Shopping-bag tax proposed

Grocery shopping would be pricier — but Virginia’s environment would be cleaner — under a proposed state tax on disposable plastic and paper bags provided by retailers.

House Bill 1115, sponsored by Del. Adam Ebbin, D-Arlington, would require retailers to charge shoppers 5 cents for each non-reusable bag issued to customers. The money would go into the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund. Shoppers could avoid the tax by bringing their own bags.

Ebbin and Del. Joseph Morrissey, D-Highland Springs, held a news conference Thursday to muster support for the bill, which is called the Virginia Waterways Clean Up and Consumer Choice Act.

“You can’t deny that if you don’t use plastic bags, that it’s not good for the environment,” Ebbin said.

He said the average Virginian uses about 300 non-reusable bags per year – a total of more than 2 billion bags annually. Only 1 to 2 percent of those bags are recycled, Ebbin said.

His bill would let retailers keep 1 cent of the 5-cent fee or 2 cents if the store has a customer bag credit program.

The tax would not apply to durable plastic bags, with handles that are specifically designed for multiple uses or bags used for meat, fish, poultry, ice cream, leftover restaurant food, newspapers, dry cleaning and prescription drugs.

Ebbin said that in the first year, the fee would raise about $48 million for the Water Quality Improvement Fund.

Under the bill, a retailer who fails to collect the fee could be fined up to $1,000. A subcommittee of the House Finance Committee is scheduled to consider HB 1115 on Tuesday.

A different panel has killed a related bill, House Bill 521, sponsored by Morrissey. His measure would have imposed an outright ban on the use of plastic carryout bags by retailers unless the bags were designed for reuse.

A subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources voted Wednesday to table Morrissey’s bill.

Limiting or banning plastic bags would be an important step toward environmental responsibility, Morrissey said.

Some U.S. cities, from Connecticut to Hawaii, have put a tax on flimsy plastic bags issued at the checkout line. On Jan. 1, Washington, started levying a 5-cent tax on each bag. San Francisco has banned plastic bags entirely.

Morrissey said China saved 37 million barrels of oil by banning plastic bags in 2008.

“I’m slightly disappointed that Virginia is not leading the way,” Morrissey said.

Grocery shopping would be pricier — but Virginia’s environment would be cleaner — under a proposed state tax on disposable plastic and paper bags provided by retailers.

House Bill 1115, sponsored by Del. Adam Ebbin, D-Arlington, would require retailers to charge shoppers 5 cents for each non-reusable bag issued to customers. The money would go into the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund. Shoppers could avoid the tax by bringing their own bags.

Ebbin and Del. Joseph Morrissey, D-Highland Springs, held a news conference Thursday to muster support for the bill, which is called the Virginia Waterways Clean Up and Consumer Choice Act.

“You can’t deny that if you don’t use plastic bags, that it’s not good for the environment,” Ebbin said.

He said the average Virginian uses about 300 non-reusable bags per year – a total of more than 2 billion bags annually. Only 1 to 2 percent of those bags are recycled, Ebbin said.

His bill would let retailers keep 1 cent of the 5-cent fee or 2 cents if the store has a customer bag credit program.

The tax would not apply to durable plastic bags, with handles that are specifically designed for multiple uses or bags used for meat, fish, poultry, ice cream, leftover restaurant food, newspapers, dry cleaning and prescription drugs.

Ebbin said that in the first year, the fee would raise about $48 million for the Water Quality Improvement Fund.

Under the bill, a retailer who fails to collect the fee could be fined up to $1,000. A subcommittee of the House Finance Committee is scheduled to consider HB 1115 on Tuesday.

A different panel has killed a related bill, House Bill 521, sponsored by Morrissey. His measure would have imposed an outright ban on the use of plastic carryout bags by retailers unless the bags were designed for reuse.

A subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources voted Wednesday to table Morrissey’s bill.

Limiting or banning plastic bags would be an important step toward environmental responsibility, Morrissey said.

