Washington D.C. May Charge Public 5-cents for all Single-Use Bags

Posted by — June 5, 2009 3:29 pm

Every year in Washington D.C., the eight-mile Anacostia River carries about 20,000 tons of garbage through the city. This cesspool of garbage has motivated many legislators to make a difference.

The Washington D.C. council voted on Tuesday to begin the process of eliminating single-use bags by imposing a 5-cent bag fee. This fee has been proposed for every plastic or paper bag that leaves a grocery, liquor, drug or convenience store. If the district law passes, it will have to get Congress’ approval.

This fee will not only help clean up the Anacostia River, but provide free reusable bags to low-income families and the elderly.

The Anacostia is a tributary of the Potomac River, and is not one D.C. residents visit to swim in warm weather. After completing a survey, the Anacostia Watershed Society found plastic bags to be one of the leading pollutants wading in the river. (The Washington Post)

Video: Locals Debate Over Bag Tax for Anacostia River

The goal of the fee is to reduce the amount of plastic bags by 80% in the next year. According to the District’s new Chief Financial Officer, Natwar Gandhi, the fee could generate up to $3.6 million in one year and three times that over the next three years. (wtop.com)

Washington D.C. is part of a larger movement by local governments to implement legislation banning or taxing plastic bags. Plastic bags are a common target in reducing pollution. The lightweight nature of the plastic bag makes it a common eyesore in urban landscapes, where bags can be pulled out of bushes and rain gutters.

Plastic bags became such a problem in San Francisco that they banned them two years ago. Thus far, San Francisco is the only city in the United States to ban plastic bags. Other cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles have taken measures to curb disposable bag use, but have not gotten so far as to ban them from the city entirely.

The 5-cent fee has many citizens concerned about the way the nickels will add up with every run to the store. Many of the low-income and elderly citizens rely on the service of free plastic bags. But the fee can’t come without a fight; the plastics industry is now teaming up with organizations and churches to defend these low income and elderly victims by combating many bans and taxes around the country. (Washington Business Journal)

One such organization fighting the bag fee is the Progressive Bag Affiliates, backed by churches and food banks. Food banks in the D.C. area distribute food in plastic bags to low-income families of the city. If the food banks have to start paying for plastic bags, it would cut into the money spent to feed the city’s hungry.

In a Washington Post article from Feb. 2009, activist Dennis Chestnut of the Groundwork Anacostia River, D.C. knows that many are grumbling over the five cents, but the accruing amount of pollution to surface water is detrimental. “The cost of not doing it is far greater,” Chestnut said. “If we’re ever going to turn the river into the resource it can be for the community, we need…this.” (The Washington Post)

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