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Published: Wednesday, 11/19/2008

Finkbeiner eyes 5-cent tax on each plastic store bag in Toledo


If Toledo had a nickel for every plastic shopping bag, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner would be a happy man.

The mayor is following New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and wants to tax you an extra 5 cents for every plastic bag you take home from a store.

In a letter sent yesterday to city council, Mr. Finkbeiner said other cities are "aggressively acting to discourage citizens from using disposable shopping bags."

He said the bags litter the streets, clog sewers, and take up valuable landfill space.

In New York, the controversial fee could generate at least $16 million for the city while keeping the billion or so plastic bags consumers there use every year out of landfills.

Informal surveys by Toledo's Division of Environmental Services show that major retail stores alone distribute in excess of 108 million disposable shopping bags in the city.

Mr. Finkbeiner, in his letter, promised to promote passage of "a green fee" for the bags, but he did not specify an amount.Council President Mark Sobczak said the mayor has discussed copying the New York plan, which would allow merchants to charge an extra penny per bag.

"It was something along the line of six cents - one penny going to the store and five cents going to the city," Mr. Sobczak said.

"It's been done elsewhere, but right now it's not part of the [2009] budget and I think the mayor was duly convinced that this is not something we should be relying on in the budgetary process," Mr. Sobczak added.

District Councilman Lindsay Webb said she would vehemently oppose the plan.

"I think it's crazy," Ms. Webb said. "I think we have had enough with the garbage fee, and I will not support another increase in fees for people."

Councilman Joe McNamara, on the other hand, said it could have a positive impact on the environment.

"The plastic bags are petroleum-based and they take up a lot of space in our landfill," he said. "Anything that ultimately saves the landfill will save the taxpayers money."

Chad Fredericks, a manager at Churchill's Super Market on Central Avenue, said many of his customers already reuse the store's paper bags or bring cloth bags of their own.

"I'd say it would be 50-50 talking to people here," Mr. Fredericks said. "They would try and be more environmentally friendly, but you will have some who will just argue about it no matter what."

Robert Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said people could simply avoid the extra cost at the checkout line by bringing their own bags.

"They don't have to pay if they use cloth or paper. There would be no cost," Mr. Reinbolt said. "We are trying to address the long-term viability of our landfill, and this is one way to go in that direction."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:


or 419-724-6171.

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