Shoppers give two cents about proposed 7 cent plastic bag tax

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Picking plastic over paper bags could soon cost you, if a Memphis City Council member gets his way.

Councilman Berlin Boyd unveiled a draft ordinance Tuesday morning that would add a seven-cent tax to plastic grocery bags in an effort to cut down on littering.

“We are wanting more Memphians to say, ‘I don’t want plastic bags. Can I get the paper bag instead?’ Or, ‘I don’t want a plastic bag, I brought my own bag,’” said Boyd.

Boyd said the tax could either be assessed per shopper or per bag.

Five of the seven cents collected would go to the city for a range of water improvement projects.

The tax wouldn’t apply to shoppers over the age of 65 or to those who receive food stamps.

Keisha Patterson, who shops at Cash Saver 20 times a day to stock her family’s grocery store, said she doesn’t mind paying the tax, “As long as it’s helping the city and it’s helping improve our city.”

Shopper Keith Jackson said he doesn’t mind paying the tax either, but said he’s unlikely to switch to paper bags.

“I’d rather get the plastic bag. I’ll do plastic bag. They’ll hold more,” Jackson said.

But Gail Berretta balks at paying for something she currently gets for free.

“They’re about to tax us to death,” Berretta said.

“Try adding it up. When you have a large family and seven cents a bag, that’s a lot. That’s a lot,” she added.

Boyd’s fellow council members say they’re open to the proposal, but aren’t giving it their full support just yet.

“Let’s consider it. Let’s look at what council members may want to say about it,” said Councilman Edmund Ford Jr., who said he proposed a similar ordinance several years ago.

Councilman Frank Colvett Jr. said he also wanted to discuss the proposal further before supporting it.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Strickland said he hadn’t yet reviewed the proposal and had no position on it yet.

Boyd said he might introduce the ordinance at next month’s council meeting.

It will have to be read three times before it passes.