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Per-bag fees troublesome in difficult economic times

In the great “Paper versus Plastic” debate, a new question issurfacing and is one that could have a great impact on the forestryindustry that is so vital to Mississippi and other timber-producingstates.

The question now is less on which material will be used bycustomers to carry groceries and other items, but whether if or howmuch shoppers will pay for reusable bags.

In January, Washington, D.C., became the first in the nation toenact a five-cents per bag fee on paper or plastic containers atplaces that sell groceries and/or alcohol. Environmental concernswere behind the measure that is being closely watched by manyaround the country.

But another “e” – as in economic – is where per-bag fee laws couldhave a more immediate impact, and not in a positive way.

In these difficult times, any additional cost on top of risingproduct prices serves as a deterrent to shoppers. Less shoppingcreates less demand for products and ultimately less demand for thecontainers – whether paper or plastic – to carry them.

The ripple effects of such measures as per-bag fees could befar-reaching.

While the fee may spur more reusable bags made of cloth or somesimilar material, the decline in the disposable bag usage -especially paper ones – will negatively impact states that have agreat interest in forest products. That is not good news for thosestates and a major reason why laws like per-bag fees don’t carrymuch weight in another debate … the one involving the economy orthe environment.