The ACC Commission's Recycling Task Force has floated a proposal to begin charging customers in stores ten cents for each of the plastic bags that they use. According to the commissioners, this would cut down on the number of bags that are used each day in Athens, thus diverting them from the landfill much like the programs in San Francisco, CA and China. The bags are of a type that are difficult to recycle and the county does not offer recycling for them though several stores, notably Publix and Kroger will recycle them for free.
The proposal has generated an intense debate over the proposed tax on bags, with a number of people coming out in opposition to the fee. Reading through the blogs and comment postings on this issue, it is apparent that a majority of people feel that it would be an unfair tax on them, with it coming at an especially sensitive time due to the state of the economy.
While Athens and Clarke County is one of the most progressive areas of Georgia for recycling, with 26% of all household trash recycled according to the ACC Recycling Division, many people seem to feel that this is one penalty too many, especially on top of the recent water and sewage rate changes and their mandatory fees for roof and driveway runoff.
On a personal note: the mood of the commissioners to me made it seem as if they were testing the waters for other rate or fee increases and were using the example of plastic bags as a stalking horse so that they could test the reaction of the public to the idea of more penalties or taxes for services. One of the ideas that has been discussed for some time is for Athens to adopt a single stream recycling process where all material is sorted at the destination. Since I do not live inside the city limits, I was able to choose my provider and they offer that option, free of charge in their normal trash pickup, which makes recycling much easier for the consumer and allows the trash companies to quickly and efficiently pick up the recyclables and reduces the amount of time that their trucks spend idling, waiting for the separate item classes to be loaded.