Newsprint tax a misguided attempt at reducing waste

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By The Staff

Indiana Rep. David Wolkins made a strange suggestion recently.

A friend of Wolkins who works in a landfill reportedly told the representative that the majority of waste that he sees in his line of work is tossed-out newspapers. Deciding that this was a problem that he could propose a fix to, Wolkins introduced legislation in House Bill 1355 that would tax newspapers for the newsprint they use.

By doing this, he believes newspapers will use a greater amount of recycled content, which would reduce the number of old papers lying around in landfills.

We strongly oppose such a proposal.

While Wolkins is under the impression this will bring about benefits, we cannot see them. In reality, it will only make things difficult.

To figure up this tax, newspapers will have to take the number of metric tons of newsprint used and multiply by $25. They would then take the number of metric tons of newsprint used that contains 40-percent recycled fiber, multiply it by $25 and subtract it from the first number. The difference would be the amount of the tax.

Wolkins wants to place the resulting revenue in a fund. This fund would be available to publishers that show an interest in upgrading their presses to use recycled material. But there's a problem with this idea that the representative seems to have overlooked.

Currently, presses handle recycled print without difficulties. If newspapers are already using recycled paper, how are we reducing the amount of newspapers in landfills by levying a tax? Why should there be a push to upgrade presses that print on recycled paper now? When posed these questions, the idea behind the legislation seems to fall apart. If we don't need to upgrade the presses, there is no need to have a tax to fund upgrades.

Also, the representative doesn't seem to realize the effect his proposed bill would have on smaller newspapers. Many small newspapers don't print their own papers - they send them to larger nearby printing plants. This means that they have no control over what type of paper is used and would be taxed for something that is out of their hands.

Smaller printing plants would be affected too, as it could be harder for them to obtain 40-percent recycled newsprint if they are competing with larger plants to get it.

Wolkins is trying to put a quick fix on an issue without fully researching it. Simply expecting a tax to deter papers from appearing in landfills doesn't solve the issue at hand. It doesn't even address it.

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