Page 6 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • March 11, 2009 Mahwah Township council proposes municipal tax on bags by Frank J. McMahon The Mahwah Council has decided to seek the state legislature’s approval to permit the township to impose a municipal tax on the dispensing of paper and plastic bags within Mahwah. Councilman John Roth made the proposal at a recent public meeting of the governing body. He asked the council to authorize the township attorney to research the issue and to prepare the appropriate documents for the council’s review. The council agreed by a straw vote of 5-1. “The purpose of this legislation would be for Mahwah to take a proactive role in managing our environment and protecting it for future generations while attempting to offset the cost impact of paper and plastic bag disposal on the present generation,” Roth told the council. “Over 95 percent of paper and plastic bags disposed by residents end up in landfills at a significant expense in the form of tipping fees paid by the town,” he continued, “and those not disposed of or recycled immediately impact our environment with negative implications for wildlife, water pollution and other resource and infrastructure damage.” Roth claims that the manufacturing of these bags employs enormous amounts of non-renewable natural resources, such as oil in the case of plastic, and other renewable resources, such as trees for pulp for paper bags. He said the ultimate goal of this legislation would be to encourage the use of cloth bags to replace paper and plastic ones reducing natural resource depletion, disposal costs and pollution given the extensive time needed for them to degrade once they are disposed of in our environment. In support of his proposal, Roth pointed out that the Wall Street Journal, the U.S Census Bureau, The Reason Foundation, Envirosax, the Container Recycling Institute, and various other sources report that over 100 billion plastic shopping bags are used in the U.S. every year, and at least another 10 billion paper bags are used each year. In addition, he advised that 12 million barrels of oil are required to make the plastic bags and over 14 million trees are cut down for paper bag production. “Not all plastic bags are properly disposed of,” Roth said, “and the United Nations estimates there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.” Based on the last census, which Roth said includes approximately 24,000 adults living in Mahwah, township residents would use about 10.1 million bags every year based on the average use in the United States. He said that, if the township were to impose a tax of one cent per bag dispensed, it would either reduce local tipping fees, because people would convert to the use of cloth bags, or it would generate a revenue stream of up to $101,000 if there were no conversions to cloth bags, and these funds could be employed to offset the tipping fees. Roth said the tax would be imposed by subjecting all merchants dispensing paper or plastic bags at checkout counters or registers to a one to three cent tax per bag. That would include grocery, home improvement, liquor, dry cleaners, fast foods, delis, and restaurants. The only exclusions would be paper or plastic bags that are sold pre-packaged such as those for sandwiches, garbage, leaves, and other off the shelf products not used to transport purchases from the merchant to home. The tax would be collected on the basis of semi-annual certified/notarized statements submitted by the merchants showing the quantities received by their stores which reflect actual shipment data from manufacturers or suppliers of paper and or plastic bags. Mahwah Township Attorney Terry Bottinelli pointed out that the township does not presently have the authority to levy taxes; that power resides with the state. But he advised that the state can delegate this authority to towns in specific instances, such as it has with the hotel tax. Roth also noted that Mayor Richard Martel serves on the legislative committee New Jersey League of Municipalities and he has expressed a willingness to bring this matter forward seeking the league‘s support for the legislation. According to Roth, there is a total ban on plastic and paper bags in California, and New York City is currently considering a five cent bag tax. Councilwoman Lisa DiGiulio voted against moving forward with this proposal, however, explaining her opposition by claiming that the merchants will pass this tax onto the consumers because the person doing the shopping would pay the tax. She questioned if the tax was really needed. 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