Oswego Village Trustee Pam Parr told a gathering of Oswego residents Tuesday evening that a proposal for an optional checkout bag tax would be presented to the village board at their July 18 meeting as a way to help cut down on waste.
Parr made the announcement during a village-sponsored Community Conversations meeting held at Prairie Point Elementary School.
“People are sick of it [bag waste],” Parr said.
The solution that Parr said the board would be “actively” talking about at the July 18 meeting is an optional checkout bag tax, similar to the one used in Chicago.
The optional tax would be 7-10 cents per plastic bag, and would not apply to reusable bags that can be purchased from stores, or brought from home. Paper bags would possibly be excluded, as the material is biodegradable. The tax would be on the bag distributors, who would have the option of passing it on to consumers. Some stores that provide bags for sale give a few cents back on a purchase to customers.
“I usually don’t get excited about a tax, but this one has a real benefit,” Parr said.
According to data she presented, in a town the size of Oswego, 16.5 million plastic shopping bags are used each year. A significant portion of those bags end up littering parking lots, ditches and other areas.
Parr referenced a similar tax that went into effect in Chicago on Feb. 1 of this year. The city implemented a 7-cent tax on paper and plastic bags, after stores tried to get around a previous ordinance by using thicker bags. Implementing the tax in stores was left up to retailers, and the city’s tax does not apply to items purchased with food stamps.
A recent report released about the impact of the tax found that in the first three months, plastic bag use dropped in Chicago by 47 percent. The city also announced that it is anticipating $1 million in revenue, instead of the projected $9 million.
If a similar tax is accepted for Oswego, Parr says that it would not be a revenue generator, as the purpose would be to cut down on waste and help the environment.
“If this works the way it’s supposed to, it won’t generate any revenue, but it will solve the problem,” Parr said.
When asked about the “flip side” of the tax – driving customers to other towns to do their shopping – Parr emphasized the “optional” nature of the tax, saying that customers could bring their own bags to shop.
“We have not found yet a downside,” Parr said. “There’s a huge cost to plastic bags that are littered everywhere.”
Information is still being pulled together, in order to discuss the potential tax at the July 18 meeting.