Some U.S. cities, from Connecticut to Hawaii, have put a tax on flimsy plastic bags issued at the checkout line. On Jan. 1, Washington, started levying a 5-cent tax on each bag. San Francisco has banned plastic bags entirely.

Morrissey said China saved 37 million barrels of oil by banning plastic bags in 2008.

“I’m slightly disappointed that Virginia is not leading the way,” Morrissey said.

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Dave
Dave
12 years ago

What a bunch of crap! Here we go with politicians looking for more ways to get additional funds into their hands to spend. How about you guys spend more time looking at ways to cut spending, not raise our taxes. If the plastic bags are such a problem, work on having them banned! It’s time to realize that adding a tax or fee isn’t the answer to every problem that comes along.

gordon g sharp bolster
gordon g sharp bolster
12 years ago

mr. morrissey is seeing the very same ignorance and apathy that i saw in ireland back in 2005. i went over just as soon as they came out to do a bag tax with a solution to their plastic bag problem. my solution was based on an epa study done in ireland. plastic bags were such a problem over there that they were considered the national flower. having a background in advertising, i came up with a solution with all natural bags and advertisers, i had many contacts and i had all of the bag manufacturing relationships in place in… Read more »

Megan
Megan
12 years ago

A charge on plastic bags is a great idea. They were doing it in Italy when I was a student there, and it seemed to work great. Not sure if the money just went back to the store, or if it went back to the gov’t, but it seems like a good step here in the direction of banning them altogether. Beyond that, it’s a little more motivation for the rest of us who have the reusable bags but always forget them at home or in the car.

DG
DG
12 years ago

I find a tax on plastic and paper unfair.Paper has a far lower environmental impact and is often recycled as much of the state has recycling pick up programs.I have long thought paper bags should be encouraged as an alternative to plastic.Yes paper bags have an impact but not like plastic.Perhaps a lower tax on paper would be fair but an equal one is not.

eric engler
eric engler
12 years ago

Take a ride in the time machine: Plastic market bags weren’t very popular until the mid-1980’s because they were difficult to load at the check out line. The familiar rack had to be invented to stock and hold them open. In the late 80’s a USA bag manufacturer had an initial public stock offering and the share price more than doubled almost immediately. The product and the company were a huge success. Now we may bury ourselves in plastic bags and packaging unless we enact laws to curtail their use. Now it’s fashionable to ban the plastic bags, regardless of… Read more »

laura
laura
12 years ago

please, somebody! i fully support morrissey in his efforts to tax all plastic nonreusable bags. i live in a diverse, transitional neighborhood in richmond and can go outside, walk two blocks and pick up at least one dozen of these plastic bags. we must stop! it’s always best to reduce, reuse, recycle!
laura

John
John
12 years ago

I think it would help remind me to use my reusable bags. If you want our children and their children to have a future; we need more policy like this. This is a good use of the govt.

Susan
Susan
12 years ago

This is typical of the kind of “government” we have come to expect from leftist Democrats. They believe that a powerful few have the right to force American citizens to give up yet another portion of their paychecks, in the form of taxation, so that government bureaucracy can be further expanded. Grocery stores will have to raise prices in order to pay accounting staff to rewrite store software, and take on additional bookkeeping and reporting duties to comply with yet another leftist demand for honestly-earned revenue. Taxation of the citizens of Virginia, who have earned their paychecks from honest labor,… Read more »

Shari Jackson
Shari Jackson
12 years ago

The bill (HB1115) was tabled on Tuesday, so Virginia’s representatives are the latest to reject unnecessary taxes on plastic carryout bags. California legislators recently rejected a twenty-five cent tax on plastic bags. Seattle voters threw out a bag tax proposal last year (most people there already were reusing and recycling plastic bags). Only Washington, D.C. has a (new) bag tax, which reportedly is being met with strong indignation by many District residents. I suspect many of them didn’t appreciate being slapped with a bag tax at checkout while hurrying to buy a week’s worth of supplies for their families as… Read more »