[Congressional Record Volume 159, Number 56 (Tuesday, April 23, 2013)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E511]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                      TRASH REDUCTION ACT OF 2013


                          HON. JAMES P. MORAN

                              of virginia

                    in the house of representatives

                        Tuesday, April 23, 2013

  Mr. MORAN. Mr. Speaker, our 315 million American citizens throw away 
nearly 496 billion pounds of trash each year, a staggering amount by 
any analysis. And a sizable contribution is from disposable items, 
including plastic and paper bags. That's why today, one day after Earth 
Day, I am introducing the ``Trash Reduction Act of 2013'' along with my 
colleagues Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton, Earl Blumenauer and 
John Garamendi.
  The legislation is modeled after the District of Columbia's ``bag 
tax.'' Five cents would be levied on each disposable paper or plastic 
bag. Revenue from the tax would support the Land and Water Conservation 
  Just how bad is the trash problem? According to the U.S. EPA, the 
average American throws away about 4.4 pounds of trash each day or 
1,600 pounds per year. That's nearly 248 million tons of American 
garbage each year. To put that in perspective, it's enough trash to 
fill a football-field-sized hole over 93 miles deep. Or create a 
similar-sized stack of garbage that reaches low earth orbit. This 
amount of trash could cover the state of Texas two and a half times or 
fill enough trash trucks to form a line to the moon.
  We consume an estimated 12 million barrels of oil and copious amounts 
of natural gas annually to make plastic bags that are used once or 
twice, then tossed into the garbage. The U.S. International Trade 
Commission reported in 2009 that 102 billion plastic bags were used in 
the U.S. Much of the oil and natural gas used in those bags comes from 
foreign countries and it's all non-renewable. Once it's used for 
plastic bags and thrown away, that energy is gone forever.
  Disposable paper bags are no better. In 1999, 14 million trees were 
cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that 
year alone. Paper and paperboard products made up 28.5 percent of the 
municipal waste discarded in 2010--more than any other type of refuse 
measured by tonnage. According to the Environmental Paper Network, the 
pulp and paper industry is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse 
gases among manufacturing industries, contributing 9 percent of total 
manufacturing-related carbon dioxide emissions. Most of energy use 
comes from powering paper mills.
  There is no doubt that disposable retail plastic and paper bags are 
bad for the environment. Both paper and plastic bags consume valuable 
natural resources, generate profuse waste, and pollute the environment. 
They keep us dependent on nonrenewable resources like foreign oil and 
impose burdens that Americans bear in the form of higher garbage costs, 
visual blight, and the destruction of wildlife. Millions of animals are 
entangled in or ingest plastic waste. That same waste leaches toxins 
into the ground and our drinking water.
  While recycling efforts should be applauded, recycling rates are 
dismally low. Only between one and three percent of all plastic bags 
are recycled, with a slightly higher ten to 15 percent paper-bag-
recycling rate. Plus, the recycling process uses energy, water, and 
generates additional greenhouse gasses.
  But we can do something about this gargantuan garbage nightmare. We 
can reduce the number of bags we use with market-based incentives. 
Requiring shoppers to internalize the costs of disposable bags has been 
shown to dramatically reduce their use and substantially increase 
reusable bag utilization. For example, after placing a fee on plastic 
bags, Ireland reportedly reduced consumption by 90 percent. China, 
after banning the use of ultra-thin plastic bags, is estimated to have 
eliminated 40 billion bags in the first year.
  Critics have called this a regressive tax that falls on poor 
communities. This is simply untrue. Wealthy Americans consume 
substantially more resources and disposable shopping bags than the 
poor. Additionally, Americans of all incomes can purchase or be given a 
reusable bag and avoid this fee altogether. Plus, this fee is good for 
business. Business will be able to recoup their investment of time and 
effort through a tax credit and profits from reusable bag sales.
  One need look no further than the District of Columbia to measure 
success. In 2009 the District imposed a five-cent tax on plastic bags 
that led to spectacular reductions in disposable bag use. The number of 
plastic bags dropped from the 2009 monthly average of 22.5 million to 
just 3 million per month by the end of 2010. River cleanup volunteers 
reported over a 60 percent decrease in the volume of plastic bags they 
collected during cleanup activities--and this was only three months 
after the fee took effect.
  D.C. businesses approve of the fee as well. 78 percent of businesses 
interviewed report either a positive or neutral impact on their 
business. People keep shopping and keep buying. 58 percent of D.C. 
business owners say the law has not affected their sales. And it's 
those dire predictions of falling sales that were used to scare 
business owners into opposing the fee. It's one of the many false 
predictions of bag-fee opponents like the American Chemistry Council.
  The public and many elected officials are not always in sync with 
what we need to do to improve this great country. High-pressure 
lobbying by powerful chemical interests sometimes stops us from doing 
what's right. While we can be proud of our environmental achievements 
and landmark laws, we need to do more to reduce our mountains of trash 
madness. Nothing is more fitting for this year's Earth Day celebration 
than helping reduce garbage.
  This small disposable bag charge helps people understand that paper 
and plastic bags are not without cost. They impact the environment, 
support foreign dictators, and make Everest's of trash. Our bill begins 
to shift America away from its current disposable culture back to a 
simpler time when Americans understood the value of reusing what they