷJim Cronin

If stores like Wegmans would train their cashiers to fill the bags, they could cut the use by a substantial margin. Placing one or two items in each bag only adds to the problem and is a ridiculous waste of resources.

ꟷPaul Ozminkowski, Brophy, Dailey & Incardona LLP

Plastic bags are undoubtedly helpful in the moment, but we should strongly consider eliminating ubiquitous mundane items that are used once but last virtually forever.

ꟷMike Bergin, Chariot Learning

Why does Big Brother get involved in everything?  I use reusable bags myself but just can’t see why this is anyone’s business. If the stores we shop at choose to not use plastic bags good for them. If that bothers me I can shop somewhere else. Like all regulations, this will only cost us all more money, but I guess that is really the point, not saving the environment.

ꟷMatt Connolly

This is crazy. When you figure the time, money and resources to cut down, transport, process and replant, it takes much more energy to make a paper bag than a plastic bag, while both are recyclable. More progressive nanny state stupidity. Good grief, will it ever end!

ꟷSteve Wichtowski, Honeoye

They are causing havoc with our environment (as are many things.) This is something we can actually DO something about. I definitely support the change. There are many easy alternatives for carrying our groceries.

ꟷEmily Neece

We enacted smoking bans in most public areas for human health. Why don’t we do the same to protect our environment? Us more senior folk can remember when most of our shopping bags were paper. Meat was wrapped in paper, all grocery bags were paper, etc. If we have to pay a little more to protect the environment, so be it. Personally, I’m sick of all the plastic bags.

ꟷAnthony Schmitt, Fairport

Frankly, I am in favor of paper bags: they are renewable (trees can be planted and cultivated) and bio-degradable. I place trash in them after using them for carrying groceries.

ꟷC. Genese

Another do-gooder initiative that creates more problems than it solves. Talk to any Wegmans cashier about how filthy many of the reusable bags are that people bring through their lines—gotta wonder what kind of germs and bacteria they’re harboring. But wait—maybe we can create additional legislation to require consumers to only bring CLEAN reusable bags to the grocery store. But wait, that would require people to create more waste in the form of disinfectant wipes or soap/water to clean the bags

ꟷR. Canley, Fairport

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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