8 February 2006

Making the right people pay

While Libertarians might decry such government intrusion into the market, I applaud Oakland's latest law since it forces businesses to pay for some of the negative externalities involved with their operations. Oddly enough, it's precisely this sort of legislation that we'd need if we were to fully adopt a Libertarian free-market paradigm.

Oakland First City to Tax Fast-Food Trash

Fed up with burger wrappers, french fry containers and paper cups, Oakland is the first city in the nation to force fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and other businesses to help pay for cleaning up street trash.

Under a tax approved Tuesday night by the City Council, businesses will be assessed between $230 and $3,815 annually, depending on their size. More than three-quarters of the affected businesses would only pay the minimum fee, which amounts to 63 cents a day.

"I don't think that's too much to ask so neighbors don't have to keep picking up trash from their doorways," said Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who proposed the measure.

The city would use the projected $237,000 a year to hire small crews to pick up litter in commercial areas around high schools and middle schools where most of the garbage is found.
The fee was opposed by the Metropolitan Oakland Chamber of Commerce and business organizations that say the costs will be passed along to customers, including low-income residents and young people who are the biggest consumers of fast food.

Businesses say the city should educate the public and enforce littering laws. Some say they already pay employees to pick up trash in their neighborhoods.

Litter from fast-food restaurants has become a major problem in communities nationwide. Recent surveys show that fast-food packaging makes up about 20 percent of all litter, with packaging for chip bags, drink containers, candy wrappers and other snacks comprising another 20 percent, said Rob Wallace, a spokesman for Keep America Beautiful, a Stamford, Conn.-based nonprofit group.

1 comment:

gaw3 said...

The garbage from the fast-food places (and Starbuck's) is a huge problem. My memory is pretty sketchy on this-- how were the big chains "persuaded" to give up styrofoam packaging, e.g. on the Big Macs? I thought it was a combination of public pressure and some corporate foresight.

But this particular problem might be different in that it falls more under local nuisance, comparable to a noisy bar or a lard-rendering plant. Possibly different tactics are necessary.