Tax on Plastic Bags
A bill named AB 1998 will provoke a good deal of opposition this summer because it calls for a ban of single-used plastic bags in California and it also includes a form of tax on the bags.
Stores would also be required to offer reusable cloth or plastic bags for sale, but many already do. Apparently, the availability of reusable bags isn't working wonders in weaning consumers off the dependence on single-use plastic bags.
So, enters legislation with the same aim of reducing one-time-use plastic bags, of which about 19 billion are now are distributed in California every year, about 600 per person. The legislation has specific exemptions for plastic bags like the ones used for fresh produce and meat products that often leave liquid residues on counter tops and elsewhere.
Regardless of the amount of tax or fee per single-use plastic bag, behavioral psychologists have already proven that when it comes to modifying human behavior, carrots and sticks don't work. No matter how researchers vary the research protocols, the result is the same: people don't respond to negative reinforcements as anticipated or as desired by those who want to modify the behavior of others.
Why? because plastic bags work great. They're light, can be crumpled into a tiny mass when they're no longer useful and they can be used to line trash cans.
The effectiveness of using a tax as a form of penalty, to discourage people from using plastic bags is highly questionable because it allows those who are able and willing to pay, to simply pay for the convenience that they want to enjoy. Even those who are unwilling to pay might complain at first, and then accept the new tax as just another cost of living.
I know someone who works extra hours to pay for the additional tax for cigarettes. Why? Because a lit cigarette allows him to enjoy holding fire in his hands, because he enjoys the warmth of the smoke as he inhales, because he enjoys the nicotine buzz, because, because, because. So, he is more than willing to pay extra to enjoy the cigarettes. If there's one such person willing to work extra to maintain what he considers as an enjoyable habit or lifestyle, it simply means that there are many more just like him, who are willing to pay for what they want to enjoy, be it cigarettes or plastic bags.Continued on the next page