Sunday, May 3, 2009

Paper or Taxes?

I just read in The New York Times that Bloomberg has proposed a citywide sales tax increase of half a percentage point, bringing it to a whopping 8.875%.  The tax increase will also include clothing.  According to the article, a typical household in NYC that makes $35,000 a year will end up paying an extra $129 a year.  The idea is to avoid deeper spending cuts and minimize layoffs.  Very briefly mentioned is a possible nickel surcharge on plastic bags.

Okay, here it goes.  Fuck that shit.  I can stand to pay the extra sales tax 'cause the only things I can manage to afford anymore are (tax-free) groceries, but don't fucking charge me to bring them home!

Just to prove I'm not some asshole who hates the environment, I decided to go to a website called to get my information.  They should be incredibly biased, no?  Well, check out their 6-page article on paper vs. plastic.  (They are website-sized pages, so it's not too long, but if you're into conserving time as much as conserving the ecosystem, just check out the facts and figures on page 5.)  Plastic bags are better than paper.  This article from How Stuff Works compares the two materials as well.  I find it funny that the first two things listed as being bad for paper are it causing more pollution and consuming more energy, as opposed to plastic's ugly appearance as litter and that it's deceptive to birds and wildlife as food.

I might as well include the Bullshit! episode on recycling, as it is quite entertaining.  Things to note would be how ineffectively workers appear to sort recycling and Penn & Teller's awesome paper-recycling magic trick.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

So we might start getting charged if we choose plastic bags over paper ones.  Hmmn.  Here's a suggestion: How about we get rid of the recycling program in New York City?  Think of how much money that will save.  It's not a new concept either.  In 2002, New York suspended glass and plastic recycling when it was faced with guess what... a severe budget crisis.  By 2004, the program was back in action.

Exactly how effective is the program?  Likely not that effective if you actually put what they ask in your respective bins.  Did you know they don't recycle soiled paper or cardboard?  Those pizza boxes with grease on the bottom are trash.  Did you know they don't recycle plastic caps or lids?  Recycle all the milk jugs you want, but you have to take off the caps.  Want a list of what they actually recycle?  It's here.  So if you're like me, you probably figured you could keep the lids on certain things or recycle yogurt containers, but not in NYC.  By all reasoning, they'd actually have to go into your recycling and remove these things, taking more time and energy.

So what's the alternative to recycling?  There are two other arrows in that triangle, two other R's in that saying.  Reduce and reuse.  Reusable bags are the way to go.  From solely an energy standpoint, canvas bags are 14 times better than plastic bags and 39 times better than paper ones.  And they're sexier.  If you get paper bags, wrap your textbooks with them.  If you get plastic bags, pack your lunch in them.  Not in school?  Throw them away properly or keep them under your sink.  No Loggerheads should be under there.

Let's say we don't get rid of recycling.  There are plenty more ways this city could save money.  Here's three just for the subway:
1. Stop painting subway stations half-assedly.  Do it right all at once.  And don't use so many wet paint signs.
2. Make unlimited Metrocards reusable.  The new 5-cent bonus on a pay-per-card is the incentive to refill it.  Why not allow people who use the cards most often the option to refill?
3. Force buskers (at least in prime spots) to buy permits.  Anyone can perform in the subway in New York City.  How about charging a small fee to do so in the best locations?  The ones that block all the walkways in the busiest spots like Times Square and Union Square currently just have to wait on a rotating calendar for such places, but don't pay anything to perform.  You shouldn't have to pay to perform, but you should have to pay for blocking traffic.

If you're gonna put a surcharge on plastic bags, do it.  But put it on paper ones too.  The public will be forced to provide their own bags or pay a surcharge for use of the store's.  This is kind of stupid, especially because it will discourage consumers from buying more products because they'll want only enough to fill the bags they brought.  I have a solution.  If you spend a certain amount of money at the store, your bags are free!  Then there's incentive to actually buy more.  It doesn't take a genius to figure this shit out.  It just takes Bloomberg to fuck it all up.

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