Wednesday 01 July 2009

5-Cent Plastic Bag Levy: Eco-Friendly Practice Or Profit Grab?

Beginning in June, all retailers in the city of Toronto (where I live) began charging shoppers 5 cents for each new plastic bag used in a purchase. This was in compliance to the controversial city bylaw passed late last year mandating the levy, following a last-minute compromise deal struck between the city and major supermarkets. One goal of this bylaw is to reduce the city’s plastic wastes by 70% from its landfills by 2010. Though environmentally sound, the initiative has evoked heated debate among its supporters and detractors, including many consumers who see this levy as just another “backdoor tax” imposed by the city and profit grabbing scheme conspired by the retailers.

As an avid recycler myself, I too find the effort by some retailers to deliberately profit from the newly invoked bylaw revolting, in effect passing the “buck” onto their customers who must bear the entire financial burden of this green initiative which the retailers themselves have also agreed to participate. This is because it was the retailers who originally lobbied against the city’s earlier (and more palatable) proposal to apply a 10-cent rebate, rather than a 5-cent levy, to encourage consumers to reduce plastic bag usage. Moreover, the current bylaw supported by the same lobbyists makes no mandate to collect this fee from the retailers for the city to offset its recycling and waste management cost, thus allowing the retailers to freely pocket the fee as added profits for themselves. A number of retailers even choose to up-sell their customers at a premium (thus making even more profits) reusable shopping bags that are plastered with obnoxious advertisements, turning all of their customers into walking billboards for the retailers’ brands. Indeed, this is shameful to see that the unsound business practice by a few unscrupulous retailers makes yet another mockery of an otherwise noble environmental cause put forth by a great city.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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